Crazy Custom Colors

A project log for Nyan Board

A small ATtiny85 board playing the Nyan Cat tune.

dehipudeʃhipu 03/15/2017 at 10:464 Comments

At the beginning of this year, DirtyPCBs announced a new service: Mystery Color PCB Group Buy. The idea is similar to what OSHPark does -- you get 3 PCBs and get charged by the surface area. But there is a twist -- they are going to experiment with various soldermask color combinations, and you never know what you get.

I decided to try this, and made an order for the single Nyan Board -- because I thought it would be fun to have it in a crazy color. The example PCB on the picture is pink, so I expected something flashy. I made my order on February 05, 2017. Today is March 15, 2017 and the PCBs arrived. I have to admit that this is a bit longer than I expected.

But never mind that, what are the new exciting colors? I have to admit that I am a little bit disappointed here too. Here's a photo:

First of all, the boards are mostly naked FR4. The soldermask is present only where there is either copper or silkscreen -- all the other areas are simply unpainted. That pretty much ruins everything.

The soldermask itself is a kind of body color orange, which might be interesting for human figures or faces, if only you knew the color in advance and could somehow get the whole board covered in it. The silkscreen is pretty much standard unexciting black.

On the plus side, I ordered 3 boards, and I received 11, which is a bit strange, but I guess a good deal for $4 with shipping.


After talking with DirtyPCBs, I examined my boards closely, and realized how wrong and unfair I was. The soldermask is not missing from between the copper traces. And it's not orange -- that orange is just the color of copper traces covered with it. Yes. The soldermask is transparent! This opens a lot of possibilities for novel designs, although I still have to say that it would look much better if the FR4 underneath was some other color than the default.

Also, they refunded it to me completely, and now I feel like a complete jerk.


Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 03/15/2017 at 23:22 point

Well... Thanks for the post, it's a very good thing to know and I'll have a look !

@DirtyPCB : please continue experimenting ;-)

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ian wrote 03/15/2017 at 12:36 point

I'm really sorry you're disappointed in the boards. They are not missing a soldermask though, they have a clear soldermask. It took us nearly a year to line up the soldermask supplier and board house to do a clear soldermask, and in the end each board on the panel cost nearly $100/set. We were quite thrilled with our boards from the panel, but understand it might be a bit boring for you.

I went ahead and refunded your order. Thanks for trying the panel, I'm sorry it didn't meet your needs.


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K.C. Lee wrote 03/15/2017 at 14:37 point

Transparent is cool because it has the homebrew look back by commercial quality/quantity.

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deʃhipu wrote 03/15/2017 at 22:06 point

You didn't have to refund it at my first sign of complaining. Though I understand that the $4 I paid are nothing compared to the $100 it actually cost you, so I guess it's all the same.

I imagine a clear soldermask is a challenge -- all the machines must be clean, all the processes must be fine tuned, because any irregularity is immediately obvious. I also imagine that producing chemicals that would *stay* clear after curing is tricky. But as you can see, it's completely wasted on this project. Had I know, I would make something more deserving such extravagancy. For the Nyan Board, any unusual color would have been better.

I wonder, is the transparent soldermask going to become an offer you can actually choose consciously, so that you can use it in a project that actually takes advantage of it?

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