Recently, I decided to design a couple of PCBs for the Raspberry Pi, something that I had not done before. I’ve written about the process of learning elsewhere, but wanted to show my appreciation in this blog post of the company that I used to get the boards made.
I designed the first board before looking around for a manufacturer. I wasn’t sure that I would have the ability to design one as there were a lot of things to learn about since I know very little about electronics on top of what I learnt when writing the CamJam EduKit worksheets.
I used KiCad to design the board.
My first board was extremely simple (just two GPIO headers joined together), so I really didn’t want to pay too much for them. That, and I had very little confidence that my first board would work, despite it being so simple!
I searched the internet for UK manufacturers, but found that they seemed to be aimed at AutoDesk Eagle users; I had tried the software, but at the time did not understand anything about how it worked, so I needed one that could handle KiCad designs. I also found that the UK manufacturers were pretty expensive and, with postage added on top, that made my simple board look ridiculously expensive.
I stretched my gaze out further and took a look at Chinese manufacturers. I had heard that they were pretty reasonably priced, but that delivery could be slow.
I visited a few sites but found that I couldn’t make head-nor-tail about what they needed. I eventually stumbled upon PCBWay during my search and I found a page that described how to generate the required files on their website. The site used plain, simple English and diagrams to show me exactly what I needed to do to generate files for manufacture. In fact, the PCBWay technical support area has a quite extensive range of subjects.
And then there was the price; with a special offer, the first 10 boards was just $8 including postage. I was not in a major hurry, so didn’t mind waiting.
There was an extensive set of options to choose from for your boards. You are not left alone to fathom what each means – the little information button next to each selection helps you to make the right choice, but if you really do get stuck there is always someone on the end of the chat line to help.
By the time the boards arrived, I was on my way to completing my second, more extensive board.
I was really pleased with the first board (picture below). It worked perfectly, for a start!
When it came time to manufacture my second board, I had no hesitation in returning to PCBWay, but this time I chose to have more boards made (25) and paid for fast postage. Within a week, my new prototype boards arrived! There were only a couple of design faults that I had made, but they were minor and will be changed if I get more made.
Well done, PCBWay!
Photographs by David Booth