JLCPCB Prototype PCBs review

Today we are reviewing the PCBs made by JLCPCB.

JLCPCB is one of the bigger Shenzhen based PCB manufacturers out there. Although questionable, they claim to get over 8000 orders per day. More recently they got a lot of community support by partnering up with EasyEDA; but they also made a big splash with their incredible “$2 for 10 board” offer.

 

Ordering process

Ordering on JLCPCB is incredibly simple as all it takes is uploading your Gerber files as a zip file. Contrary to Shenzhen2U (read the review) that needs very specific naming conventions, this makes the whole process a lot simpler. Not only that, the size of the PCB will be automatically calculated off the Gerber file and the pricing will get updated automatically accordingly.

Similarly to other PCB fabs, the prices are very competitive if you stick to default settings (min 6mil trace width, green solder mask, 1.6mm board, 1oz copper, HASL lead finish) but any deviation from this norm will cost a lot. A red solder mask for instance is a fixed $10 fee. Lead free HASL will only be a $6 top up, but the more qualitative ENIG finish (the one used by OSHPark for instance) will set you back $20.

Invoice from JLCPCB. DHL Express shipping ends up being about 40% of the final cost.
Invoice from JLCPCB. DHL Express shipping ends up being about 40% of the final cost.

 

This “any deviation to our standard will cost you lots” feeling is even more exacerbated by their $2 for 10 boards offer which applies to PCBs if they are up to 10x10cm in size. In my case, the board I ordered was 9.8x11cm and the cost jumps from $2 to $29! That being said, it is still a competitive price.

Ultra fast delivery

Aside from their ordering and pricing, one thing that definitely is impressing with JLCPCB is the turnover. Here’s the breakdown of my experience:

  • Original order: Sunday 12pm.
  • Order picked up by DHL China on Wednesday, 7:30pm
  • Delivered in Singapore on Friday, 11am

From order to delivery, only 5 days passed, and this is not even the fast turnover service: this is the default at JLCPCB! I am thoroughly impressed and this is reason alone for me to order again with them.

 

What about quality?

Quality is as good as it gets; but I can note that some via holes aren’t perfectly dead centered and that the silk screen isn’t 100% pristine. This is definitely cherry picking though, as you might not even think about it unless you have a very high quality board such as the ones manufactured by OSHPark next to this JLCPCB board.

Close up of a TSSOP footprint
Close up of a TSSOP footprint

One thing that I like is that JLCPCB managed to cram solder mask in between the pads of this 0.65mm pitch TSSOP package (pictured above). It’s quite remarkable for such low price PCBs.

 

And to finish this quality inspection, I would like to point out that JLCPCB adds your order number in silkscreen on your PCB. The inscription on the DIP package above was never part of the original design and was added manually by JLCPCB operators. Although they put the inscription in a place that will ultimately be non visible and covered by a chip; I really don’t like this. The manufacturer shouldn’t temper with customers’ designs in any way.

 

In Conclusion

JLCPCB seems to be top of the pack when it comes to Shenzhen-manufactured PCBs. If you are making 10x10cm quick prototypes, they provide the best bang for your buck out there; and their regular pricing and quality is quite remarkable as well.

As of February 2018 it is my new default go to place to order PCBs.

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