My PCBWAY review!
So first of all I want to say that I am really no expert in PCBs or PCB manufacturing. That being said it is also true that this project has led me to manufacture quite a few PCBs. I want to thank PCBWAY for they sponsorship of the project. But I also want to make clear that what follows is nothing but my true and honest opinion. Again, full disclosure, I want to make clear that PCBWAY has been kind enough to sponsor the openSX70 project by picking the tab of a fair amount of my latest order. I am thankful, but the opinions here are in no way influenced by that fact.
Placing the order This is the first time I ordered boards from PCBWAY. I had done (very successfully) PCBA of the USB FTDI boards this summer. That means that they not only did the PCB but also the assembly.
So ordering from PCBWAY is different from other fab houses that I had used in the past in that you get the quote before you actually upload the gerber files. You indicate the dimensions and characteristics of the PCB and get the quote, but your order is not “automatically”, it’s revised by them and the approved and properly quoted. To do that you have a contact that is always the same person, in my case Julia. She is my go to person for all thing related to my order. This might sound silly, but it makes a big difference. They are making a big effort to make sure your boards turn up perfect, and catch up dumb mistakes. Once your order is approved, you just pay and fabrication process starts.
I rushed a bit my designs, in anticipation of the Spring Festival or new year in China. I wanted to have the PCBs before the holidays so Santi could build a working prototype (news soon!)
In any case, turnaround depends on how you want your PCBs in terms of colour, width and materials, for plain width green PCBs is 24 hours, but if you want (like I do) different colours, and of course widths the is 3-4, maybe less dependingon the options, in my case I wanted the main PCB (Edwin) blue and of course .6mm, but for the dongle I wanted the H-board 1mm but the V board that has the flashbar connector I wanted to be “matt black” and ENIG (actual gold) plated. These are probably the most expensive boards I have ever made, but if you make regular green PCBs the price is really really cheap. So I effectively placed my order on January 8th and got the package on the 15th, one day ahead of the scheduled date. DHL takes care of paying the local import taxes (that you have to reimburse them of course).
The PCBs The quality is awesome, I mean really. Keep in mind that nowadays most of the fab houses turn out great boards, but this these stand up in their looks.
I have to say that I never like much the colour of the green “plain” PCBs. But these I really like the green hue.
If I have to make a complain, it’s that I choose the expensive “matt-black/ENIG” material for the flash connector PCB and they placed the reference numbers visible. I think I should have told them that that part of the PCB was important to me. Again, communication with the fab house is vital and I cannot stress it enough
Finally I want to show off a bit the fabrication excellence in my lame efford to make what is called PCB art. This is the new EDWIN pcbs that are almost identical to Meroë, just a few cosmetic changes, singularly the “art”. This is not really relevant from the electronic point of view, it more estetic matter. But they nailed it: registration is perfect!
So, again, thank you PCBWAY, thank you Gloria, Julia and all the team, and, my thoughts are with what is happening in China. And hope a quick solution.