The chinese company Seeed Studio is providing technology and manufacturing services to the maker community since 2008. Seeed is one of the big players for makers and has a large online store. One of the well known products is the solderless Grove System, a modular and standardized connector prototyping system.
Seeed also offers a PCB & PCB Assembly Service for an affordable prize under the brand Seeed Fusion.
Seeed Studio kindly offered me a coupon in order to test and review their PCB Service, thanks.
PCB Upload The PCB order process starts online with the PCB order form. The order form provides a large number of production options for your PCB project. The order page is easy to read an understand.
For each PCB option the webpage provides a help link with a detailed description of the PCB option. Just click on the info icon.
A PCB manufacturer always needs your PCB project as a digital file. The standard format for this file is called Gerber Format. Most of the PCB tools provide an export function to create the gerber files.
The PCB project can be uploaded by clicking on the button "Add Gerber Files". The uploaded project file must be as an archive file as ZIP oder RAR. After Upload the PCB project is displayed in the upload area an can be viewed with Gerber Viewer.
The integrated Gerber Viewer is a very useful tool to check the PCB project before sending the order to Seeed Studio.
I always recommend to check the gerber data very carefully. It can save you a lot of time and money. As you can see in the gerber viewer the gerber format consists of several layers. Each layer is in a separate file with the corresponding file extension.
Protip: Always print your PCB project on paper before creating the gerber files. Place your components on the printout an check the footprint and the space for the used components. The printout shows you the real size of your board.
Preparing Order After upload the gerber project you need to choose the required PCB options such as base material, quantity, PCB color, surface finish and more. I chose the standard options for my test project, an IR Blaster with a round PCB.
Any change of the PCB options will immediately recalculate the price for your PCB project. The shipping costs will calculate in the checkout step.
By adding the project to your cart the item will be displayed in your shopping cart.
Checkout and order For the checkout and order you need to login to the system. According the website the PCB production time is around 3-4 days. The shipping time depends on the selected shipping method. I chose DHL for my project which is the fastest but the most expensive option.
The order can be paid with Paypal or credit card.
After sending out the order you will receive a confirmation. Your open PCB order and the status can be tracked in your account. I received an email with the order confirmation.
Shipping and receiving I ordered on a Friday and the PCB has been sent on the following Tuesday. On Friday, one week after ordering, I received my PCB project from Seeed Studio. The PCB manufacturing itself took only 3 days.
The PCB order has been shipped in a small envelope. The PCBs where wrapped up in bubble wrap.
The PCB for my project are clean with a light green solder mask. The silkscreen is clear and good to read. The pads a clean and the soldering worked perfect.
The round shape of my PCB is clean. On one of the 10 boards a small notch is visible. But the board still fits in the project enclosure.
Since the project has already been tested, the PCB project worked perfectly. The hot air soldering of the SMD components was quick and easy.
Conclusion The PCB service from Seeed Studio is a perfect option if you need a reliable PCB supplier. The manufacturing was very quick and the result good.
I will use this PCB supplier in future projects and order different PCB styles and options.
In addition to the PCB service, you can also have the circuit board assembled with the PCB Assembly Service from Seeedstudio.
There are a few large and well known PCB manufacturer on the market every PCB maker is using.
But beside the big ones there is a large number of smaller PCB manufacturing companies. One of them is WellPCB, an Australia registered company that belongs to Uniwell Circuits Co., Ltd. WellPCB is located in Shenzhen, China and is focused on Printed Circuit Board Fabrication and PCB Assembly.
WellPCB contacted me and offered me some free PCB in order to test and review their PCB service. I agreed and started with ordering the test boards.
Online Quote As most of the PCB suppliers WellPCB provides an online platform in order to request an offer and order Printed Circuit Boards. With click on the link Online Quote the user will guided to the PCB Online quote page.
By entering the PCB dimensions in mm, an order quantity and the number of layers the WellPCB website can calculate a price.
Test Projects I chose 2 of my current PCB projects - a round PCB for my IR Blaster and a rectangle board of my wireless Sensor Board Mini, Version 3. Both PCB projects are designed with Eagle CAD.
PCB Upload and Order After registering and login to the website I was able to enter the PCB specifications.
With another click the full specification for the current project is available.
For a standard project you only need to choose the Solder Mask Color and the Surface Finish.
