The PCBs have arrived!
After 6 weeks, the PCBs I ordered from BatchPCB have arrived – which was disappointingly slow even for BatchPCB. Their site gives a “worst-case” (US) delivery time of 18 days I believe, however the boards weren’t even posted until 21 days, and took that long again to arrive in my mailbox here in Canada. I expected an additional 1-1.5 weeks on top of the US delivery time as Canada Post is pretty terrible, but 3 weeks for a small envelope? Ugh.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I ordered 3 copies of the same board so I’d have room to screw up a few times without having to start over with another PCB order – and that was a good thing, as one of the three boards had several manufacturing defects. The most noticeable of the defects is a large area on the bottom layer that did not have any soldermask applied to it, and thus was coated in solder like any other pad would be. Thankfully the defect only touches a components pad that is also connected to the ground plane (where the defect is) and is at the edge of the board, so it shouldn’t require scrapping the board. The other defect was solder mask over some of the pads, which required scraping off with a scalpel.
While neither of these defects are fatal for the board, they do show a severe lack of quality control. Combined with the long delivery time, I think it’s probably going to be enough for me to cut my losses and choose a more local PCB manufacturer next time, or at the very least try somewhere else. BatchPCB is cheaper (well, no actually it isn’t), but no where near cheap enough to put up with such low quality. Depending on how cheap I’m feeling at the time, and how likely the PCB is to be working, I think I’ll either go for AP Circuits as they’re in Alberta, the next province over (http://www.apcircuits.com), or OurPCB, which is another Chinese PCB manufacturer with awesome capabilities for their prototype PCBs, like 5mil traces/space (http://www.ourpcb.com).
The next step is to order some parts that I’m missing from DigiKey, as I’d been putting it off until the boards arrived. Not that I meant to do that – I simply forgot to place the order. Of course, now a few of the parts that I need are out of stock for a few more weeks. I might place the order anyway and include some nearly-equivalent parts to use in the mean time, and then place another order when the correct parts are back in stock and rework the board when those arrive.