PCB Order

Instead of a weekly order, 2 layer circuit boards are now sent to the fab when the panel fills up. This means panels are going out 2 to 3 times a week instead of just once a week.

Contents

New ordering website! OSH Park!

4 layer orders are now every two weeks. Email "laen@oshpark.com" for the schedule.

I'm planning another beta 2-layer medium-run order on April 1st, 2013 for people that want at least 150 square inches of their boards. Specs are the same as the prototype order. Lead free, stellar quality, purple boards, $1 per square inch. Details here.

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Order Status

Keep up to date on the order status updates and to be notified of when the next order will go out:

What is this?

I've been coordinating a group circuit board order. By combining dozens of small boards into large panels, and doing a lot of volume, we're able to get the costs down to levels that are more hobbyist friendly.

It's $5 per square inch for three copies of your two layer design. So, a 2 square inch design would cost $10, and you'll get three copies of your board. Shipping within the US is included, and there are no setup fees.

Your two layer boards will be shipped within about 14 days of the order date.

For four layer designs, it's $10 for three copies. So, a 2 square inch design would cost $20, and you'll get three copies of your board.

Four layer boards will be mailed within 16 days.

Who's eligible

Although this was started primarily for the DorkbotPDX community, it's open to any hobbyist anywhere. Shipping in the US is free, and international mailing is a flat rate of $5USD for standard first class, $15 for USPS Priority Mail, or $35 for USPS Express Mail.

Your order helps us continue doing it!

What you get

  • Three 2-layer boards (see design rules below)
  • Soldermask on both sides
  • Silkscreen on both sides.

The Costs

Two layer: $5 per square inch for three copies of your board.

Four layer: $10 per square inch for three copies of your board.

Board area is rounded down to the hundredth of an inch. If your board is 2.71828183 square inches, your total bill will be $13.55. No setup fee, and domestic shipping by first-class US mail is included. International mailing is a flat rate of $15 for USPS Priority Mail, or $5 for standard first class

Payment is by Paypal or by credit card through Google Checkout.

How to submit your order

First, try uploading the board at OSH Park as either an Eagle .brd or a set of Gerbers.

If you just send a brd file, you'll get the default "Names" and "Place" and "_tsilk" layers on your silkscreen. If you want something else, please use the CAM job below and edit it to your liking.

If you're making Gerbers from Eagle, please use this CAM job.

If you have any problems with the website, feel free to mail me at pcb@laen.org

Help!

If any of this is confusing, or you'd just like some help with your board, feel free to drop me an email. I love helping people with their designs.

Design Rules

(Eagle DRU File: http://content.laen.org/pcb/LaenPCBOrder.dru ) The minimums are:

  • 6 mil trace width
  • 6 mil spacing
  • 15 mil clearances from traces to the edge of the board
  • 13 mil minimum drill size.
  • 7 mil minimum annular ring

..That's not to say that you should design for the minimums; it's best to make your traces and spacing as wide as your design will tolerate, but if you need it, we're paying for these minimums so feel free to use them!

Four layer boards have the same minimums and will be made with 1 oz copper for the external layers and 0.5 oz copper internally. No blind/buried vias.

File Format

Although I can deal with a lot of file types, here's what I prefer. Don't sweat it if you don't know what any of this means or you're not sure if your files match up. I'll figure it out. :)

  • If you can just send an Eagle brd, and you're fine with the default of having just the Name, Place and _tsilk/_bsilk layers on the silkscreen, then do that.
  • If you're sending gerbers, make sure they're rs-274x (the default in any modern package), and are "positive layers" (also the default).
  • If you're using something other than Eagle: Set your drill file to 2:4 precision, no zero suppression, absolute positioning, and (if using kicad) "minimal header" and make sure "mirror y axis" is OFF.
  • If you're using DipTrace, it helps me if your filenames have a board name in them ("Board1-Top Layer.gbr" instead of just "Top Layer.gbr").

Enjoy!

-Laen

Comments

Add a setup fee

Dropping the per square inch price won't be fair to him for larger boards.

Adding $1 or $2 "setup" charge for all orders would only increase a 2 sq in board from $10 to $12 - still a great bargain. This seems like it would be an appropriate pricing model, as Laen has some more-or-less fixed costs (effort and postage) regardless of the size of the board.

But he seems to want to keep the pricing as is.

I think the best thing we can do is keep creating new projects and fill up his PCB panels with orders.

