• Elecrow PCB Review (2020)

    5 days ago 0 comments

    PCB design art is something I have been experimenting with. Recently, I used Elecrow PCB who offers yellow soldermask with black silkscreen without additional cost.

    elecrow yellow

    Introduction

    There are many cheap prototype PCBs manufacturing services online. They can also produce boards in colors other than the conventional green.

    jlcpcb colorful

    (Image above is from the JLCPCB Facebook page. This is an example of colorful PCBs.)

    I got interested when I found out that Elecrow PCB offers yellow soldermask with black silkscreen without additional cost.

    (image of PDF document)

    In comparison, JLCPCB only has the option for yellow PCBs with white silkscreen. PCBway offers black-on-yellow but at a higher cost than white-on-yellow.

    Review Objective

    I decided to try out Elecrow PCB and I ordered 2 boards. I was surprised at how well they produced it for the price.

    I am writing this blog post because I could not find any recent reviews on Elecrow PCB.

    This review is not paid for and I hope to share as much of my personal experience with you.

    Board Design

    I designed both my boards in KiCad. These are the 3D renders and later on, let's see how it compares to the actual board received

    My first board is a badge design of the Bare Bears cartoon series. I manually panalized it to fit within 100mm x 100mm.

    Board #1, 3D render

    One potential problem of this board will be the tight corner in between the bear's legs (the smallest width here is about 1mm). I read Elecrow PCB can do a 0.8mm contour routing so I hope it will turn out nicely.

    Another possible difficulty will be the panalization. I later realized that the mouse-bite and the tabs may make the board flimsy and I wonder how they will deal with it during manufacturing.

    Board tight corner

    My second board will be to try out the yellow soldermask.

    3D render front

    In this board, I added a plated slot and prototyping spaces in thhe empty space on the left.

    On the back, I added images and halftones. Halftone is a technique used in printing to produce a gradient of color by using dots of different sizes.

    3D render back

    Gerber Generation

    It would be great if Elecrow could provide some instructions on how to export the Gerber files to their requirements.

    I had to search online to see what settings other people used. I took reference from these websites.

    In the end, I used these settings without any issues.

    Kicad settings A

    Kicad settings B

    After which, I renamed the Gerbers to the Elecrow filenames.

    LayerKiCad FilenameElecrow Filename
    Top CopperF_Cu.gtlLcdPrototype.GTL
    Bottom CopperB_Cu.gblLcdPrototype.GBL
    Top SoldermaskF_Mask.gtsLcdPrototype.GTS
    Bottom SoldermaskB_Mask.gbsLcdPrototype.GBS
    Top SilkscreenF_SilkS.gtoLcdPrototype.GTO
    Bottom SilkscreenB_SilkS.gboLcdPrototype.GBO
    Non-Plated Drill HolesNPTH.drlLcdPrototype-NPTH.TXT
    Plated Drill HolesPTH.drlLcdPrototype-PTH.TXT
    Board OutlineEdge_Cuts.gm1LcdPrototype.GML

    Ordering Process

    The website interface is simple. You specify details, such as the color, thickness and quantity.

    website interface

    I should mention that Elecrow provides $5 worth of loyalty points to offset your first purchase. I forgot to use it at that point of time, so remember to make use of the points.

    I chose the cheapest shipping. Each design costs US$4.90 and shipping of US$10.47 to Singapore. In total, I paid US$20.27. I submitted my zip files and waited.

    For the next few days, I heard no news. There's no feedback or progress indicator like JLCPCB or PCBway. I can only see that it is in production. Hence, I assumed there was no issue with my uploaded files.

    After exactly a week (5 working days + 2 weekends), the status changed from "Production" to "Shipped".

    website interface

    Shipping Issues

    If everything goes fine, Elecrow will send you an email with the tracking number and photos of the boards.

    At the time when I ordered, it was during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Thus, my shipping experience has not been ideal due to delays and increased prices. Despite this, the Elecrow customer service has been very accommodating to me as I'll explain my story below.

    In this case, I did not...

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