Prototype PCB manufacture

BeanBean Posts: 8,119
edited 2005-02-04 - 03:12:06 in General Discussion
I wondering what company anyone can recommend for making prototype PCB's ?

I'm trying to find one that can make boards from DXF files instead of gerber files (if possible).

Terry
·

Comments

  • Eric REric R Posts: 225
    edited 2004-12-14 - 05:41:45
    I have been looking around for a manufacturer myself and am looking at http://www.pcbdesign-etc.com/·for the conversion from DXF to gerber. Guess I am not sure if you wanted to bypass·the Gerber format step or·just wanted the ability to make your own changes without paying another company each time. I like the software from·http://www.expresspcb.com·and will probably use this for my first board.



    Post Edited (Eric R) : 12/14/2004 5:47:20 AM GMT
  • Chris SavageChris Savage Parallax Engineering Posts: 14,406
    edited 2004-12-14 - 15:24:06
    Just because it has always worked in the past for me, I still use www.expresspcb.com

    They provide free software (Doesn't everybody now?) and have a good turn-around time, and quality work.· Plus they have a mini-board special for $59.00 for 3 boards.· I have seen past discussion about this company as well.



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    Chris Savage

    Knight Designs
    324 West Main Street
    P.O. Box 97
    Montour Falls, NY 14865
    (607) 535-6777

    Business Page:·· http://www.knightdesigns.com
    Personal Page:··· http://www.lightlink.com/dream/chris
    Designs Page:··· http://www.lightlink.com/dream/designs
    ·
  • Chris SavageChris Savage Parallax Engineering Posts: 14,406
    edited 2004-12-14 - 16:02:03
    As a side-note, I was a little dyslexic this morning and accidentally typed:

    http://www.pcbexpress.com/

    And lo-and-behold!· There's another site that does this.· Although I have never done any business with them.· I meant to type www.expresspcb.com



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    Chris Savage

    Knight Designs
    324 West Main Street
    P.O. Box 97
    Montour Falls, NY 14865
    (607) 535-6777

    Business Page:·· http://www.knightdesigns.com
    Personal Page:··· http://www.lightlink.com/dream/chris
    Designs Page:··· http://www.lightlink.com/dream/designs
    ·
  • nick bernardnick bernard Posts: 329
    edited 2004-12-14 - 16:10:10
    i use express PCB for my circuit boards.
    proto-pro service is uber tech (5 boards w/ mask and silk screen for $230ish) because they ship in 3 days...
    the shematic software works well with the layout software and its also a simple progam.

    in college we used pcbexpress.com for our custom pic programming boards. they were fairly cheap but you need to buy your own gerber software....

    rox on
    nick b

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  • Jon WilliamsJon Williams Posts: 6,491
    edited 2004-12-14 - 16:52:33
    I'm with the ExpressPCB crowd unless you're going to be doing boards all the time (which I don't). And if you find that you want to go to production (soldermask and silk screen), they offer that service as well, and the boards are quite nice. I did my Serial Line Follower project with ExpressPCB, and when we decided to make a kit for customers to buy it was a simple matter of adding a logo to the silk screen layer and ordering production boards.

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    Jon Williams
    Applications Engineer, Parallax
    Dallas Office
  • BeanBean Posts: 8,119
    edited 2004-12-14 - 22:43:06
    I downloaded their software, but I couldn't find any way to import my DXF file ?
    Must I start from scratch ???

    Terry
  • Chris SavageChris Savage Parallax Engineering Posts: 14,406
    edited 2004-12-15 - 00:23:18
    Terry,

    ·· Out of curiosity, what program creates a DXF file?· I know that a couple of the links mentioned will accept a DXF file for PCB production, but I don't even know what that format is from.· Gerber, I know.· But haven't used it since 1992.



