Most PCB manufacturing companies which provide prototype PCB (Printed Circuits Boards) and small batches for makers calculate their board prize based on the PCB size.
The chinese PCB manufacturer JLCPCB calculates the board prize based on a standard board with a size of 100x100 mm. That means that an order of 10 boards with a PCB size of 30x30mm costs the same prize as a board with the dimensions of 60x60mm.
By multiplying the PCB design on a panel you will get more boards for the prize. This technic is called panelization. If you choose the panel option the total prize of the order will be a board fee plus engineering fee.
JLCPCB kindly sent me a coupon in order to test and review their PCB panel features.
My test project is a board for my ATtiny sensor node project with a board size of 30x50mm. The image below shows the first PCB prototypes from OSHPark.
For my test project 3x2 PCB will fit within the dimensions of 100x100mm without having higher costs.
On the X direction I can place 3 boards with additional edges of 5mm.
Create the panel at JLCPCB
After upload of the Gerber data of your PCB project the final PCB will apear on the order page.
The default order quantity for a PCB order is 5 PCBs. You will see the order prize immediately after the file upload. I changed the quantiy to 10 pieces. The prize for this small order will be 5 USD without shipping costs.
In order to use the panel feature you need to set the order option Panel By JLCPCB to Yes.
After choosing the panel option you can enter the quantity of the boards on your PCB panel.
My ATiny sensor node project fits on a 3x2 panel with the dimensions of 100x100mm including the edge rails.
This order will include 10 panels each with 6 PCBs. The total quantity of single boards will be 60 pieces.
Additional information for panel configuration
JLCPCB provides additional help for the panel configuration.
V-cut can't applied to the panel when the panel length or width is smaller than 7cm and when the the individual board size is smaller than 1.5cm*1.5cm.
In my first panel project I made a mistake and ordered a panel with dimensions of less than 7cm. JLCPCB canceled this order position and refundet the cost for the board immediately.
It would be helpful to receive an error message or warning after upload in case the panel doesn't meet the requirements.
Shipping the panels
My order has been manufactured within 2 days. The shipping to Switzerland with DHL took another 3 days.
The panel with my project looks perfect.
The V-cut lines separate the single PCBs. It is very easy to break them apart.
JLCPCB provides a simple panelization function to maximize the order quantity. The configuration of the PCB panel doesn't need an additional tool and can be done during the ordering process.
This is a perfect solution for small PCB prototype orders.