I've got some PCBs from PCBWay!

A project log for GC9A01 Flight Displays

Using ESP32 with GC9A01 round displays to visualize flight instruments

dvid-mtDávid Máté 01/14/2023 at 15:230 Comments


At the end of the year I've got contacted by PCBWay, that they found this project novel and creative, and they'd like to sponsor me with some PCBs. I've used PCB prototyping services in my life before, but this is the first time ever I've got a sponsoration. As I didn't want to let this chance go to waste, I quickly drafted a PCB design and sent it to them (in hindsight, I was a bit too quick about this, but more on that later :) )

Service quality

Their site is pretty straightforward. You put in the parameters of the order, upload the gerber files, and after a quick review phase from their team, you can put in the order. And boy, they support a LOT of different designs! You can choose many different materials, many different thickness, and they support designs up to 14 layers! And there are many solder mask colours to choose from! There are really countless options, I can't even grasp some of them as a hobby circuitrist! But this just means they can provide to everyone. As you can order from at least 5 PCB up to like 10k, they can even support larger companies.

They can also make you stencils for smd soldering, and they provide assembly service as well, so they are a one stop service for circuit related stuff! I didn't choose a stencil this time, as the current PCB only has four SMD pads for two 0805 resistors, and I'm perfectly fine soldering those without a stencil.

After I've put in the order, it took roughly 10 days to arrive to my door.  They took pretty big care about packaging, so the boards won't be broken or chipped of. I forgot to take a picture, but the boards were inside a vacuum sealed bubble wrap, which was wrapped around with these packaging foam sheets, and all of this was in a sturdy cardboard box.

I've got 10 PCBs, and I've chosen "Matte black" solder masks, as those look awesome in my opinion. They all look perfect and are working perfectly.

So to sum it up, I'm very satisfied with PCBWay, and I can only recommend them for your projects! :) And Liam, thank you for reaching out, and granting me this chance! :)

The first version of the PCB

As the project is still in under heavy development, I didn't want to go with bare ESP-32 modules, as the devkits are more easy to swap around. I didn't found a proper footprint for the NodeMCU ESP-32S, so I drafted my own. Sadly I managed to mess up the dimensions, so the distance between the two columns is 2.54mm larger than they should be, so I had to bend the legs of the devkit a bit, and solder the female headers a bit slanted. Lesson learnt: ALWAYS print out your PCB design 1:1, and measure the things again before sending it to manufacturing. Apart this problem the whole board is functioning as it should. As you can find two different types of GC9A01 displays on Aliexpress, with one of them having 7 pins, while the other has 8 pins in a completely different order, I've designed two different headers on the board 180° apart. I've also added a rotary encoder, as most indicators have a small adjustment knob on the corner, like this:

Heading Indicator (14v Electric) The finished board looks like this:

Front side of the assembled module
Backside of the assembled module
There is also a two pin header for power in the future, as I'm planning to utilize the devkits in a mesh network.

I've corrected the distance of the headers, and attached the schematic and the gerber files to the project, if anyone wants to give it a go! :)

That's it for this update, I'm currently drafting some casing for the module, and will update the project with the stl files once I'm happy with them.