PCB prototyping and manufacturing in the USA

Thread Starter

everettdale

Joined Jan 26, 2022
8
I've been using Easyeda to design my PCBs for a project and JLCpcb to manufacturer it. I like these wo because they work together really well. Especially for sourcing parts and getting SMD assembly done. Also they are really inexpensive if you don't count the shipping from China.

Is there a USA based company that is comparable? I'm not opposed to working with China it's just the shipping makes prototyping either really expensive, or it takes a long time between iterations.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,767
I've been using Easyeda to design my PCBs for a project and JLCpcb to manufacturer it. I like these wo because they work together really well. Especially for sourcing parts and getting SMD assembly done. Also they are really inexpensive if you don't count the shipping from China.

Is there a USA based company that is comparable? I'm not opposed to working with China it's just the shipping makes prototyping either really expensive, or it takes a long time between iterations.
I love it. You can go from $5/sq in at Osh Park to $5 for 5 boards @ 4" x 4" plus $35 for delivery of completed boards in about a week from ordering.

I just re-ordered 200 boards @ 200mm x 20mm from JLCpcb with a lot of cuts and curved edges with shipping $105 and here in a week. The first order of 20 boards was perfect. OshPark refused the order as too complicated. Next best US-based company was $850.00 and 6 week lead time.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,256
Yep, you can’t beat China on price. I ordered 10 boards each from JLC and and Seeed Studio on the sane day. Both $5 fir 10. JLC won by 2 days at just the over a week. The quality was indistinguishable, both quite satisfactory.

Bob
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,256
What puzzles me is why the price has to be that different. Presumably, a US company could get their hands on the same equipment and materials used by the Chinese companies, and how much labor could be needed per square inch? Certainly not anywhere near $1?

The JLC price of $5 for 2x2 in boards comes to 12.5 cents per square inch. The Osh Park price is $1.67.

Bob
 

Boggart

Joined Jan 31, 2022
82
What puzzles me is why the price has to be that different.
That's easy, they charge that much because they can, they charge what the market will bear. It's the same here in Oz, PCB manufacturing costs are crazy, so I do everything through JLC as well.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
31,062
Cost of living, labour, labour laws, environmental protection laws, social, health and welfare costs, insurance, taxes, energy, cost of doing business, etc. is different in each country.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,767
Most american companies thst etch boards (at least my local companies) have about 15 employees or less. 10 are administrative and and sales while only 3 to 5 are actually making boards. When you walk in there you see these huge boards with only a fraction with a circuit on it if the customer pays for a fast turn around. I was promised 6 weeks at another shop and they deep calling to postpone because they were looking to fill out a board that was supposedly 0.25m2. Then think about all of the equipment that is needed but used to process a full board of circuits every few weeks.

There are a bunch of JLCPCB video tours on YouTube. They claim to process about 10,000 orders PER DAY and 600,000 different customers each year. They have pallets full of boards at each station. Looks much different than anything I've seen here. Also, the last time I ordered in the US, I got an email invite to review meeting scheduled for a week later. They basically asked me all the questions that were in JLCPCB's ordering page (and specified on my P.O.). At JLCPCB, I get a quote instantly online, then the board is reviewed in minutes to a few hours. I have received additional charges once they see my board for excessive complexity or excess panelization drilling. I pay that online and can even have an online chat to clarify. Also, their online chat team for tech support is great for answering technical questions.

I have no doubt jlcpcb is a fraction of the cost and even at the huge prices of US based companies, I'd assume they are losing money with all that expensive equipment sitting idle for so many hours per month.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
31,062
Long before online PCB services became fab (pun intended) I used to send orders to a North American house. They did prototype service (5 boards, no silk screen and no solder mask) in 2 days.

I just visited their website. The web domain has been taken over and now provides links to sites in China. Interesting.
 

Thread Starter

everettdale

Joined Jan 26, 2022
8
Wow! Ok, so there isn't a comparable company in the US to JLCpcb. That's kind of sad but understandable. Thanks for all the input everyone.
 

Jon Chandler

Joined Jun 12, 2008
1,094
Out of curiosity, I compared the cost of OSHPARK to the various Chinese vendors offering 10 boards of up to 100mm x 100mm for $5. The X-axis is area in square inches. The Y-axis is the cost in $US.

The blue line shows the out-of-pocket cost for three boards from OSH vs area, using the standard free shipping. The orange line is the board cost from the Chinese fabs for ten boards of up to 100mm x 100mm. The gray line shows the out-of-pocket cost including DHL shipping.

osh vs china.jpg
The bottom line - if you need 3 or fewer boards of less than 5 square inches, OSH is the cheap option. If you need more than 3 boards, or even one board larger than 5 square inches, the Chinese fabs are the answer. With DHL shipping, it's very likely you'll have the boards quicker too. Cheaper shipping options are not recommended as the shipping time is highly variable.

As far as Chinese fabs, I have recent experiences with JLC and Elecrow, and I can recommend either of them to provide high quality boards. If you want to include multiple copies of the same design on a panel, the advantage goes to Elecrow - there's no extra charge for v-scoring of copies of the same design on a panel.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,767
it's a complex, labor-intensive process with very nasty chemicals.
Ok, "Very Nasty". But, what's beyond "very nasty", John? Ferric chloride solution in water is much, much less corrosive than toilet bowl cleaner, drain cleaner, concrete cleaner, fungus/moss remover and a handful of other aqueous solutions used in homes every day. Then we can move on to organic solvents like brake cleaners or carburetor cleaners that use things that may be less corrosive but have those nasty toxic/cancer-causing side effects.

