07/04/2020 at 05:22 •
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.
There are many cheap prototype PCBs manufacturing services online. They can also produce boards in colors other than the conventional green.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My second board will be to try out the yellow soldermask.
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.
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.
After which, I renamed the Gerbers to the Elecrow filenames.
Layer KiCad Filename Elecrow Filename Top Copper F_Cu.gtl LcdPrototype.GTL Bottom Copper B_Cu.gbl LcdPrototype.GBL Top Soldermask F_Mask.gts LcdPrototype.GTS Bottom Soldermask B_Mask.gbs LcdPrototype.GBS Top Silkscreen F_SilkS.gto LcdPrototype.GTO Bottom Silkscreen B_SilkS.gbo LcdPrototype.GBO Non-Plated Drill Holes NPTH.drl LcdPrototype-NPTH.TXT Plated Drill Holes PTH.drl LcdPrototype-PTH.TXT Board Outline Edge_Cuts.gm1 LcdPrototype.GML
The website interface is simple. You specify details, such as the color, thickness and quantity.
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".
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...Read more »