Fees

An extra (small) fee really doesn't matter much, be it per design file, per set of 3, or whatever. However, it is nice to keep the billing simple. The only thing that would really suck is if extra fees were calculated in some non-obvious way and turned out to be a surprise after boards were already made. Well, it'd also suck if small fees added up in a way to make tiny boards cost prohibitive (as they sort-of do at BatchPCB.... but the main problem there is the incredibly long wait time).

I've ordered LOTS of boards on Laen's group order, ranging from very tiny (those 15 single LEDs in the light table), many about 0.5 to 3 sq inch, and a few moderately size at 7-8 sq inch. On the order with those boards for the light table, I believe I had a total of 5 different designs. All my boards have been sized based only on their technical requirements.

It's certainly not my intention to "sink" the group order. Quite the opposite!

In fact, I'm making "free kits", where I pay for a set of 15 to 24 (fairly tiny) boards + parts, and give them out for free to anyone willing to build within a month. My main motivation is to avoid placing a burden on Laen to bill and ship to a dozen tiny orders, while sharing these designs with everyone in the group. Likewise with the regular parts order, since splitting up dozens of cheap SMT parts which come on strips has been a huge burden when lots of people want to build the same board, which is why it's a kit with the PCB plus all misc parts. I'm paying for ALL the costs for everyone.... but since these group orders make tiny boards and small quantities of parts affordable, it doesn't work out too badly, and if even a few people end up buying me a beer maybe it'll kind of work out about even?

Fees, routings, and small boards

The problem isn't actually small boards, or even the fixed costs associated with the orders.

The real problem, as siliconfarmer mentioned, is that I'm not selling enough space. After a TON of struggle, I now have a US board house that's happy to do these panels of small designs at a reasonable cost, but to break even, I need to sell upwards of 200 square inches a month. That's only happened once in the history of the order, and I don't think this next order is going to be any different, unfortunately.

Paul's orders have actually been _great_. There's a mix of tiny boards and large boards, and he buys plenty of space each month. Now I just panel his together in a block and send them to him still all tabbed together. I also really appreciate that he handles the distribution of them to people interested in them. That takes a HUGE burden off of me, since the fixed costs _do_ start being a problem when one person orders under half an inch in area.

Over the entire history of the order, only 15 people have come in under the "fixed" costs. The average participant orders about 6 square inches. As far as I'm concerned, those 15 are acceptable losses. I'm willing to lose money on an individual, as long as I don't lose money on the order as a whole, especially since that means I get to keep the pricing scheme simple: A flat $5 / square inch, with shipping.

The goal here is for this to be a useful and inexpensive service to hardware hackers, artists, and casual hobbyists. I want a simple cost structure, and to get people their boards as fast as humanly possible. I think it's a doable goal.

The main thing keeping me from being able to continue providing the service is the lack of interest. Part of it is that I haven't done a great job of advertising it. I think if word got around, it would take off like a rocket. I don't feel comfortable spreading it around on message boards, since this could --in theory-- be for profit, and Google Adwords search terms related to PCBs are expensive.

Unfortunately, these last few orders have been HEAVY losses. Hundreds of dollars losses. If it doesn't turn around in a pretty big way, I'm worried that this next order may be the last one for a while.

Costs

A minimum charge to cover your costs is not unreasonable. I would still order a 1sq inch board if there was a $15 minimum if that is what I needed.

Hopefully my orders this month can help. I just sent you an email with 1 design I would like to get made and I have a few others I would like also if you can make the one I sent you.

Yes, do a little advertising

Spreading the word would help a lot. Even on this site. I had a hard time finding the right place after someone told me about it. There are plenty of electronic hacks that could use a board or three.

Regards

cww

min order?

I really do hope this thing can continue. Maybe imposing a $10 minimum order would help on those very small single-board orders? I'm sure if someone's designed a tiny 0.5 sq inch board, it's not a huge leap to just bump up the quantity up 12 pieces to meet the minimum? Maybe that'll help fill the panel?

But really, some free "advertising" is what's needed. Maybe sites like Hackaday could help?

Hoping to be in the next order

First time on here, and so glad to have found an excellent resource like this. I'm technically challenged, so trying to make Eagle work for me was a laugh!! A friend of mine let me in on this deal. Hopefully he can help me set up my board for the next deadline. Just writing to thank you Laen for this great opportunity, and hopefully I'll be able to swing some decent sized orders to help fill up some space. I'm doing small boards, but the quantity hopefully will make up for it. I really do appreciate what you're doing, and hope this can continue for a long time. I've been trying to hand etch boards with an etching tool on a dremel for months now, and they're just too small to get them right!! Hope I can make the deadline!!! Joe

4 layer boards?

