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UK prototype/hobby PCB manufacturers?

Discussion in 'Circuit Simulation & PCB Design' started by tomizett, Aug 2, 2015.

  1. tomizett

    tomizett Active Member

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    Hi All,
    Hope I'm not repeating a too-often-asked question here, but...
    I'm toying with getting my first board made by a professional prototyping service - I can make rough single-sided through hole boards at home, but I think this may call for something with a little more finesse.
    The board will be for a mix of surface mount and through hole parts, double sided (probably mostly ground plane on one side) a few inches square.

    Does anyone have a favourate service for getting one-off PCBs manufactured in a way suited to the uninitiated?

    A quick google turns up a company called Ragworm - does anyone have any experience with them, and how do their prices look?
     
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  2. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    I think you'll find the Chinese suppliers the best bet. Even if you opt for priority shipping, it looks like you'll be money ahead. They all produce high quality double-sided boards with silk screen and soldermask on both sides.

    I routinely use Elecrow and Smart-Prototyping with excellent results. Ten copies of a board of up to 100mm x 100mm is about US$15 (~10£) and a board of up to 50mm x 50mm is about US$10 for ten copies. These boards are fully routed (edge trimmed), so they can be any shape the fits within that size square (i.e., round, triangular shape for example).
     
  3. tomizett

    tomizett Active Member

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    Thanks for the info - I'd not come across either of those names.
     
  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    Based on the lot numbers printed on the boards, it looks like many of these boards are made in the same plant.

    In my last batch of boards I moved a mounting hole right over a trace when I was tidying it up. Elecrow caught my error and asked me to revise my Gerbers. Clearly beyond the service expected on a $10 order of boards!av
     
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  6. tomizett

    tomizett Active Member

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    Yes, that the kind of service that you normally expect to come with a price tag.

    Regardless, the project requiring boards has taken a knock back so I think I'll be doing another round of home-brews before I need to look at getting a propper board done.
     
  7. MaxHeadRoom78

    MaxHeadRoom78 Active Member

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    I have used these from China, ebay 230864219277, no problems, I used Kicad for development and submit Gerber files.
    Max.
     
  8. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    Being able to get boards fabricated for what you'd spend on lunch or dinner out definitely changes things. If a 50mm x 50mm board is around $10, it's not a huge investment to make. If it's not as useful as I thought, I'm not going to lose much sleep over it.
     
  9. riccardo

    riccardo Member

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  10. Mikebits

    Mikebits Well-Known Member

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    Elecrow sure sounds like the place to go. The price is right to be sure. China sure is a good place to get things made at a good price.
     
  11. Cicero

    Cicero Active Member

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    I just wanna bump this thread quickly...

    Any one used Elecrow for professional PCB's? As in not hobby electronics but commercial products?
     
  12. MaxHeadRoom78

    MaxHeadRoom78 Active Member

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    Do you mean populated boards or unpopulated, the latter are the ones I received from the link I showed can be describe as professional IMO?.
    Max.
     
  13. Cicero

    Cicero Active Member

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    Yeah I mean unpopulated.
     
  14. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    I've used them for small-scale production, a few batches of 10 and 25 units. I'm planning on using them for potentially 2000 units, probably built in batches of a hundred. All of the boards I've received have been of high quality.
     
  15. Cicero

    Cicero Active Member

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    Excellent thanks, makes me feel optimistic about it. I've just ordered a small run of 5 as a test, rush order, DHL delivery. I've also ordered the same board rushed locally, so the race is on!
     
  16. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    In the past, there were many delays with stuff coming out of China but for the last several months, things have been moving quickly. As I recall, I've received some of my boards from Elecrow in as few as 7 or 8 days. Probably 10 is the average.

    I'm a very satisfied customer.
     
  17. atferrari

    atferrari Well-Known Member

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    Google Mitchelectronics.
     
  18. Blueteeth

    Blueteeth Well-Known Member

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    Although perhaps not quite at the 'hobbby' price scale, I have used Newbury Electronics' PCB service. Both the full service (PTH 1.6mm FR4 mask+silk screen) and the express (no solder mask/silk screen, but still PTH) and for >3 but < 15 boards, they are excellent quality for the price.

    http://www.pcbtrain.co.uk/service-selection.php

    As lon as you choose 15-day lead time, and nothing fancy, you don't pay any extra for fine widths, tooling, number of holes, so for full SMT (with DFN) its ideal. If you're cheeky like me, you can put many smaller designs on a panel and add 0.8mm hole lines between borders as breakaways. This way if you spend £60 on a eurocard sized board you can get many smaller PCB's out of it. The 'express' service costs roughly the same (same area) as the full service, but will be delivered in two days. That came in very handy when I was given 5 days to redesign something from scratch, where the connectors were all board mounted.

    As for true one-offs, or a prototype for a project that only needs one board, I generally etch them myself, sometimes double sided. There are various methods to avoid having to do PTH (still have to have vias though) and despite spending a fair amount of money on equipment I can't be bothered anymore. Not now there are places like http://www.goldphoenixpcb.com/ and sparkfuns service. I used to use Olimex but it was dodgy having to 'fax' payment details, plus I think they don't do PCB fabrication anymore.

    Despite what people say about PCB's being 'really dirt cheap', for a single board, a few inches square, can still be upwards of £30, and that is the only situation where the hassle of home etching is just about worth it (I avoid TH components now, as I hate drilling hundreds of holes..).

    Another option I have yet to try. http://www.seeedstudio.com/service/index.php?r=pcb

    Sorry for the fragmented reply, I probably should have listed them a bit better...
     
  19. Cicero

    Cicero Active Member

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    Awesome, thanks everyone.

    Blueteeth, a 2 day delivery is obscenely fast! Wow, very impressive. Will definitely keep them in mind for any future requirements.
     
  20. Cicero

    Cicero Active Member

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    Wow, I must admit I'm rather impressed with Elecrow at the moment. I haven't received my order yet, but I've been kept in the loop with regular emails with regards to the production, and they've now been shipped via DHL. Also, they sent me an email with a picture of my finished boards and a few other things I ordered. Very impressed at the moment.

    If the boards are good quality as well, then they're really great value. It'll be unbelievable.
     
  21. JonSea

    JonSea Well-Known Member

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    One thing I've lnearned. When Elecrow says your order has shipped, that means they are done with it and it's been handed to a shipping clerk somewhere. When you receive a tracking number, it's actually in DHL's hands and things usually are astonishingly fast from there. Depending on the whim of the Chinese government, your package could take a week or more to clear customs but in the last few months none of my orders has been delayed.
     

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