I’m a regular user of different PCB services form my electronic design. Since 4 year now I’m mostly working with Eurocircuit but recently I tested a low cost solution : seeed studio. This is now an opportunity to compare these two solutions.
Eurocircuit is a professional offer for making PCB you can order online. The PCB are made depends on the pool you choose in Eastern Europe or India. They are making high quality work but the killer feature in my point of view is the PCB Checker.
This tool allow to verify your circuit and gives you a high quality view of your PCB before ordering it. The PCB checker verify all the PCB metrics ( DRC – DFM)
Once you have uploaded your gerber files to the systems it automatically detects how to stack them and propose a preview of each layer of the circuit. The result is really like how the circuit will be and generally this preview is really better than what I have in KiCad. So this is sometime where I find some design bugs.
The interface allow different configuration for the circuit with a real time update on the price. The primary issue with Eurocircuit is the price as soon as you select some non standard options (like red board instead of standard green).
The option panel allows to select all what you need to customize your PCB with related documentation for each of the options. Basically the price of the PCB quickly grow when your reach situation like OAR < 0,1mm /drill < 0,15 mm or clearance < 0,1mm. As soon as your Matrial or PCB definition is out of the standard you also have an important extra cost.
The production time is usually around 7 days with standard price and as soon as you request shorter delay is becomes also really expensive. Sometime the production is made in less than the expected date, the delay is always respected in my experience. Delivery is about 3-4 days so you can expect to get your PCB within 10 working days.
The PCB checker measure all the main distances in your design to identify the production class. This will help you to verify your design. This tool is really great. Usually when my class is too high, I force in the option panel a lower class to see in the checker where are the pads or wires not respecting the class. This way I detects design mistake and i can fix it ( and pay less). You are also sure that if the checker reports no errors your circuit will be produced correctly and will work once received.
Even when I’m ordering from a different site, I’m using the checker to verify my work. This tool is awesome.
The price of getting some PCB depends on the PCB size but for prototyping, when you are looking for 5-10 pieces it is generally around 100€ (a little bit less or a little bit more) port included. There is no extra tax as it is delivered within Europe. As soon as you order 20-30 pieces the price of each pieces decrease drastically but you will quickly reach 200€. If you are looking for price you have to order 100+ pieces and look for the Indi pool.
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 Eurocircuit 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 :
You can see that the transistor pad in red is bigger than the others, it is because it is connected to ground. In my design it was not the case.
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.
If we compare with the same component footprint makes by Eurocircuit we can see the difference :
Here we see a clear difference and the teardrops are correctly makes as my design was.
To conclude, both services delivered my working product, I prefer using standard postal service with SeeedStudio but is means really long delivery so for this reason when I need to build a first prototype, I prefer to order Eurocircuit even if more expensive as in case of problem I’ll be sure it comes from my design. I’m ordering 5-6 units. Once validated I’m placing a second order for a larger volume using seeedstudio where I’ll be able to choose more color options and get a lower price. Both services are complementary.
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.