Today my first PCBs arrived. Hooray! For me, this is definitely like reaching the next level in DIY technologies.
I chose three simple circuits that I wanted to be produced. After some research I decided to go with Olimex, a PCB service in Bulgaria. They are offering a very good price even for small quantities. A double sided PCB with 160mm x 100mm costs 30 â‚¬. And you can have multiple layouts on one board.
So I made up my eagle files and produced gerber files. I had to adjust the precision for drilling (EXCELLON step) according to the FAQ. Next, I zipped all gerber files and a readme file and send it to Olimex. As this was my first order, it took some time and several emails until everything was ready for production. First I didn’t check exactly if my circuits fit on the board as I layed them out. Second I designed a custom part, an LED matrix, in Eagle. That part had circles all over to represent every LED. But that confused Olimex and they thought something went wrong when I did the gerber files.
They confirmed that now everything was ok with my files and that they were ready to go. I received a PDF which I had to print and fill out with my address and credit card details. That print out had to be faxed back to Olimex. Hmm, that looks a bit like 1996 to me. I would prefer to do everything online, including the payment. After they received the payment, it took 5 work days for them to finish my boards and it took another 4 days until I received my boards here in Hamburg.
After all it cost me 52 € for my 11 boards. Thats including VAT, shipping and some extra euros for correcting my errors. The price is still ok, I think. And if I had been more precise with my layouts, it would have been faster. Olimex did a great job in supporting me with my first order. Friendly and fast.
Maybe I will try out other PCB houses as well, but I suspect that Olimex is one of the better ones.