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Author Topic: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?  (Read 7689 times)

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Offline CognautTopic starter

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Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« on: December 27, 2006, 11:52:04 AM »
I've etched boards in the past, but I'd much rather have a professional do it.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2006, 02:31:27 PM by Cognaut »

Offline trigger

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2006, 06:13:07 PM »
express pcb and eagle are two good options
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Offline CognautTopic starter

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2006, 06:24:25 PM »
Thanks.  I'll check those out.

Offline Militoy

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2006, 12:21:27 PM »
Cheap, I suppose depends on how many youre making.

For prototypes, if I'm in a hurry, I make a quick sketch or AutoCAD drawing printed out (component side) 1:1, and paste it onto the copper side of my clad board using a glue stick. I do the sketch with no curves and no width to the lines - just straight lines and blocks. Then I cut on the lines (in between traces) using a thin cutting disc on a Dremel tool. After cleaning the board, all parts are surface-mounted to the copper side of the board even through-hole parts. If you work neatly, this method results in a product that looks good enough to deliver to a customer, at least for performance evaluation.

For higher quantities of boards, I use the quick-turn service of one of our regular PC board houses. I can usually get 30 to 100 4-layer boards (depending on their size) in 1 week, for around $550. The price goes way down, if Im willing to wait longer maybe $2.50 or $3.00 each for 100 boards in 4 weeks.

I didnt think you could find a service that would cut you just one board for under a couple hundred dollars but if the ones above will, Id love to hear about it, because thats far cheaper than the labor of cutting by hand, or even setting up and running our little LPKF circuit board mill.

(Heres an example of a proto board cut by hand though not a real neat one):

http://home.earthlink.net/~militoy/circuit.JPG

Offline CognautTopic starter

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2006, 12:53:19 PM »
I've used the old kit from Radio Shack with the scratch on stickers and the acid bath.  That does work, but with today's tiny IC's with dense pins configurations, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do it well.

Quote
For higher quantities of boards, I use the quick-turn service of one of our regular PC board houses. I can usually get 30 to 100 4-layer boards (depending on their size) in 1 week, for around $550. The price goes way down, if Im willing to wait longer maybe $2.50 or $3.00 each for 100 boards in 4 weeks.

That would be ok with me.  Things must have changed since I last looked into this.  In the early 90's, I was told by board manufacturers that they would do no less than a few thousand at a time and would charge a lot for it.  That's why I got into making software emulations - virtual machines.

I think it's all coming together now, though.

Thanks.

Offline JonHylands

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2006, 01:21:54 PM »
Personally, I use APCircuits (because they are in Canada). I can get two copies of a board made for under $100, if it isn't too big.

http://www.apcircuits.com/

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Offline CognautTopic starter

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2006, 01:58:30 PM »
That sounds like a good deal.  Is that single sided, double sided or multilayered?

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2006, 02:53:01 PM »
Last year I had the same question, and generated this list of PCB makers:
http://www.societyofrobots.com/robot_parts_list_PCB.shtml

However if you look at who owns each maker, you will notice most of them have been bought out by a single company . . . what does this pcb monopoly mean? it means none of them are cheap  :-\

The conclusion I made: if you are doing one off designs on a budget, making a PCB just isnt cost effective.  :(

Offline JonHylands

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2006, 03:59:15 PM »
I agree, which is why I typically use Radio Shack prototype boards, and solder wires on the bottom as traces.

http://www.huv.com/miniSumo/seeker3/CircuitBoard-1.jpg
http://www.huv.com/miniSumo/seeker3/CircuitBoard-2.jpg

It works fairly well, and the nice thing is, you can make changes if required without feeling like you're messing up a good board.

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Offline ed1380

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2007, 07:20:43 PM »
I've used the old kit from Radio Shack with the scratch on stickers and the acid bath.  That does work, but with today's tiny IC's with dense pins configurations, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do it well.

Quote
For higher quantities of boards, I use the quick-turn service of one of our regular PC board houses. I can usually get 30 to 100 4-layer boards (depending on their size) in 1 week, for around $550. The price goes way down, if Im willing to wait longer maybe $2.50 or $3.00 each for 100 boards in 4 weeks.

That would be ok with me.  Things must have changed since I last looked into this.  In the early 90's, I was told by board manufacturers that they would do no less than a few thousand at a time and would charge a lot for it.  That's why I got into making software emulations - virtual machines.

I think it's all coming together now, though.