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    Chris Savage

    Knight Designs
    324 West Main Street
    P.O. Box 97
    Montour Falls, NY 14865
    (607) 535-6777

    Business Page:·· http://www.knightdesigns.com
    Personal Page:··· http://www.lightlink.com/dream/chris
    Designs Page:··· http://www.lightlink.com/dream/designs
    ·
  • BeanBean Posts: 8,119
    edited 2004-12-15 - 01:16:38
    I do my layouts in Autocad. I can create a DWG or a DXF file from them. DXF seems to be more "universal".

    I had someone convert my DXF files to gerber, and I already sent them to www.pcbexpress.com
    They have a special to make 4 boards with top and bottom solder mask AND silkscreen marking on the top side for $100.
    The boards have to be a certain size, so I copied my (small) board 4 times on each, so I'll get 16 boards (I'll just have to cut them apart myself).

    I'll let everyone know if I like their work.

    Terry
  • nick bernardnick bernard Posts: 329
    edited 2004-12-20 - 16:00:11
    who did the file conversion... or how?

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    League Bowling.... it's not a sport, it's a way of life
  • BeanBean Posts: 8,119
    edited 2004-12-21 - 17:32:12
    A friend of mine did the conversion at his work.

    Just to let everyone know, I got my boards back and they are sweeeeeet.
    I am very happy with the results. The only thing I didn't like is that they do not send a picture of the layers before making the boards (maybe none of the internet places do, but our local mfg does).

    They had an offer of 4 boards 3.375"x2.975" for $100+$15 for 2nd day shipping.
    They have solder mask on top and bottom AND marking on the top layer.
    I placed the order on Tuesday and received boards on Monday.

    If you have (or can make) gerber files, pcbexpress does a good job.

    Terry
  • edited 2004-12-21 - 19:58:01
    In case anyone is curios here is a nifty bit of trivia...

    http://www.expresspcb.com has the free software and $59 for 3 boards.
    When you order from them the boards are shipped from pcbexpress.com's plant(or they were when I ordered last year)
    http://www.pcbexpress.com is the manufacturer of circuit boards

    Now to make it more entertaining http://pcb123.com/ software is free and is owned by pcbexpress.com who also builds the boards.

    On a slightly different note the software that is free from expresspcb.com is made by IVEX.com which is in oregon as is pcbexpress.com (and pcb123)...

    The output files from expresspcb is compatible with IVEX pcb and schematic software...

    It appears that IVEX is shutting down so I wonder how this will affect expresspcb???

    Anyway just some nifty info...

    Mike <><
    http://www.SurplusGizmos.com
  • Guenther DaubachGuenther Daubach Posts: 1,321
    edited 2004-12-21 - 20:03:44
    Terry,

    here in Germany, we have a PCB service called PCB-Pool (www.pcb-pool.com). They accept Gerber files but also original files created by popular (at least in Germany) PCB layout programs, like EAGLE, TARGET, PROTEL, ORCAD, SPRINT, and many more, i.e. no Gerber conversion necessary.

    The trick is that they collect orders from various customers, put them all together on a large panel, and then have the PCBs produced and millcut the customer's PCBs.

    I have ordered many prototype boards via PCB-Pool so far, and was always happy with the quality. I have visited their English site in the meantime but I could not fing out if they also accept and ship orders from and into the US, and at what price. Maybe, it is worth while to visit their home page for the deatails.

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    Greetings from Germany,


    G
  • PJMontyPJMonty Posts: 983
    edited 2005-01-03 - 00:00:08
    Guenther,

    I just got the latest issue of Circuit Cellar magazine, and guess what? PCB-Pool now offers their service in America! I checked out the site and the prices are very attractive. I believe that the next PCB I do will likely be done through them to test out their service.

    If anyone wants to check out PCB-Pool. go here:

    www.pcb-pool.com/ppus/info.html

    This is the link for the US specific site. It has an online price calulator that doesn't require setting up an account to use, and that alone makes them a very cool company in my book.
      Thanks, PeterM
  • Gary M. ReeseGary M. Reese Posts: 5
    edited 2005-01-15 - 18:23:20
    Nah , I make my own thanks. Do the neg with print master . positive process boards etched in converted aqauium for 10 min.