Are Are there any plans to place a 4 layer (2 layers plus ground/power planes) order in the near future?

I don't know.

I'd _love_ to, but I'm not sure I could do it cost effectively, and that there's the demand.

How often do you have a four layer design you want made?

The PCBs are usually not

The PCBs are usually not that much more expensive, about 30%. But the signal quality and speed you can push the circuits to is definitely worth it. The two inner layers are used for power and ground so power is much better quality too... no compromises.

I would definitely use it.

minumum annular ring width on 4-layer

4-layer is always preferred. Can the annular ring be less than 7mil for 4-layer?

Have questions and want asnwers i regards to PCB fab.

A google brought me to a link of PCB fab places, which brought me here. I need some help in getting pricing together and checking my designs to make sure they will pass the DRC. I'm using FreePCB to make the layout so the Eagle DRC isn't of much help. What I can tell you is that I used 6mil traces, 6mil spacing, 0.020 drill vias with 32mil diameter around them. Something like 0.042 drills for most other holes (AP Circuits standard drill sizes). 2 layers, need solder mask both sides and maybe silk screen both sides. There are two rectangular square corner boards that are each 2.5x1.75 inches (top board and bottom board) that I need to have made. There may be a third board for a USB to TTL serial adapter that I can probably squeeze out by the next deadline (August 2). So basically can someone get back to me to get me up to speed? I looked for an email and couldn't find one. Files will be gerber .gbr for all layers unless instructed to rename them like Batch PCB requires. As far as number of boards desired, some of that will be up to the price, looking for something a little cheaper than AP Circuits. The boards are just about ready to generate gerbers, I just need to check them and make sure everything routed correctly and toss together the third design for the USB. Is Paypal and accepted payment method?

Sorry for all the questions. Greg

Laen's email is on this

Laen's email is on this page. Scroll up and look for the "How to submit your order" section.

Thanks, he got back to me

Thanks, he got back to me and my designs are now sent, hopefully they help turn the tide toward breaking even.

Some questions

After some google, i found myself here. I'm really interested in this order, but i have some questions:

-> Can it be shipped worldwide (Brazil to be exact)? -> How much for shipment? -> Can i pay via International Credit Card (paypal maybe)?

As stated before, i'm from Brazil and here we lack a good PCB provider. Thanks.

Sure!

Shipping to Brazil is no problem. It's just a $15 USD charge for international priority mail, and paypal is just fine.

I'm really surprised by the number of international orders. There's been a LOT of them.

Hang in there

Hi Laen,

Please hang in there if you can, I just found this and will have quite a few boards to do starting in a month or two.

4-layers, with the fine geometries you can do I have no need for them. Certainly in the normal PCB fab world that drives the price up a LOT.

Manufacturers

There are many PCB manufacturers who are almost as cheap. I am not sure where he gets his boards but there is a really cheap PCB manufacturer - pcbfabexpress.com. We have used them at UCSD for a few years and have not had any problems. I really like what you're doing Laen. We used to wait for a few weeks till enough engineers had jobs to make it worth the money. Try them out too it might be cheaper.

Please be more specific

I went over to pcbfabexpress, and logged in as "guestuser" to see pricing.

First, I tried the "bare bones" option. I tried to quote 3 pieces of a 2 by 1 inch board, which would be comparable to most of the boards I've sent to Laen. First, it said the minimum was 4. Then it said the minimum Y size is 1.25. The total, before shipping, was $46. I have used pcbfabexpress and in the past they've charged $10 for shipping, plus a surprise $10 handling fee. Even if they didn't do that, and even if the shipping were free, $46 sounds like a LOT more than Laen's $10.

Next I tried their standard 2 layer boards, 3 pieces, 2 by 1 inch. The quote came up to $60.63, not including shipping (and it's this service I've used in the past that ended up being $20 for shipping + handling).

Now, I'll admit if the board is a lot larger, pcbfabexrpress looks a lot more attractive. In fact, I did one a few months ago that was 9 by 4 inches, and pcbfabexpress has nearly the best price at that large board size.

