Some info on Web-based custom Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Designs for mbed projects

27 Aug 2010 . Edited: 09 Sep 2010

If a printed circuit board (PCB) is needed for a custom hardware design with sensors or other simple devices, a number of low-cost web-based PCB fabrication services are available. CAD tools are provided to design the PCB, and the design files are sent over the web to the PCB vendor. The vendor then provides a free on-line cost estimate, makes the boards, and express mails them back to the customer in a couple days. Three such web-based PCB fabrication services students have used here are www.expressPCB.com, www.4PCB.com and www.sunstone.com . Other mbed projects have used www.PCBtrain.com and  www.pcbcart.com.  It is possible to get several copies of a small double-sided board made this way in a few days for under US $100. Some schools may also have special CNC machines that can mill out a few PCB prototypes by grinding off the copper on the board to leave the traces you want. We have used one of these from www.t-tech.com. At www.batchpcb.com you can even set it up to sell your PCB boards to other people over the web and collect royalties.

It is possible to make a simple PCB at home using several methods and kits, but it is a bit of a mess with the toxic and staining chemicals needed and it is very hard to get the same high-quality results with plated through holes on double sided boards that are available from the PCB web prototyping services. We had a PCB fab setup at our school, but it was shut down years ago because of environmental concerns with all of the chemicals used.

Anyone new to PCB design should only attempt simple double-sided PCB designs, until they are familiar with the process and tools. Complex boards with processors, memory and other high-pin count devices will require multiple layer PCBs. Multilayer PCBs have very-high initial fabrication setup costs in low quantities. Chances are that is it so complex a couple of PCB runs with more setup costs will be needed to fix all of the problems. Expensive soldering equipment or an outside vendor will also be needed to solder high-pin count surface-mount devices to a new PCB design. So designing the layout for an entire computer system on a complex multilayer PCB typically requires too much time and is too expensive for the typical student or hobbyist design project.

31 Dec 2016

I've used Seeed Studio Fusion https://www.seeedstudio.com/fusion_pcb.html several times on my projects and they're in the US and pretty good and very tech savvy with assembly. Decent price for fast turn around.

12 Nov 2018

Very good to share about printed circuit boards. It is true that a single-layer PCB can be made at home. If a two-layer PCB is made, more tools are needed to complete it. For a small number of single-layer PCBs, you can make them at home. I used https://www.wellpcb.com/pcb-quote to complete my PCB design and I finished the PCB soldering and testing at home.

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