As an electronics hobbyist I have designed and etched many of my own PCBs. Upon finishing a PCB design I would develope my PCB by either the photo-transfer or toner-transfer method of transfering my PCB artwork to a blank piece of copper clad. Finally I would etch, drill and tin the PCB. I found the whole process very time consuming, messy and I struggled getting repeatable results. I found it far more difficuilt to get repeatable results from the photo-transfer method than the toner-transfer method, but both have given me hassles in the past.

Recently I decided to search for a PCB manufacturer that the average electronics hobbyist could afford. In doing so I came across Osh Park, an American PCB community ordering service. I also came across a Chinese PCB ordering service by Seeedstudio. Here is a summary of what I have learnt about these two PCB ordering services thus far.

Osh Park

Osh Park sells PCBs in batches of three. The cost for a double layer board is $5 (USD) per square inch for three boards. The limitations of their PCB fab for double layer boards are as follows:

  • FR4 170Tg/290Td PCB
  • 1.6mm PCBs with 1 ounce copper per side
  • ENIG (gold) finish only
  • Minimum track thickness: 6 mil
  • Minimum clearance: 6 mil
  • Minimum drill: 13 mil
  • Minimum annular ring: 7 mil
  • Internal cutouts allowed
  • Plated slots not supported

Four layer boards have the same limitations except for the following:

  • FR408 (180Tg) PCB
  • Internal layers use 0.5 ounce copper

The PCBs from Osh Park are extremely affordable when small PCBs are to be manufactured.  An added bonus to using this PCB service is  the free international shipping, if you're prepared to wait. I have purchased two PCB designs in the past, both taking about a month to arrive in South Africa when using this service.

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