Making your printed circuit boards with PCBWay

 Author:   Posted on:   Updated on:  2020-10-03T19:40:52Z

When a high-quality PCB with multiple layers or thin tracks is needed a PCB manufacturing service like PCBWay should be used.

I'm quite satisfied with the PCBs I can make at home using the toner transfer method. So far, I have made PCBs for through hole devices as well as PCBs for surface mounted devices. My results are acceptable for tracks as thin as 0.3 millimeters. But there is another issue I'm having with the toner transfer method. When I apply the iron to heat the toner, the paper warps and dilates. Not too bad though. I can still solder bigger IC capsules. But what about a double sided PCB? I found it totally impossible to align top with bottom pads across the board. Until now I tried my best to keep all designs single sided by adding wire jumpers where needed.

Yet when it comes to double sided PCBs or even more than two layer PCBs you need to get them professionally manufactured. Even with single sided PCBs when you want them to look professionally built or you need more pieces the right choice is a manufacturing service. I decided to try the PCB manufacturing services of PCBWay, a Chinese company which can manufacture PCBs and ship them worldwide at good prices.

PCBs ordered from PCBWay

PCBs ordered from PCBWay

I usually design PCBs using KiCad. You can use whatever EDA software you want as long as it can export Gerber and Drill files. I'll show you how it's done with KiCad. It's important to double check your designs for any errors before getting PCBs manufactured. Look at my design. It has a silkscreen part reference placement problem which I saw after sending files to PCBWay. In the end that's no big deal, but electrical problems caused by improper track routing need to be avoided.

PCB design in KiCad 3D Viewer

PCB design in KiCad 3D Viewer

Once you are sure the design is ready for manufacture, while it is open in Pcbnew, go to File - Plot to generate Gerber files. Select Gerber output format and make sure Copper, silkscreen, mask and paste layers are selected on both sides of the PCB. Basically, I didn't do any modifications to the settings in this dialog before clicking Plot.

Plot Gerber files in KiCad

Plot Gerber files in KiCad

Drill files are also needed. After the Gerbers have been generated, click Generate Drill Files. In the dialog which opens, I left all options default and I clicked Generate Drill File. All files are created in the same folder with the schematic and PCB design.

Generate Drill files in KiCad

Generate Drill files in KiCad

Close KiCad editors and in the main window, make an archive of the project. This archive will contain everything, including Gerber and Drill files.

Generate KiCad project archive

Generate KiCad project archive

It's time to head over PCBWay. Go to PCB Instant Quote and select Quick-order PCB to upload your project.

Upload Gerber to PCBWay

Upload Gerber to PCBWay

Select to upload the zip archive of your project. Most of the parameters will be detected automatically. You can change PCB thickness, solder mask color and other settings, but keep in mind that some selections will raise the total price.

Uploaded PCB at PCBWay

Uploaded PCB at PCBWay

From now on it's as easy as placing any order at an online store. Select shipping method, make sure you're logged into your account and pay for the service. Usually 5 or 10 double sided PCBs smaller than 100 by 100 millimeters will cost 5 USD. Shipping is as low as a few dollars when using registered air mail and new users get a discount coupon.

PCBWay lets you know what is happening with your project at any time. You can see videos of each of the manufacturing processes when you check the status of your order. Manufacturing is usually completed in 24 hours. Once they have shipped your PCBs, all you can do is wait. Meanwhile you can get the required parts if you haven't done it already.

You should know that PCBWay services are not limited to standard PCB manufacturing. They can make advanced PCBs with various materials for improved high frequency performance or special usage. They will also manufacture flexible PCBs and aluminum PCBs. On your request they can fully assemble the PCB with parts supplied by them or by you. Their services also include SMD stencil and PCB design.

First time users get a discount! My first order arrived with Registered Air Mail in 40 days. I have to say I was amazed by what I received. The five PCBs were tightly wrapped in a vacuum bubble bag and arrived in perfect condition. A thorough visual inspection reveals no manufacturing defects. The boards were carefully crafted and precisely cut. To check their quality, I performed some 1200 DPI scans of the boards. Everything looks good, as I designed it.

Crop of PCB scanned at 1200 DPI

Crop of PCB scanned at 1200 DPI (click for full size image)

In the end I can say the hardest part was designing the board. Once I had the Gerbers and Drill files I uploaded them to PCBWay and things were smooth and easy. Note that PCBWay has a large database of user submitted PCB projects which you can order, if PCB design is not something you are willing to do. The PCBs were manufactured in the specified amount of time and quickly shipped. With the high quality and the low price of the service I will make future orders from PCBWay for my projects. This PCB is designed for a microphone volumetric sensor that can be used as broken window or opened door alarm.

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* Note: This post contains sponsored content from PCBWay (SHENZHEN JDB TECHNOLOGY CO.,LTD).

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