On my way to a automated watering system I made a big step – well, at least a big step for me. After handsoldering 3 (in words: THREE) perfboards I found severe errors on my latest design, which made me realise that with this technique I will not be able to build a circuit in the size I required it to be. So I decided to do my first PCB design and get it manufactured.
With the help of Phil’s tutorial on KiCad I was able to design a circuit in a very good tool. Phil talks in his video about designing the PCB for the production at JLCPCB, but I decided not to go that route and instead find a German manufactured #supportYourLocals. And I found a fab in Germany: Aisler.
I wanted to give you a short summary on my order. Maybe you’ll find it interesting and decide to also get your PCB in a fab outside China.
On a Friday night (23:30 aka 11:30 pm) I uploaded my KiCad project to their website. You don’t have to create gerber files. Aisler works on the KiCad project. I did not expect somebody to work on my order on a weekend and really, except an automatic email saying that they received my order and payment, no reaction came from Aisler during the weekend.
On Monday morning (6:08 am) they send my a mail, telling me that my order hit production. To my surprise my order was planed for shipping on Tuesday the week after. That would mean 7 working days for producing my PCBs. At that stage I doubt that it was a good idea to go that route – the Chinese fabs usually have a turnaround time of about 48 hours. But on Friday Aisler sent me a mail telling that my order was just shipped! Btw, shipping was free. And really, on Saturday my PCBs arrived. That means Aisler only needed 6 days from production, to shipping, to arrival. What a great job! Afaik, the Chinese are faster in producing but if normal shipping is used they are slower.
And the price?
Well, before I tell you the price, I need to tell you some details about my project:
I designed a 2 layer PCB as they are cheapest. As technology I went for through hole, because I never soldered SMT before and I did not want to start with SMT in my first project. As I already tried hand soldering several times, I had all components laying around and wanted to reuse them. Amongst my components was a housing for a fuse. The housing required some long holes in the PCB. That’s why I was not able to order the cheapest layout and had instead pick „Beautiful Boards HD“, which is the second most expensive category. The minimum order size is 3. The size of my PCB is 107 x 72 mm. Aisler charged 29,35 EURO (netto; w/o taxes) but including shipping.
JLCPCB would have charged 23,18 EURO (production 7,16 EUR; shipping 16,02 EUR). JLCPCB claims to produce the boards in 1-2 days, but the finishing quality would have been lower (Lead-free HASL) then Aisler provided (ENIG). As shipping method I would have chosen DHL express priority (4-6 days from China to Germany).
If I would have chosen the same finishing quality, production time at JLCPCB would have been 3 days (according to their website) and the price would have been 37,32 EURO.
To me it was the right decision to go with Aisler and I definitely will order future PCBs there.