Monday, April 18, 2011

Boards Received from China

I am an avid Homebrew PCB builder using the Toner Transfer Method, I can build a single sided board (similar as shown below) in about 20 minutes, and a double sided board in about one hour. I can also apply a green UV Curable Epoxy Solder Mask on either or both sides. A solder mask takes about 2 hours to apply.

As an experiment, I wanted to try the services of a commercial PCB production shop, the following is the initial results.

My 30m Beacon circuit boards was sent out for processing, it just arrived back from the PCB manufacture in China.

发件人: IteadStudio
发送时间: 2011-04-15 23:44:47
收件人: order
主题: Fw: Re: Order Update #1550
After receipt and close inspection, I am very pleased with the results.

The schematic and board was designed with DipTrace Software and then six Exported Gerber Files and one Drill file were sent via e-mail to in China for manufacture.

To access the PCB service at; click on the tab on the site's top; "iStore -> OpenPCB -> PCB Prototyping Service".

The Original Layout as Designed in DipTrace PCB Software

As shown via the DipTrace 3D Preview Software

This is a photo of the resulting PCB as Received from

The results are amazing. This is a; 1x2 inch board, with 8 and 6 mil Traces, 10 mil Clearance, the Ground Grid is 8 mils on 24 mil centers, and the Plated-through VIA's are 40 mils with 15 mil holes.

As shown in the magnified view below, there are multiple ground grid traces between the 1/10 inch on center Header holes. The square SMD pads are for 0603 LEDs and their 0603 limit resistors.

As Designed                                                    As Shipped

I received 10 boards for $12.00 plus $4.00 Shipping, that is $1.60 per board - a very good value. To obtain this low price, boards must be equal or less than 5x5 cm. Larger boards are available, but at higher price.

The only down side is the shipping time from China, it was 15 days after manufacture, 22 days total. But the results for this hobbyist was well worth it!

 Five of the 10 Boards are Marked as  being Tested

Chris and Dave of the put me onto this great available service - Thanks Guys.

Note: I did not experience the Ground Plane Dropout as Dave Blogged, but then maybe I did not use similar geometry.

I am very pleased with the quality and results, and plan to use the service again, where multiple copies are needed and turn-around delay is acceptable. But, for my "one off" projects, I will continue to use the Homebrew Toner Transfer Method.

OK, one nagging question, what am I going to do with ten of these circuits, when I really only needed one or two? Well, this was just a test or exercise of the process, for later and more sophisticated circuits, and where copies will be sold.

Soon, I will post the results after loading a board.

I found a similar priced and faster service, based in Portland, OR. See: my follow-on post.

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  1. They do look fantastic, and the cost is incredible. This service should encourage more magazine constructional articles to offer PCBs for sale or even full kits, as used to be the case 20 or 30 years ago.

  2. Wow, $16 for 10 boards, that is just nuts. I may have to check into this service at some point. I'm hoping to build several radio projects in the near future. Plus a mini-POV display for my bicycle wheels. Ala this: