I’m a regular user of different PCB prototype services form my electronic design. I used several manufacturers of prototype board. Since 4 year now I’m mostly working with Eurocircuit but recently I tested different PCB prototype services and low cost solutions : JLCPCB, Seeedstudio and OSH Park .This is now an opportunity to compare these different solutions.
Cheapest PCB Prototype - JLCPCB
JLCPCB is a professional offer for making PCB you can order online. It is the next solution I’ve tested. To be honest I did the test because they ask me if I could review their service and offer me a free PCB order for this. So here is the review !
In term of website and service is is looking like all the Asian PCB ordering platform : you have an interface where you find the same kind of options for you PCB. The advantage is you don’t need to learn every time how to use the website. Instant PCB Quote: https://jlcpcb.com/quote
This website is really low cost for sure, if you order 5 or 10 PCB 100×100 the price is 2$ !! When you go for higher quantities like 15 or more the pcb price is going higher. So this website offer a really aggressive price for small quantities and keep an really low price approach for larger quantities.
Pushing PCB and order processing was standard and well executed. For my test the delivery has been made through DHL and the delivery was really efficient : i’ve got the product in less than 7 days.
The plus was the delivery ; in comment you will tell me if I’ve got benefit of a premium service regarding the context but it’s the first time I received my PCB like this !!
The pcb quality itself was really good, nothing special to say, other than it is what I’m expecting.I did not tested the stencil offer because of my time arrangement ，but the offer is also really aggressive with 9$ offer.
So after this test i’m quite positive about the JLCPCB PCB service . I’ll need to make a second order as an anonymous person next time to confirm this feeling. Your feedback are welcome on comment if you have.
PCB Prototype & Hardware Supplier - Seeed Studio
Seeed Studio is proposing a low cost service for getting PCBs, when I say low cost, I’m talking about 19$ + port (3-5$) for the same thing as what I got for 115€ with Eurocircuit.
The other main difference is the list of option you can have for no extra cost. The first I like is the PCB color choice : they are all the same price just you can’t request fast shipment other than for green.
Most of the options are making cost higher but you will easily find the right combination for a reduced price. As much as I seen in my different order the production time of 5 days is respected.
The main issues with seeedstudio is the validation of your files : you choose your design constraints yourself and you have no verification once you set your files. You can view your file but this is just an online gerber viewer. So once you order you have no feedback and you have to expect all to be right to receive working PCB. The first time I ordered to seedstudio I wasn’t sure until seen it I’ll receive my PCB with the right cutting. But it was.
The second issue is transportation : seeedstudio is making circuit in Singapore and the delivery can be done using regular post or international transporters like DHL. I’ve tried the two options : regular post is really long but really not expensive, the main reason is it bypass the custom taxes (sounds like normal when price < 22€). The problem is really the transport duration running up to 3 weeks and even when your parcel has arrived in France, it has taken 9 days before being delivered. So this option is better for a second batch than for a prototype one. I’ve try a faster delivery option with DHL and that way I got my PCB in 2 weeks but the price is really higher:
PCB price : 33€ for 30pces Transport price : 21,37€ DHL TVA + Custom + DHL : 31€ Total : 85,37€ tax included
The solutions is still viable but it is a little bit more complicated.
The last point of comparison is the quality of the product. Both provider has delivered working circuits with a sufficient level of quality. Personally I prefer the quality delivered by JLCPCB as it really looks like what I’ve designed. For Seeedstudio I’ve seen difference for my ground pads as an example. Even if I’m using teardrops for ground plane connections, with seeed they are made differently and as a consequence the pads are larger as seen in the above photo :
On the second U1 circuit you can also see two pads larger than the others : they are also the one connected to ground. Isolation with the 3rd one is ok but clearance is lower than expected, in my point of view it is a risk to have pad bridge once soldered.
Purple PCB Prototype - OSH Park
To continue on this post, after some comments proposing me to test some other services, I’ve tried OSH Park solution. OSH Park is a simple solution with a design better than SeeedStudio in the same kind of really low cost approach. The website provides nice pictures of the different layers from your gerber files giving a good level of confidence with the expected results.
There is no real options for your PCB but the proposed price is interesting for first prototypes : I’ve got 3 of my board ( 47×17 mm ) for about $6,3 including transport. The limitation this this price is low but not decreasing with volume making it really good for 3 units but not relevant for 30 of them. So it sounds good for hackers only looking for 1-5 units for own use, less for companies. I’ll tell you more once I’ll have the PCB in the hands… in 3 weeks maybe.
For information before you order on OSH park, you may know 1 month after ordering the PCB I’m still waiting for them. According to UPS it has been delivered within 10 days but apparently not the the requested address… I need to investigate.
After a second try (I like to play) I’ve got the PCBs in a reasonable time (2-3 weeks), no problem that time. The first order has been lost.
To conclude, three PCB Prototype Services has own advantages . For services delivered my working product, I prefer using DHL service with JLCPCB. SeeedStudio use standard postal service,it means really long delivery so for this reason when I need to build a first prototype. But SeeedStudio provide the PCBA service.
Related posts: 1.SMT-Stencil-in-JLCPCB-Factory