Quick-Turn PCB shop review project: Summary

-March 30, 2016

Let's look back at and summarize the PCB shops I reviewed for the "Quick-Turn" project.

Admittedly, "Quick-Turn" is a bit of a misnomer, though I think it communicates the basic idea. What I'm really referring to are PCB shops with an automated Website that lets you get instant quotes on relatively simple (2-4 layer) designs, then upload your files and place an order. That's the "quick" part. Delivery can be quick or slow, depending on how much you're willing to pay.

I relied on Bob Alexander's great PCB Shopper site to help me select my review targets. Mostly, I chose the lowest cost options, but added OSH Park to the list because it's popular in Maker circles, and to have at least one non-Asian source. I cut one or two vendors from the list when I started to suspect that some were just different "retailers" or front-ends for the same fab service.

If you've used more expensive services for this class of PCB, and think they offer some advantages beyond the shops I reviewed, tell us about them in the comments.

Let me start by saying that overall, I'm impressed. I would not hesitate to send a project to any of the reviewed fabs. But depending on your needs, there are likely enough differentiators between shops to sway your choice, beyond just cost. And don't forget that cost will vary a lot depending on your board size, options, and shipping method. My reviews are based on a double-sided 6 × 6 cm PCB with default finish and soldermask colour.

Here is a table summarizing the four PCB shops reviewed. For more detailed information, read the individual review articles and visit the vendor sites. Prices are in USD at time of ordering.


Shop

Maker Studio

ShenZhen2U

Elecrow

OSH Park

 

EDN review

EDN review

EDN review

EDN review

Delivery

Cheapest

Air

Air

USPS 1st class

Total cost

$16.00

$24.70

$17.84

$27.75

Board quantity

10

10

5

3

Cost/board

$1.60

$2.47

$3.57

$9.25

Finish

HASL

HASL

HASL

ENIG

 

Some notes:
  • Many board shops offer fixed pricing for sizes up to 10 × 10 cm. I designed a smaller board because OSH Park's pricing is based on the actual size.
  • Many shops also offer 5 or 10 boards for the same price! Well, shipping is a bit less for five. Keep these factors in mind when comparing prices in the table.
  • Most shops offer a range of finishes and lead-free. I used the defaults.
  • Design rules vary between shops. Although none in the review appeared to have problems with 6/6 rules, 8/8 will offer more vendor choice. Compare legend, soldermask, and drill rules too.

That concludes EDN's review series of low-cost, "Quick-Turn" PCB fabricators. Actually, I shall return. I plan to solder some parts onto these PCBs to see if I can notice any differences between them under the iron.


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