A sneak peek at PCBway manufacturer – from ordering to sample

I have decided to try a different PCB manufacturer that offers competitive pricing – PCBway.

First, let us look at the site’s landing page. Right off the bat, we can see the instant quote widget and the latest offering on flexible PCBs.

PCBway landing page

Before we check their more advanced PCB offerings let’s look at the basic PCB fabrication, and also check into how competitive is their pricing, how fast the shipping is and most importantly how good their PCBs are.

We have already seen the landing screen now let us register get our sample PCBs!

Click on Join Free and fill in the form below – just make sure your email is correct.

login page

After signing up, you can go to the member’s page, where you need to go through the necessary steps. Each icon will lit up from the grey when each step is completed giving you an idea of where you are in the process.

pcb ordering steps

After first time registration, we get a $5 gift coupon! You can get it too – I asked a friend to register, and he got the same $5 ticket.

5usd gift coupon

You can use the coupon while ordering a fabrication of your own design or through the gift shop as shown below. In the gift show, you can browse through lots of shared designs as well. You can take those designs and fab them for ourselves.

shared pcb projects

I decided to order the excellent PCB ruler from PCBway. I wanted it to be a different color and finish. I have chosen to order the ruler because it has a set of sample SMD pads as well as ball grid soldering pads. These a great to check the dimension accuracy, and the holes on the middle can tell me how good the inner drillings.

pcb ruler design

I wanted a black solder mask with a HASL lead-free surface finish – you can customize the colors including surface finishing. You can also opt for the fast turnaround – in this order, I have chosen the quickest turn around to check how fast PCBway can deliver the products.

After selecting the desired options, you will see the order on your cart:

pcb ordering cart

Also, do not forget to include the $5 gift?

The next step is to fill in the shipping details, there are drop downs and make sure to select the proper city and the zip code – yes zip code is still essential, also leave a phone number so that the courier can call you when they arrive.

pcb shipping address

You need to check what the shipping options in your country are. There may be different customs duties and be sure to check if you need to pay taxes for the merchandise that you want to bring into your country.

pcb shipping options

You can pay for goods using different options. I used PayPal – favorite choice for me.

The order arrived in 5 days! My ordered rulers could be already in stock meaning the faster turnaround.

dhl shipping package

It arrived in a nice box from DHL. Let us open it!

pcbway box

It came in a PCBway branded box – it was a bit dented but all intact!

box with pcbs and gift

As we open it up, there was a surprise! It came with a nice pen and a set of PCBway stickers.

pcbway stickers

The PCB came in a sealed package, so we opened. I get 5 PCBway rulers bound by a rubber band. First of all, they were beautiful black finish just like what I ordered. They also have the HASL lead free finish that we specified.

bundle of pcb rulers

PCBway rulers show the shine and luster of the HASL lead-free finish – they also added in powder between the PCBs to prevent scratching while shipping.

The PCBway logo at the far right side of the board has the clean edges. Letters are straight, the line at the bottom is very smooth – no visible edging and the curve is very accurate. The TQFP and SSOP landing footprints are precise also – I took a few components, and they matched pretty well – it must note that the accuracy of these footprints may depend on the measurement quality of the design libraries you will be using.

pcb rulers

I also took an expensive gold emersion ruler from a premium manufacturer and as the picture shows, the measurement gradations line up perfectly. We can notice a glare on the PCBway lines on the image – this is just due to the light source that I am using. If you change the angle, the silver lines are as accurate as of the gold emersion lines.

There are also AWG holes on the ruler, they are clean – no noticeable irregularities down to 28 AWG size – tiny hole, and I am surprised that no dust has gone there.

pcb rulers comparison

Let’s look into the traces – these will be the ones connecting the components, and it’s essential that they have consistent width and uniform plating as well. The test traces go from 40mils to 6 mils – the wider the trace, the higher the current carrying capacity. When designing a power supply, the general rule is the thicker, the better. For high-speed signals and clocks, you need to use the thinner traces as they have less capacitance that can ruin the integrity of the signals.

The image below also shows small SMD components such as 0201.

SMD pads comparison

Summary

PCBWay ordering experience was a breeze! It took little effort from account creation up to the payment. Delivery was quick! If you need the boards, as fast as possible I would consider their premium offering of less than a day of fabrication and choose couriers like DHL and FedEx, China post is cheapest but takes a little longer. I used 1 to 2-day manufacturing; there is also a 24-hour version for the ones that are under time pressure.

PCBway board quality is a 9/10 in my opinion! I got what I ordered – Black with HASL finish.

The cost is 5 USD for 10 pieces of a 5x5xcm board – very affordable, this goes to 38USD if you choose 24-hour turnaround.

pcb ruler image

PCBway offers excellent service for a low price.  I will definitely give another try with upcoming projects.

About Philip

San Francisco, Agusan del Sur CARAGA Region, Philippines
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