JLCPCB – A small gushing appraisal

I know i’ve already made one blog post about these guys, but they really do seem to go over and above! why i’m posting again is at the bottom

https://jlcpcb.com/

How I found them….

Me, I’m a early 40’s bloke with a wife, two young kids and a passion for gadgety stuff that’s not really that mainstream. I really don’t get as much time as i’d like for tinkering, but when I do, I tend to be lazy and take the easy route to making things overly complicated 😛

Back 3 years ago, I purchased a lovely reproduction case from Retro Radionics for an old Sinclair Spectrum 48k . It was limited edition, fully chrome. I just had to buy it…..

After receiving this amazing item (pictures coming, no idea where I’ve put it!) I promplty realised that I, infact had no Spectrum 48k PCB to place inside

Now, being the idiot critical thinker that I am, and looking at the price of second hand 48k PCB’s on ebay, and well, itching to ‘just do something’ I cooked up a plan. I’d make my own PCB. And, Here it is –

I was partly inspired by an article in MAGPI magazine – issue 67 where a Mr PJ evans had hooked up a pi to his Spectrum. Being terrible at software, I figured I could make the hardware at least a little better. (As a thanks for his article, I sent him a board and the components.)

I hadn’t made a PCB in decades and have said the story before, but a quick google for PCB DESIGN software bought up the regulars, KICAD, EAGLE. but one was hard to use, the other restricted size to too small (and was subsequently purchased by Autodesk and is now part of the excellent Fusion360) which is free to use and learn for personal use

A hit that came up on Google was EASYEDA, web based,

Apparently, it was easy to use, and when you’ve finished designing a PCB, you just hit ‘order’ and a Minty Fresh PCB arrives for cheaper than you can set yourself up with some Copper clad board and suitable etchant!

I fired up EASYEDA and almost immediatley was able to shove components down, into a schematic, quickly route the board and, had something workable. Two boards later, I discovered the excellent locally hosted ‘auto route’ ability

Two hours later, after over 20 years of not doing EDA, i’d gained the confidence and knocked up the below PCB. There were plenty of ‘footprints’ available in teh standard EDA libraries and it really was as simple as it sounds. Make a schematic – just join up pins to other pins, create PCB outline, place components and voila!

So, I did just that , AND…My First ever PCB arrived.

Complete with some positioning errors on my part. But, importantly, it fit inside the Spectrum case, worked and, looks absoloutley amazing! that’s ME, I DID THAT!. back in University i’d have never dreamed of being able to produce professional level PCB’s to this standard.

Now, where JLCPCB come in. Back then, their EASYEDA software made me grin like a cheshire cat and genuinely energised them creative juices. I’ve been designing quite a few PCB’s, ordering not so many (about 16 orders to date) and , due to the ease of EASYEDA and JLCPCB, i’ve been able to develop a couple of products, one which i’m selling, and the other – it’ll be out eventually.

Lots of people love breadboarding, and that still has a place in everyone’s toolbag, BUT, why leave it there? for just a few pounds extra, you can ‘finish’ your project PCB. even better, for a few pounds more again, JLCPCB can finish it for you by adding the SMT stuff too! and now with their new range of connectors and buttons, they really are a ‘one stop shop’. Design, hit a button, receive assembled stuff!. Amazing

What’s more amazing, their engineers attention to detail. I goofed up placing an order last night

BELOW FOLLOWS AN ACCOUNT OF ME, BEING DUMB, AND SOMEONE SMART FROM JLCPCB COMING TO MY RESCUE

I placed an order for some PCB’s – and within hours, I received an email asking very politley if this was intentional……

Nope, it wasn’t. I’d moved a component without re-doing the copper pour. This engineer’s dilligence saved me spending money on a duff board.

I checked , fixed this error and quickly knocked up (at 6:30am) a new set of gerbers.

a couple of hours later, I received another email….They’d found two different errors!

At the top, somehow I’d overlooked a track running straight through several pins and ground.

At the bottom, I’d used a ‘user contributed’ footprint for a DB9 connector. But, neglected to actually check it. The user did not put any soldermask layers on, so the edge connectors were covered!

I’ve now fixed that and learned a few critical lessons

1 – JLCPCB’s Engineers are awesome

2 – Design Rule Checks (DRC) – use them. Don’t ignore ‘clearance’ issues caused by badly designed footprints, don’t ignore unconnected NETS. Even if those issues are intentional, spend the extra time snubbing them out by adding ‘no connection’ to unused pins

The Green X – NOT CONNECTED

3 – When designing footprints, make large solderable areas into PADS to avoid DRC issues

I’ve submitted my new PCB , complete with ZERO DRC errors and all NETS correctly joined up

Look , Mom, No errors!

And, i’m confident that, in about two to 3 weeks , i’ll receive a handful of very well made PCB’s. Which thanks to Brexit will cost me quite a bit more, but, hey, that’s progress, right!

Author: Bleugh

Early Fourties, Wife, two kids in primary school. Both of us work full time...3 years now Back in Blighty after a decade away...It's a new country for everyone! Still finding time to tinker!

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