PCBWay fabrication: A review

A few weeks ago I was contacted by PCBWay with an offer for a PCB sponsorship in exchange for writing a review. I accepted, and below is my review of their service.

At the time PCBWay contacted me I had a PCB design that I needed manufactured so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to try out a few of the PCB manufacturing options they offer. Now, I’ve ordered from them before several times, both bare PCBs as well as assembled ones, and my overall image of them is generally positive. This was my view before they approached me as well, so I believe it is not biased. For me their main advantage is pricing, as I was able to order fully assembled PCBs with practically nil assembly cost for small runs of up to 20pcs. If you are in the early stages of developing an electronics product, it pays to have assembly done by professionals with very little additional cost, as you can rule out manufacturing errors due to your own inexperience and focus on the actual problems, while saving on budget for the next steps. As much as I would have liked to try alternative manufacturers, no matter how hard I tried I could not find one with at least 10x assembly costs.

The design I ordered was that of a CAN to USB adapter that is a modified Canable board with different connectors. Here the design below (this is actually an updated design with USB-C connector and DIP switches, but otherwise mostly similar):

I opted for ENIG finish with a matte black soldermask and the rest were default options. I don’t know how you feel about the PCBway ordering system but to me it seems quite straightforward. I’ve never had an issue with it and always gave me accurate estimates. The only improvement I could think of would be to allow importing files directly from EDA programs in addition to Gerber files. It’s not a huge inconvenience but it would make the whole process smoother.

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The PCBs were fabricated in 48hours and shipped via DHL from China to Greece. The whole process took eight days. Full disclosure: I chose DHL as it was the fastest option and the whole project was sponsored. Otherwise this would incur additional costs. However, PCBWay does offer free shipping if your order is over a certain amount.

The PCBs are shown below:

Oveall, I’ve found the quality of the board, soldermask and plating to be excellent. I am not a trained professional so I’m probably missing some of the finer details, however to my untrained eye they look beautiful.

A few days later the components arrived and I was able to assemble the boards:

They work fine! Always good to have final confirmation 🙂

To sum the review up; PCBWay is a capable manufacturer with very competitive prices and good service and support. I’d recommend them as a solid option for PCB fabrication and assembly.

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