Alternatives to BatchPCB

BatchPCB offer an innovative service to electrical hobbyists – the ability to have single circuit boards – or small quantities – professionally manufactured at a relatively reasonable cost. They’ve been around for a while, they’re relatively easy to use, and they’ve become something of a de-facto standard recommendation in the electronics hobbyist community when someone asks about PCB prototyping.

They do good work, and they provide a valuable service, don’t get me wrong. Thing is, they’re also really slow – expect to wait a month or five weeks to get your PCBs – they don’t offer any real options to speak of, and their prices simply aren’t competitive if you need more than one or two copies of the same PCB.

So, with that in mind, here are some recommendations for alternative fabrication houses that I’ve used.

First up on the list is Sure Electronics. They’re better known as internet (and eBay) vendors of assorted electronics components – LEDs and LCDs and switches and resistors and so on – but they do, in fact, offer a variety of PCB fabrication services. Prices start at $50 for five boards of sixteen square inches each, including shipping. (By contrast, supposing you had a 3×5″ PCB, you’d get two copies from BatchPCB for slightly more money.) They do good work and their turnaround time is pretty good, but their customer service leaves a bit to be desired and they insist on 12 mil (yes, 12 mil!) trace/space. If you can live with that, though, they are a pretty good deal, particularly on larger boards; on smaller boards, they’re usually beat on price by others….

Such as Seeed Studio. They have some slightly confusing PCB offerings, but their prices are excellent, their boards are great, and their turnaround time is about as good as it gets for China-based PCB fabrication. Their prices start at about $50, including shipping, for ten boards of 100 square centimetres or less each (near enough sixteen square inches), with shipping. (It looks like they’ve suspended their PCB offerings until late February, because of the Chinese holidays, FYI.)

Seeed offer a number of options, but still don’t offer the full range of choices a real board house does. If you want something a little different, my suggestion is to try MakePCB. They offer some very high quality boards at prices that are very attractive if you need more than a dozen or so, and offer choices like different board thicknesses, different copper weights, gold plating, and so on. They’re who I generally use to produce “production” PCBs for projects, and I highly recommend them. Their standard trace/space size is “0.2mm”, which is basically 8 mils.

Next on the list is OurPCB. They do good-quality boards with a reasonable lead time, and their support is pretty good. Their prices are quite attractive if you need larger PCBs in relative quantity – 100 twenty-square-inch two-layer boards for $290, for example, plus shipping. They do 6 mil trace/space as standard.

Golden Phoenix are the fab house in China that BatchPCB actually get their boards from. So, same quality, better turnaround, and good prices, though you’ll need to order a few boards from them (prices start at about $99 for 155 square inches, which you can actually beat in some circumstances at, e.g., Seeed). They require 7 mil trace/space. Their ordering process is not the most sophisticated thing in the world, but it works.

Yes, all these outfits are in China. That’s part of why they’re so cheap – not necessarily because their quality is crap (it isn’t), but because you get all the benefits of a competitive high-volume industry. If you need boards fast, they’re not the choice for you – but they’re excellent alternatives to BatchPCB, who are anything but fast, anyway.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 3rd, 2010| 10 Comments »

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10 Comments

  1. On 4/11/2010 at 3:22 pm Laen Said:

    For American options: barebonespcb is an advanced circuits offering, and my dorkbot group does a large order once a month but ships within a week and is probably your cheapest option for designs under 10 square inches. http://dorkbotpdx.org/wiki/pcb_order

  2. On 6/21/2010 at 1:25 pm Josh Said:

    Are you sure about the 10 boards option on Seeed?

    From the looks of the product page it’s $40 per board, with a maximum of 10 boards.

    http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/fusion-pcb-2-layer-10cm10cm-max-10pcs-p-396.html

    Josh

  3. On 6/21/2010 at 1:32 pm Nemo Said:

    Josh – yep, I’m sure. I use them regularly.

    You’re misreading the title – “10x10cm max -10pcs” should be read as “10x10cm maximum size, 10 pieces”, rather than “10x10cm, maximum 10 pieces”.

  4. On 6/21/2010 at 2:36 pm Josh Said:

    Aha, fair point 🙂

    Thanks for clarifying!

    Josh

  5. On 7/20/2010 at 9:20 pm Aret Said:

    Seeed now offers half size boards (5cm x 5cm) for half the price, or about $30 with shipping.

  6. On 7/31/2010 at 4:42 am Ian Harris Said:

    Thanks for your tips on PCB fab houses. We have been using Olimex at http://www.olimex.com – their prices are pretty good and the turn around time (3-5 days + shipping) is excellent. They also take a bunch of designs and put them on the one panel, which is fantastic for prototyping. Their silkscreening is out of this world – the resolution is amazing. Every time we’ve gone to production somewhere else, we’ve found the silkscreen isn’t as good.

    Unfortunately they are closed for summer holidays (the month of August) so we’ve been looking around for somewhere else. It’s astonishing how expensive some of the places are when you only want one or two boards (there’s no point making any more for prototyping, it’s going to have mistakes, that’s the point!)

    kind regards
    Ian.
    http://www.embeddedadventures.com

  7. On 2/1/2012 at 11:34 am macduff Said:

    Great commentary!!! Extremely useful; I’ll be bookmarking and referring to this often.

  8. On 2/7/2013 at 4:19 am josep Said:

    Now that Olimex is closed,
    I’ve found a great alternative.
    http://www.pcbya.com
    They are very cheap for few boards, the last order I made asked for only one.

  9. On 5/31/2017 at 2:25 pm L Said:

    http://www.wellpcb.com/pcb-quote
    This has an online calculator that you can combine to compare in the selection

  10. On 12/2/2017 at 2:39 am Michelle Said:

    ourpcb is a very reliable supplier, there are still new and old customers to draw a lottery activities, up to 50 dollars