pcbway.com Review

Note: PCBway has a policy of paying people for reviews with discounts off future work. I have not accepted, nor will I accept, any such compensation for a review.

I ordered quantity 5 of my board for the solar bike controller.  Specs for the board were as follows:

board specs
The board was roughly 8 inches by 9 inches, and had 248 holes. I used a 10-mil minimum feature size, and 7 mil lines for silkscreen text. In other words, this was not a challenging board to manufacture.
top side of board
Top view of board. The solder mask is a little uneven around the text near the top of the board, but alignment is good. Any fuzziness in the picture is due to my taking the picture with a handheld camera. Click on the picture to zoom to maximum detail.
bottom side of board
Bottom view of board.
traces between dip pins
The most challenging part of this layout was when a couple traces ran between the DIP pins, with 10 mil clearance. These came out fine. Note that pcbway added its own job number to the board, W10305AS2. They were nice enough to put it in an obscure location, under a DIP.
silkscreen clipping
The silkscreen for R55 and R56 was clipped where it overlapped pads, as it should be. Note that R25 is not clipped – that’s what the silkscreen is supposed to look like. The 1206 land patterns without reference designators are spares.
bottom silkscreen misalignment
The silkscreen on the bottom was poorly aligned, but functional. If I had used finer geometry, this might have been a problem.

Here is the timeline for the order.  Dates have been adjusted, since China is one day ahead of me:

  • 31-OCT-2015, morning: Uploaded Gerber files to pcbway.com
  • 01-NOV-2015, late evening: pcbway says audit complete, allows me to pay for order
  • 03-NOV-2015, just after midnight: board is released to manufacturing
  • 04-NOV-2015, 10:30 pm: manufacturing and testing done
  • 04-NOV-2015, 11:00 pm: boards packaged
  • 05-NOV-2015, 1:00 am: pcbway says boards shipped, gives tracking #
  • 10-NOV-2015, morning: HK Post finally acknowledges the tracking number
  • 12-NOV-2015: HK Post says the package left China
  • 16-NOV-2015, 9:00 am: package arrives at my door

Summary:

  • pcbway appears to work 24/7, although certain steps like auditing layouts only occur at specific times.
  • Price is unbeatable.  $117 including shipping, for 5 relatively large boards.  Nobody in the USA even came close.
  • Quality is ok for hobby projects, especially boards that are not challenging.  Use heavy lines for silkscreen, and try to avoid narrow traces and spacings.  Silkscreen alignment was not very good.  Solder mask alignment was acceptable, but not perfect.
  • Turnaround time is not their strength, cost is.  It was basically 3 days after Gerber submittal that they actually started making the board, and it took 2 days to make it.  Then it took 11 days in shipment.  Possibly a week could be shaved off the shipping time by paying for a faster carrier.  And tracking would be better.
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