Thanks.
So you virtually construct the pcb and are able to click virtul switches and othe rimputs? If so what program are you using? I've found a virtual breadboard online, but it lacke da selection of IC's
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Offline sdk32285

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2007, 07:50:31 AM »
Adding to jonhylands remark

You can buy the proto boards that have groups of 5 pins already attached. this makes it possible to run less wire traces of your own or make your own traces to connent trace sets. Also with planning you can sometimes use only the premade traces.
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Offline Hal9000

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2007, 09:02:09 AM »
Is there much wrong with stripboard?
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Offline dunk

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2007, 01:23:34 PM »
Quote
Is there much wrong with stripboard?

definitely nothing wrong with strip board.
until recently i had never used anything else.
in fact, unless you are trying to use surface mount components there is little reason to move to PCBs for your projects.

it's only a matter of time until you find a component that you really want to use that's only available in a surface mount package or some weird pin spacing that you can't use with stripboard.

i finaly bit the bullet and started making my own PCBs recently.
it's actually far easier than it sounds.
here's a few links describing the method i used:
http://www.semis.demon.co.uk/PCB/PCB.html
http://max8888.orcon.net.nz/pcbs.htm

basically you print your stencil using Eagle onto some really shinny paper with a laser printer.
the printer toner is made of plastic and doesn't stick to shiny photo paper.
you can then stick the toner to a piece of copper board with a clothes iron.
then peel off the paper, leaving the toner stuck to the copper and chuck the whole thing into some etchant. (don't drink the etchant.)

i've only done one and it came out great despite some tiny surface mount component pins.
there was one track broken which i easily fixed with a bit of wire. i'll know to leave thicker tracks next time.

after reading a few articles on this technique the toughest thing is finding a paper that works well.
inkjet photograph paper is the best but some brands give better results than others.

as for getting boards commercially made, i looked into a few companies and saw a few advertised on ebay that looked good as long as you were not in a hurry.
i searched for "PCB manufacture".
weirdly enough i can only find one such link on ebay today: http://cgi.ebay.com/1-2-layers-PCB-Manufacture-Service-Good-Price_W0QQitemZ7555902980QQihZ017QQcategoryZ4663QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQcmdZViewItem

anyway, in summary,
nothing wrong with using strip board until you start using surface mount components with tiny pins.
at that point, have a go at making your own. it's not that difficult.

dunk.

Offline JesseWelling

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2007, 01:46:11 PM »
I normaly do the cheap radio shack thru hole ones with wire wrap, but it hardly looks professional.
If I need to do surface mounts, I use these http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/categories.php?cPath=20 (look at the bottom of the page)

Offline Somchaya

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2007, 03:52:16 PM »
Hmm, so I keep seeing the Radio shack version being mentioned.. but I'm not really sure how that works. Could someone kindly describe the process to me?

From looking at the pictures, it looks like a board with holes, and you just solder wires on the bottom where you want connections to be?
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Offline JesseWelling

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2007, 05:24:33 PM »
Ala gheto!

Cheap and effective if not scarry ;D

Offline Somchaya

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2007, 06:19:42 PM »
hmm so what's the benefit of using that over a breadboard? Permanence?
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Offline JesseWelling

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2007, 08:03:33 PM »
Yea....and to show off my (!)1337 sd3rn sk!llz.  :D
That and I couldn't find a bread board small enough.

But really incase you didn't notice there is stuff on the bottom too.
Can't do that with a bread board  ;)

Offline annoyin_kid

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2007, 11:52:06 AM »
Quote
Yea....and to show off my (!)1337 sd3rn sk!llz. 
That and I couldn't find a bread board small enough.

But really incase you didn't notice there is stuff on the bottom too.
Can't do that with a bread board 


mad soldering skills u got man, na just joking u gotta make the solder form a cone not a blob.

you probably could do that with a bb aswell, just rip the bottom off and stick it in from there.

Offline JonHylands

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Offline trigger

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There are 10 kinds of people in this world: those who can read binary, and those who can't.

Offline JonHylands

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2007, 02:18:24 PM »
Well, I could, but (a) I don't have one, and (b) its not a very good general purpose board.

This board is specifically set up for connecting to the Bioloid bus, and a specific USB -> TTL converter I have. It is going to be used to test analog sensors for MicroRaptor, before I commit to having professional boards printed.

Are you looking for a general purpose ATmega168 board? If you are, I would advise you to look at something like this:

http://www.pololu.com/products/pololu/0215/

You'd be hard-pressed to build one for cheaper...

