SparkFun Forums 

Where electronics enthusiasts find answers.

Questions about the BatchPCB service

Moderator: robacarp

By buriedcode
Hi there,

I have never used batchPCB before, so this isn't any kind of feedback. I am just compiling some research into the cheapest way to get my boards made up. Different board houses have different criteria, and so, some are better for certain situations than others.

So far I have used Olimex and PCBtrain.

However, after spending a few months perfecting designs for various adapters/development boards, I have a number (literally about 55 lol) of rather complex double sided PCB's that are just too much for home etching, like requiring plated-though-holes, and 0.5mm pitch SMT components, under chip vias etc...

The only problem is, I see many folks getting multiple boards of the same design, now this is awesome if one is making sensors, or adapters, and if the boards are small, but what about for larger designs? such as 80x100m, or 100x160mm? I of course would only require one of each design.. the total board area wouldn't be 'that' much, as the largest is 100x160, and the smallest is around 40mm x 60mm. Putting them all on one panel adds up to < 100sq inches.

Would batch PCB be ok with this? Or would I have to order these designs one at a time, and receive multiple boards? (which I really don't need, and probably won't be able to sell).

I'm afraid I cannot find a board house which will panelize multiple designs, for low volume (for each design) but at the same total board area. The closest to this would be GoldenPhoenix who DO charge for a multi-design panel (with a limit of 6) but its a very small fee compared to having to order multiples for each design.

Any advice?
By smbaker
SFEBPCB wrote:You can put multiple design into one giant panel, just make sure that there is 10mils of space between each design.
As batchpcb charges by the square inch, what is the advantage of panelizing them yourself? Other than to save perhaps a little bit on rounding, it sounds like a bunch of extra work cutting them apart.
By languer
If I understood the question correctly, I think the answer to it is on the FAQs:

Can I put multiple designs in the same board/layout?
Yes you can - but we don't recommend this. The fab house will not separate the boards - you will need to cut them apart yourself. If this is what you want that's fine - but you have been warned. In the past people did this to get a better deal as each design was rounded up to the next inch - we are no longer rounding up (except for the first inch) so this won't save you anything now.

Easiest thing is to order the different designs on the same order (and BatchPCB takes care of how they panels get done, not you). You do this by uploading each individual design to your account, and after each design is approved you add each design to the shopping cart.

For 2-layer designs the following applies:
$10 setup fee (shown as a handling charge) - $2.50 per square inch for 2 layer designs

For example; if you order 3 different designs (read as, different gerbers for each design) with the characteristics below in the same order, you should get the following:
  • Design 1: 40mm x 60mm = 3.7_in^2 ($2.50 x 3.7 = $9.25)
  • Design 2: 80mm x 100m = 12.4_in^2 ($2.50 x 12.4 = $31.00)
  • Design 3: 100mm x 160mm = 24.8_in^2 ($2.50 x 24.8 = $62.00)
  • Total for all three designs: $102.25
  • Total for all three designs + setup: $112.25
  • Effective per square in cost for your order: $2.74/in^2
This is just an example, I do not work for BatchPCB, and remember you must add the shipping cost. But if you're willing to wait, and you only require 1 of each, this is not a bad place. I have been very happy with the results.
By buriedcode
Thanks for the replies!

As I said, this isn't so much 'what is the cheapest PCB manufacturer', but rather cheapest for very low volume, multiple designs/panels, which isn't really a common situation for DIY'ers. Or is it?

I can of course, put some smaller designs on a single panel (like putting many different small designs on 100x80mm) and cut them out myself if needs be, since I only have rectangular PCBs, no routing. But it would be nice to have a majority of the larger designs seperated.

Generally my specs are well within batchPCB's limitations - I try not to push my luck by using the smallest possible trace width/spacing, unless I'm really stuck when routing - although as I rarely make double sided boards at home, I'm used to stuffing everything on one side - great practice for PCB design that is. One great selling point for a couple of board houses is different soldermask/silkscreen colour. Red with white silkscreen is awesome, but of course, expensive, and I would only use that for dev/evaluation boards, where the PCB itself has instructions/text info.

Thanks again guys, and if I decide to use batchPCB I shall report feedback, although, I've seen examples and the manufacture looks perfect, its sometimes the designs that are awkward ;)
By analogon
buriedcode wrote: Thanks again guys, and if I decide to use batchPCB I shall report feedback, although, I've seen examples and the manufacture looks perfect, its sometimes the designs that are awkward ;)
Note that when you order one or more boards, BatchPCB usually sends twice as many. They don't promise it, but it happens.
By smbaker
buriedcode wrote:Thanks again guys, and if I decide to use batchPCB I shall report feedback, although, I've seen examples and the manufacture looks perfect, its sometimes the designs that are awkward ;)
I've had something on the order of a dozen different designs that I've had produced and I've yet to receive an order that was anything less than perfect. I'm quite impressed with the quality. As others have reported, I almost always get back twice the number of boards that I order (although one time I ordered 4 and received 7; I don't know exactly how they pulled that off). I'm sure though that if I ever count on receiving double the order, that will be the one time that I don't get the bonus boards. :)

The one disadvantage though is the processing time, which can be rather unpredictable. I've had most orders ship in 14 days, but my current order is already up to 21 days and counting. It's easy to develop an expectation that one will always receive speedy processing, but you have to be prepared for the worst case.
By buriedcode
Ahh yes, lead/shipping time.

For contracts, since the customer pays for parts/labour I get a 48 hour service in the UK, but for my own projects, 3 weeks isn't a hassle. Olimex took over a month to get here for some reason, which didnt' bother me.

When I mentioned 'designs can be awkward' I meant the customers PCB layout, not batchPCB's quality :)

More boards than expected you say? Well thats just gravy, not expected, but if it happens, I *may* be able to populate and sell on ebay - my own development/project boards, although customised for my usage, generally are quite user friendly - as I tend to be very lazy when it comes to prototyping, a couple of jumper settings/switches and the board should be configured for almost anything, jumper wires are just messy.

So, I shall do the maths on this, and when my customers finally pay up (120 days and counting...) I'll bite the bullet and get some FPGA/uC boards done. It may also turn into a small company as I have had a few requests for certain designs (ardulino-like boards, but on a larger scale for education).

Rant over,

All the best folks,