    Cost about $5 a board ,depending on size. 2"x2" boards 9 at a time cost $2 each. I'm cheap LOL
  • ForrestForrest Posts: 1,341
    edited 2005-01-15 - 18:54:15
    I make my own single-sided boards also. But the wife won't let me install an electroless/electroplating line or a 30 ton press to make multilayers.
  • pjvpjv Posts: 1,903
    edited 2005-01-15 - 19:52:14
    Hello Forrest;

    If you had the space, I'd sell you my complete commercial electroless/electroplating line, PC board drill and etcher for cheap. Problem is it will take a couple of semi's to haul it all away, so it's not for the light of heart, I imagine your wife would not be keen.

    Peter
  • ForrestForrest Posts: 1,341
    edited 2005-01-16 - 00:16:01
    pjv - thanks but no - that a bit too much equipment to make a few boards per year. [noparse];)[/noparse] Sounds like you have a complete PC board manufacturing shop - are you still in business? I'm quite familiar with the business - having worked as an engineer in 2 PC board shops for a total of 14 years. I side-stepped in the industry 5 years ago and have been in the electronics assembly business ever since.
  • pjvpjv Posts: 1,903
    edited 2005-01-16 - 04:25:58
    Hello Forrest;

    Yes, as you surmise, it is a complete facility we used for making in-house circuit boards. I closed it down a couple of years ago, mostly due to some staff issues. Perhaps I will crank it up again someday........

    Peter
  • paysonbadboypaysonbadboy Posts: 81
    edited 2005-01-27 - 00:55:52
    I had a friend show me a crazy way to make QUICK boards but it's not too reliable.

    You make your layout with expressPCB and print out the traces only on STANDARD typing paper with a LASER printer (Mirrored).

    Then we'd lay the print on the blank PCB and use a standard clothes iron to cook that toner onto the PCB.
    If you did it just right you could wash the paper off and the toner would be stuck to the PCB.
    Then we'd etch it.

    Sometimes it would come out PERFECT. But many times you will have problems.
    It's VERY unreliable but if you were just making a TEST circuit, it DOES work.

    Back a few years ago we made about 10 EMU boards for a certain project for friends (not used anymore). Quick and cheap.

    has anyone else heard of doing such a thing?

    For my latest project I think I'm going to order through expressPCB. I've never actually ordered through them.

    Also, does anyone else have the problem with it only allowing ONE undo? Maybe I'll look for a newer version.

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  • BeanBean Posts: 8,119
    edited 2005-01-27 - 01:46:07
    For anyone who cares, at my work we have an LPKF milling machine for pcboards. It works really well for a couple of boards. It takes about a hour to mill out both sides of a small board.
    We also use what LPKF calls a "Galvanic eletroplater" for plated thru holes.
    When we got the machine is was for prototypes and test fixture ONLY. But of course I often get an order for 20 of a certain board, when I complain they say "How else can we get it today?".

    If anyone is interested in the system, it works fairly well, but it's not cheap, and it's not cheap to make boards. But it is fast and if you only need one or two to test a project, it's probably cheaper than having them made.

    I'm very disappointed with the solder mask that LPKF uses. It's basically useless. We NEVER use it. It's like a film that a pain in the *** to mill, then it gets pressed to the PCB in an oven.

    If anyone has any questions about the system, I'd be glad to answer them.

    Bean.
  • ForrestForrest Posts: 1,341
    edited 2005-01-27 - 02:36:32
    I've made my own single-sided printed circuit boards at home using these instructions www.fullnet.com/u/tomg/gooteepc.htm with very good results. The process is very repeatable if you follow the instructions closely and use Staples photo inkjet paper in a photocopier/laser printer. It's also important to only heat the paper/board for 2-3 minutes with an iron. If you heat it for a shorter or longer period of time - you won't get good results.
  • paysonbadboypaysonbadboy Posts: 81
    edited 2005-01-27 - 05:40:16
    That's what I just mentioned in my last post :-P· (the toner transfer). I didn't know if this one guy·I knew came up with that or if it was a "geek" thing. It was about 4+ years ago when we did the Toner thing.
    However, I bookmarked that URL you posted as someone else actually went through all the work testing the different papers for best transfer. I'll have to go buy some of that paper from Staples me thinks :-)

    Anyway.·I just got done spending a few hours designing my PCB using good old expressPCB. Oh, I finally figured out how to undo something later when you change your mind by clicking on it with the pointer (how simple afterall).

