@runger - I’ve not used pcbway. The main reason is that it seems a bit more complicated and perhaps expensive than jlcpcb.

If it is not rude - could I ask how much your order will cost and any differences/benefits to using pcbway over jlcpcb.

Hey Owen, not at all rude, I’m happy to share. This order costs me:
$81 for the PCBs (5 PCBs, each is a 2x2 Panel for a total of 20 units). Since it is a simple panel of only one design, and KiCad doesn’t do panelisation, I ask them to make the panels for me.
PCB surcharges include:

  • it being a panel,
  • 2oz copper (for the 3A traces)
  • ENIG surface finish
  • the castellated edges
    Without those surcharges, the PCBs would have been $5.

$88 for the assembly (not including cost of components) for 20 units:

  • 24 different components,
  • 38 SMT components total,
  • no THT assembly
    I’m not 100% sure why I did not get the $30 flat fee on assembly, but I’m not complaining.

For the components, they take 2-3 days to source them and then quote me (turnkey assembly). They are always cheaper than what I would get from Mouser or Digikey, and I don’t incur the extra delays and shipping fees. So I have the feeling they’re not trying to make a big profit on the components.

My projects with assembly seem to cost between $120 and $280, depending on number of components, fancy finish, etc… that’s for 20 units. If you want more the price is noticably less good until you go way up in the quantities.
Shipping to Austria is about $25, via DHL and takes about 5-10 days once they finish production.

My projects which are just naked PCBs so far always cost $5 + $25 shipping for total of $30, and they arrive within 10 days of ordering.

I decided to go for PCBWay because I found the (advertised) prices to be similar to the competition, but PCBWay lets you use any component you want, while others seem to have the “standard components” approach and all the weird chips I want would cost extra. I find the task of PCB design and component selection difficult enough without extra constraints.
That said, my resistors and capacitors I generally submit to them in the BOM as something like “generic 0402 500Ω 1%” and they suggest something that I just accept.

Things I also like about PCBWay (just generally, not saying these are differentiating features):

  • they accept KiCad fabrication outputs (gerbers, drills, centroid files) directly, you don’t have to mess round too much with units or settings, nor post-process anything
  • their online quotation tool analyses your gerber files and fills out the whole form for you. You only have to add the bits that can’t be extracted from the gerber
  • they have loads of options: from purple solder mask to flex-PCBs, from microvias to sensitive components, they can do anything it seems (but anything cool does come with a surcharge)
  • you get a dedicated customer service person, so each order is handled by the same person and they get to know you (and your mistakes), which is somehow very helpful
  • their order tracking system updates you step by step as the board goes through the different stages of production and assembly. If you’re interested, they explain each step. Not at all necessary but I found it interesting, and it somehow shows that they care.
  • they seem to like open source and makers - they sponsor all kinds of projects and YouTube channels, and have a projects section online, and a questions and answers forum on PCB design and electronics.
  • You can sell your project via their site, and if anyone orders it for production, you get a cut of the order.

But, I have to say I’ve never ordered anywhere else in my limited experience of custom PCB design, so I’d be interested to hear also what is cool about JLCPCB or Oshpark, if anyone has anything to share ?

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I’ve split this topic from:

@runger - I’ve only used jlcpcb. You are right, with jlcpcb you really have to design your board whilst looking at what components are availability and there is sometimes a bit of component anxiety if they are running low on your favourite drv83xx chip. I sometimes spent far too long designing due to my efforts to limit myself to jlcpcb basic parts (which don’t have that $3 extra assembly charge that extended parts have).

They used to allow you to build 5x pcbs and assemble only 2x - so you could get a couple of simple boards for <$50. They’ve recently changed it so all 5x boards need to be assembled so a ‘does it work’ first effort design is pricier.

I really like how transparent the pricing is - and if you use easyeda, I’ve heard that the component selection is really simple. I use kicad so there is a bit more effort specifying bom.xml.

You are getting a more personalised experience with pcbway, my only contact with jlcpcb staff is to check that diodes and chips are oriented correctly.

On the whole I’m really impressed with these chinese pcb makers and their support for hobbyists. I may have to check out pcbway. Any reason why you normally order 20 rather than 5? Is that the sweet spot with pcbway?

It seems so to me - for the assembly it seems to make no difference if you order 1 or 20, only the component costs multiplies by the number of units of course.
It’s only when you hit their “component limit” that you have to order less than 20 units to stay within that limit to get the cheap assembly price.

And since the flat costs exceed the variable costs by quite a bit for the typical non-expensive components I use, the cost per unit (delivered to my door-step) improves dramatically if I order 20 rather than 5…

(Plus, I’ll need all those parts for my robot army :wink: )


Hi @runger I don’t know if this applies to your case but in principle it is possible to panelize in Kicad. It is something that I have not tried personally but in principle there should be no problem.


Hey @JorgeMaker

Thanks, I don’t like that method because it is so manual and work-intensive. This script can maybe help, but so far I’ve avoided this way of doing it:

I’ve actually made a few panels in KiCad. I try to use KiKit if I can:

When it works, its pretty awesome, on Mac I have to run it in docker.

I’ve also used this one:

Also works quite well.

Both solutions seem a little buggy sometimes, and both have a slightly annoying workflow, where you have to take it outside KiCad and then back…

I just wish KiCad had it built-in.

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