I'm really interested in your categorization method and names. Let me know what is beyond "Very Nasty" on your chemical scale.
 

Jon Chandler

Joined Jun 12, 2008
1,094
Ok, "Very Nasty". But, what's beyond "very nasty", John?......

I'm really interested in your categorization method and names. Let me know what is beyond "Very Nasty" on your chemical scale.
You like to argue. Bless your heart. You're free to do so.

But your comment completely misses the point of my post, which was showing how labor intensive the task of fabricating circuit boards is, and why prices in the US can't come close to the prices many Chinese fab houses charge. And for the record, I suspect the EPA views many of the chemicals used to be "nasty" which further adds to the cost. The video I posted shows a pretty clean environment. Others, where the cleaning, etching and plating steps are done by hand-dunking the boards show quite a different view.
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,767
You like to argue. Bless your heart. You're free to do so.

But your comment completely misses the point of my post, which was showing how labor intensive the task of fabricating circuit boards is, and why prices in the US can't come close to the prices many Chinese fab houses charge. And for the record, I suspect the EPA views many of the chemicals used to be "nasty" which further adds to the cost. The video I posted shows a pretty clean environment. Others, where the cleaning, etching and plating steps are done by hand-dunking the boards show quite a different view.
Certainly, the EPA has rules for nearly every chemical - including salt water - that is consumed or produced in a manufacturing processes. So, you're right, PCB etching companies have to follow EPA rules and reporting procedures.

You say,
But your comment completely misses the point of my post, which was showing how labor intensive the task of fabricating circuit boards is, and why prices in the US can't come close to the prices many Chinese fab houses charge.
If that was your point, then why were you talking about "nasty chemicals".

And since you did talk about nasty chemicals, I simply asked what phrase you use to describe all of the chemicals around our houses that are way more corrosive or toxic than the chemicals used in PCB manufacturing. I wasn't saying they shouldn't be handled with care, or companies that use them shouldn't have to report to the EPA, I'm simply interested in your unconventional categorization of chemicals. What is beyond "nasty" in your nomenclature.

Finally, people feel like they are "arguing" when they are trying to defend a position. If you feel like you have to defend a position, that's on you. I only gave you a frame of reference and implied "nasty" is a pretty extreme phrase for the chemicals used in PCB etching facilities. If you don't have have a phrase for the more corrosive chemicals because you didn't realize how mild PCB etching chemicals were, that's fine. I was only asking in case you did have a word to add to my collection. I worked in the chemical industry for a while and I find words used by the chemically ignorant or chemically fearful to be entertaining.

For the record, the ferric chloride used in etching baths is used by the ton every day at sewage treatment plants around the world to agglomerate particles before filtering and it can be used to control turbidity in ponds and pools. The copper chloride and copper sulfate etching by-product is used by the ton to control algae in ponds, lakes and pools - used as a very safe wood preservative in many wood treatment products.

Also, I recommend buying a small bottle of ferric chloride, a sharpie and a copper clad epoxy-core board to give home etching a try. Many of us have started out our DIY hoppy that way. Be careful, don't do it in your laundry tub. Dribbles of the ferric chloride / copper chloride mix turns to ferric oxide (rust) and can stain surfaces - it will look pretty nasty.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
13,541
Out of curiosity, I compared the cost of OSHPARK to the various Chinese vendors offering 10 boards of up to 100mm x 100mm for $5. The X-axis is area in square inches. The Y-axis is the cost in $US.

The blue line shows the out-of-pocket cost for three boards from OSH vs area, using the standard free shipping. The orange line is the board cost from the Chinese fabs for ten boards of up to 100mm x 100mm. The gray line shows the out-of-pocket cost including DHL shipping.

View attachment 261528
The bottom line - if you need 3 or fewer boards of less than 5 square inches, OSH is the cheap option. If you need more than 3 boards, or even one board larger than 5 square inches, the Chinese fabs are the answer. With DHL shipping, it's very likely you'll have the boards quicker too. Cheaper shipping options are not recommended as the shipping time is highly variable.

As far as Chinese fabs, I have recent experiences with JLC and Elecrow, and I can recommend either of them to provide high quality boards. If you want to include multiple copies of the same design on a panel, the advantage goes to Elecrow - there's no extra charge for v-scoring of copies of the same design on a panel.









JLC boards are not what I would call high quality, acceptable for hobby projects with higher priced options, yes, but not high quality.
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/...c-controlled-battery-array.32879/post-1463914

Masks and board registration are sloppy.
 
As much as we all like the dirt cheap pricing and elimination of silly setup fees, china is dumping pc board fabrication, as I mentioned https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/threads/looking-for-pcb-manufacturer.170879
So don't expect great deals from North American PCB houses.

AP Circuits Calgary closing note:
"The Chinese Government has aggressively pursued market dominance for their industries forcing over 600 board shops to shutter in North America in the past 5 years. As of June 2019, pricing for Chinese produced boards delivered to North America are less expensive than raw material costs and overhead for a domestic fabricator. Except for instances where Intellectual Property protection is required, Chinese shops are taking the majority of the remaining orders. Privately owned operations are unable to compete against a government's wealth. This past year, prototyping has been aggressively pursued by Chinese fabricators. A reduction in delivery times from their continent combined with artificially low pricing is impacting all manufacturing in North America. After 35 years in operation, AP Circuits has been forced to discontinue production and layoff it's staff."
 
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