    Here's the design which fits on the 3.8 X 2.5 board


    012605_NewPCB_01.jpg

    So anyway this is what·I came up with and I hope i got all the errors out because i allready ordered the 3 board special for $51 + shipping. You get 3 boards,·I just need one for now. I should receive it in about the same time·I receive my two other PBASIC2 stamps.

    Wish me luck!

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  • paysonbadboypaysonbadboy Posts: 81
    edited 2005-02-02 - 04:11:01
    I got my first circuit boards from Express PCB.

    For the $51 these are pretty good quality.·I like how the holes have solid conductor going completely through the holes. It really pulls the solder in to the other side which made things easier.

    020105_NewBoards.jpg





    020105_PartsOnBoard.jpg

    Sorry for the crap quality photo (lighting).

    Got most of my components on. I forgot to pick up a few things when I was at Radio Shack tonight. They only had a 40 pin socket. So i had to hack it to a 24 pin.

    So I am stuck at this point for now. I hope I layed out all of the traces properly after all this work tongue.gif

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  • Jon WilliamsJon Williams Posts: 6,491
    edited 2005-02-02 - 15:06:47
    I see in your board layout that you didn't put the 0.1 caps in the ATN line that we recommend. So long as you're just using the DB-9 for reprogramming the BASIC Stamp this will be fine. But if you intend to connect to a terminal program, you may have troubles depending on what that program does with the DTR pin.

    FWIW, I like ExpressPCB. I am especially happy that they have schematic capture now. When I need a PCB I tend to go from A) working design on breadboard, B) schematic in ExpressSCH, then C) board in ExpressPCB. I particularly like the ability to show me what connects to what when linked to a schematic -- I don't do very many boards so this is a huge help for me.

    My last ExpressPCB project worked out so well that we decided to order production boards and sell them in a kit (SX/B Serial Line Follower).· Here's my original prototype:

    attachment.php?attachmentid=37014



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    Jon Williams
    Applications Engineer, Parallax
    Dallas, TX· USA


    Post Edited (Jon Williams) : 2/2/2005 4:05:04 PM GMT
    480 x 360 - 102K
  • paysonbadboypaysonbadboy Posts: 81
    edited 2005-02-03 - 18:34:00
    ".1MF run cap in the attn line"

    I didn't even look that far. I just did a quick look at the schematic in the front of my PBASIC book that came with my kit.

    I'm not at home right now so I can't look to see if it mentioned that.··



    I haven't tested the board yet. I'm planning pn using the two PBASIC2 MC's that I got on ebay. The seller is being super slow and had to send a check for payement which sux as I like paypal. They had a good ebay rating so I trust I'll get the MC's eventually.

    My BOE has the sx chip. I assume when making my prototype with that I'll have to adjust the timing with the other one because of the diff cycle .8 vs. 2.0 micro seconds?



    I've already found a few things on my board I wish I had added but this will work for a test I suppose. I didn't bother drawing the thing up first, I just made it as I go thinking the circuit out mentally.

    I'll have to see what happens. ExpressPCB seems to do a good job though.







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  • paysonbadboypaysonbadboy Posts: 81
    edited 2005-02-04 - 03:12:06
    OK. Looked again at the reference I used. Basic Stamp manual page 27
    It shows a stamp connected to a DB9. It just shows traces, no cap so I assumed that was fine. :-P

    As you said, I'll pretty much be just using the connection to program. But may use the debug feature occasionally. Will I still be ok? If not how is that .01 cap orientated?

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