I love doing electronics, wearables and especially Software, but as a PhD Student and a full-time worker I for sure do not have the time to solder a bunch of PCBs, especially when I am planning to sell them to my customers or on Tindie. So, that is where an assembly service becomes extremely helpful - however, for my projects I am normally not able to afford it. Especially when I do not know if I can sell it or if I will end up with a lot of costs.
When talking about PCB-assembly, quality is a major concern. This may be one of the reasons why I never tried the PCBWay assembly service before (I do have a lot of experience using https://www.eurocircuits.de or http://www.astron.co.at for more demanding applications or where my customers have cooperations with them - and they both are doing an extremely well job) - until SimpleLED (https://www.tindie.com/products/20274/). This project has only a few components on it and I really wanted to put it on Tindie: I think there are many people out there who could do amazing things with it. So I thought: A good chance to try PCBWay (https://www.pcbway.com).
After getting a very nice mail from PCBWay (with a coupon allowing me to safe a few dollars) - I finally put my first PCBWay assembly order and I want to share my experience with you - and also some tips!
The PCBWay homepage is the central place where you exchange data, pictures, assembly plans and of course the BOM. After providing all the necessary data, I got a quote for the PCB and also for the assembly - including all components - within several hours. Thats the first thing: I DO NOT have to buy and store components! I Love it! PCBWay will send you their interpretation of the BOM and you have to confirm it, which was straight forward for me, as I got all my data ready for production.
After completing the order, the PCBWay engineers start to work on your project by manufacturing the PCB while their purchasing department takes care of the BOM and orders all the parts. You can check the status of your oder online - which I did everyday as I somehow was nervous (I mean, there is a lot of stuff which can go wrong!). When the PCB is finished, the company proceeds with assembly and you will get picture, remarks and questions either using the PCBWay Chat on the homepage or via E-Mail It is very important to double check every question and to make sure that you give clear and meaningful answers (pictures often say more than thousand words). You have to communicate! The engineers at PCBWay have to understand what you want to achieve - so provide them with meaningful assembly plans, comments or pictures of your 3D-Rendered PCB. PCBWay may be located on the other end of the world, but still we have the same love for electronics and hence a common language, so communication is crucial in this step so that your circuit performs as you want it to do when it finally arrives - take your time to get your production data ready - I have learned my lessons here.
So, after confirming the assembly stage, PCBWay starts manufacturing and will ship your final prototype or small series. The quality turned out to be amazing! I was really surprised and in the end it saved me half of a week as I did not had to assembly the PCB by hand on my own. I will for sure use the service again in upcoming projects or to fill my stock.
Here are my advices when working with PCBWay and especially the assembly service:
- Get your data right at first - make sure you have all attributes in your components library, I for myself also add 3D-Files so that I can render my PCB and add some nice pictures to the order. The engineers at PCBWay can double check if they understood everything correct.
- Double Check your BOM and the interpretation PCBWay is going to send to you for cross checking so that there are no mistakes (add component sizes, manufactures, distributor numbers etc.)
- Make clear and meaningful comments in a layer the PCBWay engineer will see (Gerber-Files output!) So, for example, put a comment on the copper layer outside the PCB itself - a pro tip I got from this amazing video:
- Ensure your assembly plan is meaningful! Make sure diodes are marked correctly, that there are all names present. I often have no room to put components names on the silkscreen, so I add them on the a docs-layer (where I can make the text extremely small, but by increasing the size of the overall assembly plan in the final output by a factor, this does not matter. I always create a PDF for the assembly plan and send this PDF with my Gerber data. Check my SimpleLED repository to get an idea what I mean: https://github.com/HpLightcorner/SimpleLED
- Maybe add an image how the final PCB will look like (where to place connectors, in which direction etc.), especially when you have a 3D-Model of your PCB. This will help a lot.
- And finally: communication. Write with PCBWay, they will get in contact with you and their first level support is really great.
Thanks for reading this article, leave a like on my projects and give PCBWay a try, their quality and price needs attention!