Chinese PCB shop spam is a thing

-August 18, 2017

Like you, I get email spam, but I also seem prone to a narrowly targeted sub-variety: spam from PCB shops in China. The sources, as far as one can tell, seem to be perfectly legitimate businesses, except, of course, for the spam thing.

Well, a few months ago, I started replying to the spammers, asking for 10 PCBs to review for EDN. I sent Gerbers. Yes – this was a real project I needed real boards for.

Feigning interest is a satisfying way to exact a tiny bit of revenge on more egregious spammers who send editors blurbs about totally inappropriate products. I’ve received a few such samples this way now, but suffice to say, they’re still awaiting review ;-)


Unfortunately, none of my PCB shops took the bait, which is too bad for me, but also for them, as I actually would have given them some publicity! Bad publicity perhaps, but as they say, there’s really no such thing.

Giving up on free boards, I hit the PCBShopper site and picked a few candidate shops. As my PCB was designed back in 2000, the Gerbers were in the older RS-274D format, not the newer RS-274X, but I wasn’t expecting any problems. Though I hadn’t been able to find any free conversion tools out there, surely PCB manufacturers would still be able to work with the older format.

Nope. None of the shops I contacted could use 274D (not quite true – Elecrow could, but they took too long to get back to me). Clearly, there are a lot of shops out there that can’t handle old files, and doubtless many that can. 

By this point, time was becoming tight, so I swallowed my pride and sent the Gerbers to nine(!) of the spamming shops, asking if they could confirm their ability to handle 274D by sending me images of the PCB artwork. About half of them complied, so I picked one, PayPal’d my money, and hoped for the best.


A week and a bit later, I had boards in hand, and will soon be testing my first assembled PCB, the first incarnation of Rev2 of my powered speaker design, ca. 1999. Stay tuned for further blogs about that!


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Michael Dunn is Editor in Chief at EDN with several decades of electronic design experience in various areas.

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