First order arrived

Just got my first order and I'm pretty pleased with the results, hopefully I did not make any mistakes in the design. I used FreePCB to do the design and there were no problems with the Gerber files that it produced. All the rookie mistakes made with 90 degree corners on 6 mill traces came out perfectly with no erosion in the corners. I haven't found a single bridge on any of the fine pitch chips or connectors.

And the Blue color is cool.

Solder mask on top of via?

Can the board fab. put soldermask on top of the vias?

Yes!

I did this on my last order and the results turned out great. Doing so makes it so much easier to fit in legible silkscreen on small dense boards.

Thanks

Thanks for the PCBs. I appreciate them very much. I posted some pictures of the PCBs in my blog. http://voltsandbytes.com/my-first-blue-pcbs/

stackup (& trace impedances)?

Is the 2-layer &/or 4-layer stackup (thicknesses, Er) always the same? What are the #'s?

I have some signals that should be routed with 100-ohm differential impedance, and even if it means some really wide traces, I figure I should try to accomodate since debugging signal integrity is no fun.

Thanks again for the 1st set of boards. I can't wait to make more! -Brian

Stack-up

They're not controlled impedance boards (since that's expensive), but yeah, the 2 layer boards are always 1oz copper on a .062" thick FR4.

The four layer board stack-up is:

  • 1 Cu Foil 1 oz.
  • 1 Prepreg 7629 (.0078)
  • 1 Core .039 H/H
  • 1 Prepreg 7629 (.0078)
  • 1 Cu Foil 1 oz.

Selling unused PCB's

Hi:

I am a new member here. I am very much interested in your PCB service which seems quite affordable. I am curious. Looks like it is $5/inch for 3 PCB sets. What if someone wanted just 1 pcb. Perhaps they can put up the other 2 on sale here and if it sells, you could take a cut. That way prototypers who only want a single pcb can get what they want and your cost for the PCB might go down. Just a thought.

11/15 group PCB Order status

Email Laen again, maybe

Email Laen again, maybe early Monday. He usually replies quickly on Monday to Friday. You might double check the address, and keep an eye on your spam filter (especially if you have hotmail or outlook).

Away on vacation

Hi! I was out of the country, with only occasional Internet access all last week. I had an autoresponder set up on the "pcb-order" email address, but it seems not everyone got it.

I'm going through the orders today, and you'll get a confirmation by tonight.

Thanks, I'll try again

Thanks, I'll try again tomorrow. I've actually written a few times over the last 2+ weeks with no response. Don't want to be a pest (this is a wonderful service!), just hoping I'm "in" the build. I'm using pcb-order@laen.org and it's not getting bounced or anything. I'm sure I'm not missing anything on the receiving end either... Thanks!

Group PCB order

Hi , I am new to this forum and google brought me here. i have submitted my first group pcb order to pcb-order@laen.org . But still haven't received any confirmation . Is this means that my files are not accepted ?

Blue and tin vs. gold and umm.. brown boards

If possible I like the blue and tin boards best, they seem to solder much better and the extra gold plating needs to be accommodated in the holes that you may have drilled. Hopefully the standard is blue and tinned pads but it would be nice to know ahead of time which process was going to be used on any particular order so hole sizes could be adjusted. The extra mill or two meant I had to drill out some very small alignment holes to fit a connector.

Not the biggest deal in the world, but it would be nice to know ahead of time.

Brown is no more, purple forever! :)

Yeah, the grape/brown was an intermediary step while I was trying to figure out the right mix for purple. I now have it down, and they should be a lot better. See http://dementeddiode.org/blog/2010/12/stylin-pcbs/

The standard _is_ lead-free HASL finish, but I upgrade to ENIG if someone requests and pays for it (it's $50 extra), which has happened the last few orders.

Any fab worth its salt (including ours), includes the plating thickness in their calculations to make sure the finished hole size is what's specified within a certain tolerance (2.5 mils in our case), so you shouldn't see a difference in hole size between ENIG and HASL..

hole sizes

That's a little strange because normally I allow a minimum of 3 mils because that's what most everyone says they try to hit. I'll add a couple extra just to make sure next time I have things that are really small where 1 mill makes a big difference.

PCB shape and other design rule questions

Is the shape of the PCB limited to a simple rectangle? If not, that brings up the following questions.

1. Are edges limited to straight lines, or can they be arcs or other complex curves? 2. Is the size of the board computed as the smallest rectangle that encloses the design?

As with all low-cost PCBs, it almost goes without saying that internal slots and cutouts are disallowed.

What is the largest allowable hole? Usually it's around 250 mils.

