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Printed Circuit Boards – PCB

Printed Circuit Boards – PCB

Today hobbyist and small businesses have access to PCB features and pricing that had previously been available only in larger quantities. Combined with today’s powerful CAD Programs, a user can: research, design, lay out, upload and purchase PCB’s using an ordinary laptop or PC.

Manual Routing vs. Autorouting

Just as the CAD program is a tool, the autorouter is a tool within, and there are different levels of comfort and practicality based on a user’s needs and experience.

Sometimes the quality of the autorouter determines usability, if the autorouter can’t complete or makes poor decsions and routes then the user has no choice. Often the statement that hand routing is better or mandatory  indicates exposure to a lesser level of  autorouter.

As I tend to use FPGA’s and other semi-dense designs were there is often a need to do a significant reroute based on FPGA pin changes due to its internal routing.

If I am ever headed for production where productivity requirements are paramount and advanced techniques like controlled impedance or very small design rules are needed I hand the PCB design off to a professional, in my case Fisher PCB The owner “Fish” has been doing PCB’s since the days of hand taping in the 1980’s and was employed by companies such as Commodore Business Machines.

CPLD Shield PCB 4 layer

PCB Fabrication

Currently I use one of three PCB fabrication houses, each with varying attributes and values.

OSHPark at

  • Batches customer orders together for better price
  • Take Eagle Cad project file directly
  • Responsive Support
  • 2 Layer – $5 per Sq Inch for 3 PCBs
  • 4 Layer – $10 per Sq Inch for 3 PCBs
  • 2 Layer 150″ Min – 1$ per Sq Inch (multiples of 10)
  • 4 Layer 150″ Min – 2$ per Sq Inch (multiples of 10)
  • Gerber File Converter for Proteus/ARES

OSH Park PCB Logo

OSH Park PCB Logo

PCBWay at

  • Online Price Calculator
  • Pricing between 5-100 units appears to be very aggressive for small PCBs! $.15-$.25 per Sq Inch (50 2″ x 2″ PCBs =$30 )
  • Online Tracking of status.
  • Quick turn 3-4 days
  • No additional charge for different color silkscreen


  • Batches customer orders together for better price
  • Takes Eagle, Proteus and KiCad project files directly
  • Responsive Support
  • Online Price Calculator
  • Email every fabrication step feature.
  • Free stainless steel stencil!

Gold Pheonix at

  • For bigger runs, has NRE typically.
  • Takes Gerber 274X only.
  • Online Price Calculator
  • Best to stay at 7 mil or larger
  • Extra charge for combining designs in one order