On the right side you will immediately see the price of the project including the shipping method. I chose DHL for the delivery to Switzerland.
After upload the order item the cart shows the content of the shopping cart.
This is only the product you entered but without the board data. With the link "Upload File" you need to upload the PCB data. As a test I uploaded the board data in Eagle CAD format.
Since I did not receive any error messages WellPCB can handle board data in Eagle format. The shopping cart shows both PCB projects.
Finally I payed with Paypal and the order is on the way.
A few hours later I received an email with the ordered boards converted to Gerber Format. I checked the files and confirmed that the data is correct.
After the weekend, I ordered the PCBs on a friday, the order status shows the following. The first project has a production status at 20 percent, the second project is at 40 percent.
PCB arrived 14 days after sending the order the package arrived at my home address.
WellPCB sent the two small PCB project in a quite large and well packed box. The box also included test reports for both PCBs and a micro section of the boards.
Building the PCB Both boards are clean and easy to solder by hand or with the Hot Air Station. The silkscreen mask on the boards is clear, even and easy to read. The solder mask colors are nice and powerful colors. Especially the red Sensor Board PCB 🙂
My projects worked immediately after soldering - no errors in the PCB design and no production errors.
Conclusion The PCB supplier WellPCB is an other option for your PCB manufacturing. The boards are in a good quality. The ordering process could be improved by adding a Online Tool for the Gerber Review.
PCBWay is a large PCB manufacturing company from China. PCBWay offered me to test their PCB prototype service.
The PCB prototype service is an online service for electronics developers, makers and hobbyists. The service offers fast production within 24h for small orders and high quality of PCB prototypes.
On the front page of the PCBWay you will find a function Instant Quote to calculate the cost of your PCB project. After entering the PCB dimensions, quantity, layer number and the thickness of the board the system calculates the PCB price including shipping.
Test Projects For my PCB service review I choose 2 of my current PCB projects - a bargraph display board with the size of 24x50mm and a round PCB project for an IR booster.
Both PCB projects are designed with Eagle CAD.
Order process Before you order your PCBs you need to sign up and login into the system. Now you can add the PCB items into the shopping cart by entering the online quote and saving to cart. The shopping cart shows your saved project without the project data.
Each order item needs the corresponding project data in gerber format or other CAD format. Fortunately PCBWay offers the file upload of Eagle CAD files in brd-format.
With click on Add File you can upload the project data with file upload or drag&drop.
If you upload the file in Eagle format the system needs to convert the project file to gerber format.
After the conversion run the system shows the project as a preview in order to verify the uploaded project.
On the top of the page there is a download link for the gerber file download.
The project in gerber format is now ready to upload into the shopping card. After uploading the project data the shopping cart shows the items with the corresponding project files.
The system tells you that a review of the project data is done in 1 hour or less than 10 minutes.
The final order steps can proceed after the review. I received an email with the succesful review by PCBWay after 51 minutes.
I found a coupon code in my account in order to pay the PCB project.
The day after the order the status of the production was at 20%. A couple hours later the boards have been produced and are on the way to me.
PCB Project Boards 5 days after leaving the PCB factory the boards arrived at my home. PCBWay used DHL for fast shipping.
The PCBs are packed in a small box and wrapped up in bubble wrap.
I ordered the test boards in green with white silkscreen and HASL with lead as surface finish. This was the default setting on the order page.
One of my project boards is a round PCB. The board looks great and the round form is clean with no notches. The silkscreen is clear and even. The solder pads are also clean and the hand soldering of the components worked without problems.
Both PCB projects worked as expected after soldering.
Conclusion Ordering of PCBs at PCBWay is easy and PCBWay offers many options in the PCB Selection Section of the order form. To test all options a few more orders are necessary 😉
With the DHL as the shipping option the boards arrived in less a week. The PCB is produced in less than 24 hours as PCBWay offers on the website.
If you need help during or after the PCB order the support agent will help you by email or online. Before I sent my test order to PCBWay I uploaded a test project to the system. A short time after the upload PCBWay contacted me and ask for the status of my project. I usually upload different PCB projects and collect them in the shopping cart until sending the whole order to the supplier. PCBWay was the first that contacted me before an order has been released.
PCBWay is a good choice if you need small or larger quantities of PCBs for a fair price. I will definitely add PCBway to my supplier list.