I am working on a product I intend to sell in my own business
I do not have production setup, so as of now I am using LCSC parts, and SMT assembly from JLCPCB
Results are OK, although JLCPCB will not mount parts the sister company LCSC does have or stock. On top of that they have no connectors so I need to add my own touch up after receiving populated boards
Prices are cheap from JLCPCB, about 0.002 USD per joint, but the 3USD fee for Extended components adds significant cost in volumes below 100 PCBs
So, I am looking for alternatives. What do you use, prices and quality insights?
I’ve had nothing but good experiences with PCBWin (not to be confused with PCBWay), which was recommended by another member here a couple of years ago. Never had any issues with anything over a dozen or so small-to-medium-sized runs. More than once they alerted me to issues with my own layout (one of which I ignored and ended up having to hand-rework them all ). They’re a real factory, not a clearinghouse, and have board manufacture and assembly under one roof.
I have used PCBWay myself and have generally been happy with their work. Their lead times for higher quantities can get quite long, however. 4-5 weeks is pretty common; but I’ve recently had a job that stretched out to 7 weeks! Some of this may be inevitable right now with shipping (and custom clearance) delays that are apparently getting pretty bad.
I did have one significant problem with a board where the soldermask alignment was bad enough that some solder bridged from header pins to surrounding copper flood, resulting in a number of boards needing rework. Other than that, I have been happy with their work.
The reason why JLCPCB prices are great is precisely because they don’t stuff parts that are not in their catalog. Setting up new parts into a pick-and-place job is an expensive PITA.
I hear Makerfabs is a popular choice for low/med volume among makers. I haven’t used them myself but I do know a few people that use them for making various boards that they sell on tindie in low/med qty and they are pretty happy with their service as well as the costs.
I can also recommend PCBway. I’ve only done a few small runs with them, but have been fairly pleased.
They have a fairly decent CAM rules check that has helped me a few times. Specifically in trying to reduce the cost of my PCBs.
I’ve sent them medium complexity BOMs, and they’ve built them without issue.
Insight into their lead time can be pretty opaque. They have a progress bar on their site that updates, but the assembly bar seems to spend 3 weeks “5%, we’re going to get started soon”, then blows through the remaining 95% in 1-2 days. I definitely understand being in a queue, but it would be nice to state that and show updating dates.
The solder quality is slightly lacking. I have only had one failure (a connector was just completely missing). However, the fillets on the components just look quite bulbous.
I’ll have to check them out as well on a future build.
I too have good experiences with PCBWay as a cheap, Chinese manufacturer. I can confirm what @ToyBuilder says about lead times for larger volumes and communicating with them can be quite annoying due to the time difference + the fact that you talk to a seller that then have to talk to an engineer. Delays things significantly.
For anything requiring defined impedance and/or fast turnaround, I’m using Eurocircuits. I get a tested PCB to my door in 2.5 days, 8 days with PCBA and their quality is really good. Their PCB production happens in Hungary and their sales & tech staff is in Belgium, so perfect if you’re in Europe.
It sounds like you already got quoted with parts pricing.
I suspect it’s going to be hard to beat JLC. I keep seeing them offering aggressive practically free pricing on PCB fabrication and they’re currently offering free assembly on 4 layer boards in the hopes that when someone goes to production, they’ll place the larger order witih them.
I’m going to second Julia’s recommendation for PCBWin. I’ve been using them to build boards ranging from 50 parts to over 3k parts, and they provide great quality and service. They actually do a pretty good CAM review of your files (something PCBWay did not always do).
One of the biggest things to me is the service. I talk to one sales rep who is always very professional and timely with communication. I can’t begin to describe how poorly some things went with PCBWay.
Also, they fab and assemble under one roof, meaning your contact for the raw board is the same for assembly, so there is no finger pointing.
Quality has been excellent, and prices are same or better than what I was getting at PCBWay.
One thing to be careful about when dealing with companies in China – there tends to be a cyclical ramp and reset of quality with each Chinese New Year. There’s a tendency for experienced people to leave and new hires to come in. So depending on the time of the year that you worked with a company you may get a much-above or much-below average result. Also, the people you liked for a while may just disappear. (Can happen anywhere, but seems to be more true with suppliers in China in my experience.)
I actually liked my PCBWay sales rep from before much better than my current one. She left over the last CNY and it was a bit of an adjustment period working with her replacement, though it eventually worked out ok. A year before that, over CNY, they hired new CAM guys and I was getting a number of boards with mis-interpreted board outlines because they like to use the KO layer for board shapes, whereas I use them to define actual keep-outs.
So one thing I’m learning about PCBway is that they have some interesting pricing schemes when it comes to both PCB fab and assembly.
For example, the online quote site will discount the assembly fee to a flat $30 if you have less than 60 components. However, if you cross that threshold, it jumps to over $100, and climbs with each component.
Also, their PCB fab cost is $5 for 2-layer, 100mm x 100mm PCBs, but if you deviate from that slightly, it jumps to $30 or $49.
Basically, if you can stick within those parameters, they can be rather reasonable.
My PCB has 66 components, most of which fits the JLCPCB basic stock (no extra cost for PnP). 11 extended components, so I need to order 100+ boards to have those extended parts become insignificant (3 USD setup per Extended)
I qouted 5 different assembly EMS’es
JLCPCB was the cheapest. But they do not mount parts not in their stock, and no leaded
PCBWay a little more expensive, but will mount dual side at 20% extra cost, so PCB could be reduced a lot in size
Even better, ALLPCB mounts both sides at only 2% extra cost
I am waiting for final quotes.
One eyeopener was shipping cost, more than 10% of the total cost. (I would for low cost use sea freight, but that takes for ever to arrive)
AllPCB looks to have a more professional setup than PCBWay, given that they have impedance controlled boards as part of their standard settings? I’ll try out AllPCB on my next order as I’d like to have more alternatives. Their Immersion Gold pricing was quite good also.
(On my current PCBWay order, I paid for express 24h production, but now it’s 3 days in and still just half way done. It is of course Chinese New Year coming up just now, so I suspect that to be the issue)
I’ve used PCBWay, Allpcb a few times, and also JLCPCB. Now I’m trying out a Lithuanian company to do assembly, they’re called Enlux. Will do a double sided board with about 100 parts for €10 (after setup costs, of course). 1-2 week delivery. This is a small run (20 PCBs) but I suspect they are lowballing in the hope that we will do full-scale production there. If the results are good there is a very good chance of that