- Jon

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2007, 12:16:21 PM »
FYI, the $50 robot I am working on will require you to use a permanent prototyping board (the board with lotsa holes in it) like you see from the other posts.

Radioshack calls them the 'Component PC Board' . . . not sure why . . . they offer like 6 different types.

as for the Pololu board that JonHylands suggested, I would recommend staying away from Pololu . . .

they dont document anything, just post schematics. they dont even offer sample source code!!!!
if you have never programmed a microcontroller from scratch before, and dont want to, stay away from it :P

i tried out their original Orangutan and was very dissapointed :(

Offline poor-robot

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2007, 03:42:14 PM »
Since it sounds like you have design software you should try out these places to have them made:

For bare boards (no soldermask or silkscreen)
PCB Express (7 mil clearance, 15 mil drill)
http://www.pcbexpress.com/products/prices.php#1pricing
Advanced Circuits (6 mil clearance, 15 mil drill)
https://www.barebonespcb.com

For quick(ish) full-feature two-layer boards (minimum of three boards unless you're a student and can ship to a University address):
Advanced Circuits (6 mil clearance, 15 mil drill)
https://www.33each.com/

For quickish (international shipping) full-feature boards:
Olimex (8-10 mil clearance, 24 mil drill)
http://www.olimex.com/pcb/

There are several advantages to Olimex. One is that you can put as many designs as you want into a panel as long as you are able to provide a drawing. This means, for $33 plus $9 shipping you can get a double-sided 6.3" x 3.9" PCB cut into as many smaller (rectangular) pcbs as you can fit. Another big advantage is the availability of non-standard FR4 thickness down to 0.020" for a fee of $5. The disadvantages are the big via sizes (24mils), potential additional processing time (up to 15 days for 8 mil clearances), and international shipping.

I have used all of these places and am happy with each of them. In general Olimex really shines when you have small or non-standard boards and not a lot of vias. The cost savings vs. Advanced or PCBExpress starts to drop as your board gets bigger.

SparkFun also has a service called http://www.batchpcb.com/ that may work. Their product quality seems decent, but I haven't tried it.

Offline lyncas

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #24 on: August 11, 2007, 10:29:58 AM »

For bare boards (no soldermask or silkscreen)
PCB Express (7 mil clearance, 15 mil drill)
http://www.pcbexpress.com/products/prices.php#1pricing

For quick(ish) full-feature two-layer boards (minimum of three boards unless you're a student and can ship to a University address):
Advanced Circuits (6 mil clearance, 15 mil drill)
https://www.33each.com/

For quickish (international shipping) full-feature boards:
Olimex (8-10 mil clearance, 24 mil drill)
http://www.olimex.com/pcb/


I've used PCB express and Advanced Circuits, I really like Advanced Circuits FreeDFM http://www.freedfm.com service, it speeds up the error checking process .  Overall I've been very happy with Advanced circuits , I am interested in Oilmex now , thanks poor-robot

Offline jsmoker

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #25 on: August 14, 2007, 09:31:25 AM »
I've used Express PCB many times for work.  The have what's called the miniboard service.  The board has to be 3.8"x2.5" and you must perchase 3 at a time, but you can cut the size of the board down afterwards to what you want with a dremel.  Including shipping, the three boards cost $59.  I've also heard about BatchPCB through Sparkfun.  I've not used them because they have a turnaround time of more than a week, but there's a $10 base price plus $2.50 per square inch.  Sounds like a good deal if you don't mind waiting.


Offline sef193

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #26 on: September 05, 2007, 10:28:04 PM »
This site might be helpful.  http://enquotes.com
It let's you post a request for service or product, then suppliers contact you so you can get the cheapest quote.

Offline Technoshaman

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Re: Does anyone know a cheap way to have a PC board fabricated?
« Reply #27 on: September 06, 2007, 07:39:08 AM »
Hello,
I use press-n-peel papers and Ferric Chloride for etching and either Altium Protel DXP or Proteus ARES to design the PCB's (No, I didn't really pay for them). Altium is awesome for PCB design, and Proteus is good for realtime PIC simulation etc. I'd prefer PNP over photo paper, since PNP is really easy to deal with (much cleaner), but of course, it costs more.

http://www.techniks.com/

Here's are shots of some of my PCB's...

http://www.antrepo.org/emrah/DXP1.jpg
http://www.antrepo.org/emrah/project/BOARDS2.jpg

By the way... the broken prints on copper boards from Photo or PNP papers can be fixed with nail polish... permamnet markers won't really stand much.

Happy solderin' ;)

 


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