Igor Kromin |   Consultant. Coder. Blogger. Tinkerer. Gamer.

Last year I wrote about revisiting PCBWay as a budget PCB fabrication option in 2019, now that it's 2020, it's time to see what, if anything has changed, improved or got worse. In a nutshell - the online checkout experience has improved, though some features I liked in 2019 have been removed. The PCB quality itself remains great as all the previous years and the price is still budget friendly. Shipping options seem to have improved too, with DHL shipping being probably the best value for money.

If you want a $5 discount off your first order with PCBway, follow this link. There is no catch, you just have to be a new member to be eligible for this offer.

Conversion to Gerber

Last year, PCBway offered an online service to convert Eagle files to Gerber. This has been removed since then due to incompatibly concerns. However, there are still good "how to" articles on generating Gerber files from Eagle and also Eagle 9.x specific notes. Overall the process is simple, use the CAM processor to generate all of your layers and ensure that "Negative image" option is unchecked for the Soldermask Top layer.
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Online Gerber Viewer

The Online Gerber Viewer is still available and is a good way of verifying that your Gerber file layers are correct. You can even configure it so that the PCB colour matches your order, which I found quite handy.
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Order Process

The order process has some very nice additions. As usual the quote estimator type interface is presented but it has been enhanced. A preview of your PCB is now shown and the number of layers is automatically detected. Pricing and build time are updated as you change your order options and shipping options/cost is also updated based on your order.

The solder mask colours still do not attract an additional cost, unlike at some other places where the default green is cheap and other colours come at a premium.
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Once you place your order it has to be reviewed/audited, as usual. After the review is passed, you can pay for your order. The preview of your PCB is again shown as a thumbnail here, I really love this addition to the interface. It's also possible to get the Gerber View popup at this point too, in case you want to do some last minute checks.
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Payment for your order can be done via PayPal, bank transfer or credit card. There are some other, less frequently used, options available for payment too (which I didn't explore).

Packaging and PCB quality

Packaging is the usual PCBway branded box. Mine was bulging a little but that was fine - there were extra PCBs sent (as usual). The PCBs were vacuum sealed in a bubble wrap plastic blister.

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Quality of the PCBs was great. The vias and all the milling, pads, etc were on point. The only complaint I had was that some of the edges on the PCB weren't cut completely smooth, but that's just nit picking. I was also quite impressed with the silk screen layer, this was the first time I've included a graphical logo (from a BMP file) so wasn't sure it would work very well, but it came out perfectly.

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So just like in 2019, now in 2020 I would still recommend PCBway as a budget PCB for fabrication. The quick turn around times, good prices on both product and shipping keeps me coming back to them and I hope you'll have a similar experience too!

In case you're interested in what my PCB was, it's a Raspberry Pi hat for reading and writing Atari Lynx cartridges.

-i

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