Do hole sizes specified in the drill file represent the actual drill tool used, or do they represent the finished (plated) hole size? If the hole is the actual drill size used, how much is the hole diameter reduced by the plating process?

Nope, the shape can be

Nope, the shape can be anything that can be cut out with a 0.1" routing bit. There have been some awesomely crazy outlines in the order too. As you note, you _are_ billed for the rectangle that encloses it, though.

Officially, we're not paying for internal slots and cutouts, however depending on who's working at the fab, they _have_ done them in the past. In fact, we've never had them _not_ do them. It's not guaranteed, though, so don't rely on them being there.

The largest drill is 260 mils, and the hole sizes in the drill file represent the finished, plated hole size. They're allowed 2.5mil of deviation, though.

No soldermask

Is soldermask required? Do I at least need to supply 'blank' gerbers for those layers?

Yes to the soldermask

Yeah. Soldermask layers are "negative". Anything on them is not on the board, so if you don't provide a soldermask layer, the whole board will be covered. If you want your board blank, you'll need to provide a soldermask file with a complete covering in it.

ground/power planes drawn "negative"

Is "negative" drawn layer of power or ground plane acceptable for fab?

Silkscreen clipping

Does the fab do silkscreen clipping? I mean will they omit the silkscreen if it will cover part of a pad?

Yes.

Yeah, the fab does that.

Billing

Just wait for a response

Just wait for a response from Laen, he usually gets back within a day to verify he received your order and give you a total.

The process

Yeah. When you send your files, I add them to the panel then mail you to confirm, and to tell you much they'll cost.

Every addition or file replacement is confirmed, and I make a point to process all pending orders at least nightly, so if you don't hear something within 24 hours, it's wise to send a follow-up just to make sure I got it. Mail _has_ been lost before.

BGA Reballing.

Hi does anyone know anywhere do get BGA reballing and reflowing on the cheap around here? I have a Motherboard that needs the Video chip reballed and reflowed. Axiom (local) will do it for $150 bux. I found places online to do it from $35-100 bucks.. I would like to find someplace local.

Call me if you have any leads.

Thanks! -Gordo

503-333-2131

Axiom electronics

Not a timely answer, but for the local croud its worth noting that I have done business with Axiom for years and they have incredible people there. I would regularly send over ~1200 ball BGAs for reball/reflow and I NEVER had one come back with a problem of workmanship. Edna and David (her position predecessor) run a quality shop with quality people. Most of the staff has been there for many years and get to know the regulars by name and will expedite small orders for free if the workload allows it. This is one of the places you will never be sorry for paying a few dollars more for, plus no shipping fees!

Drills, Milling and Silkscreen resolution?

Hi all,

I asked Laen the following question:
   Do you have a list of the drill sizes used by the fab house you're using [...]?

His answer, so the rest of you know as well, as of 2011/04/26:
   They have every drill between 13 mils and 260 mils at 5 mil steps. They're allowed a 2.5 mil tolerance on finished hole sizes, but that could go either direction.

I also happened to mention that, due to the no-guarantee on internal milling and the size of the milling bit (can't reach tight spaces), I was planning to have both milling data and add sparse drill hits to ease finishing/cutting post-delivery. Laen noted the following:
   Oh, great idea! Drill hits come before milling, so that's perfect.

That concludes the sharing of information :)

==================================================

But now I have a new question, Laen;
   What is the resolution of the Silkscreening - either in mils or DPI?

Most of my lines are 10mil, but some bits might work out better a bit thinner. Alternatively, the others might work out better a bit thicker.

Thanks again in advance!

Silkscreen Resolution

The silkscreen is about 200dpi, so the smallest feature size it can do is about 5 mils.

The fab has an option to do the printing in LPI (about 1000dpi), and I'd _really_ like to offer it, but it would increase the cost of the panels by quite a bit.

..and thanks for sharing the other info. :)

Re: Silkscreen Resolution

   The silkscreen is about 200dpi, so the smallest feature size it can do is about 5 mils.
Excellent :) That's plenty to go below 10mil, and gives me a rough target to convert to bitmap at 150 DPI and see where I'm going to have legibility or co-incidence issues, if any, with some resolution to spare.

Now to see if we can finish this before the next panel fills up. Hmmm.

Thanks again, Laen!

This is no longer valid.

This is no longer valid. The current fab has the full array of drill sizes, and can do any hole size you want within 2.5 mils.