I need to get some PCBs fabbed for Clove 3, both for the microcontroller/ demultiplexer/ power/ accelerometer/ transmitter mess on the glove itself, and the microcontroller/ receiver/ SD card on the computer dongle. For what it's worth, I'm puttering around in Eagle to create my schematics and board layouts, using what seem to be standard 8mil trace and 8mil trace separation Design Rules. I'm seeing quite a few options out there, both (fast and expensive) and (slow and cheap). It seems like everything except ExpressPCB, even BatchPCB, is eventually fabbed in China, so I'm better off going with something cheap like iTead studios and risking the month-long turnaround time. Any thoughts?
Dorkbot PDX is reasonably priced as well ($5 per square inch), and you're only left with three copies of the board (rather than the 10 that iTead want for example).
Fabricating your own PCBs is easy enough if you have access to the relevant equipment and is significantly cheaper, quicker and more rewarding than getting someone else to manufacture them for you.

Copper-clad boards and etchant (to remove the copper you don't want) are cheap, but the difficult part is transferring the design onto the board. The way I would recommend would be to use photoresist boards which are exposed in a UV exposure unit/lightbox then placed in a developer before etching. This produces good results easily but requires an expensive (>£100) UV exposure unit. A common alternative seems to be the "toner transfer" method which involves ironing your design onto a plain copper-clad board, peeling it off (or dissolving the paper in water) then etching though from what I've read this technique seems to be very fiddly to get just right (I have yet to try it).

The other issue is that the chemicals involved are rather unpleasant to use and dispose of. You may want to see if you can find somewhere you can do this work - one of your local hackerspaces may prove useful.
I'd never heard of hackerspaces, so I'm glad I looked at this topic. I'll have to check one of these places out. Thanks Benryves!
Benryves, back in the day I did indeed experiment with chemically etching circuit boards (in my parents' living room, much to their dismay and one indelible stain on a rug, I should add. Very Happy For the sake of space, chemicals, simplicity, and sanity, I'm leaning towards Tari's link; it's both cheaper and faster than the other options I've seen. It's more per square inch, but for three boards instead of one (so it's really only $1.67 per square inch of board with zero setup). I'm probably gonna go with that. Smile
adept wrote:
Here is a picture of my PCB for my robot:

Uploaded with ImageShack.us
This thread's recommendations could use an update.

The Dorkbot group order is now OSH Park: slightly less ad-hoc with the same pricing. There's also a handy round-up of various PCB fabs over on Adafruit, and the comments regarding that on Hackaday list a few more options.
To keep this thread up-to-date: while OSH Park is still pretty much the favorite option, a second choice for quick-and-dirty PCB runs is Dirty PCBs.
I've used Circuit Graphics for a few (single) boards. About 7 day turnaround, nothing special on pricing, good quality. The nice advantage of using them is local pickup in Salt Lake so I don't have to wait for shipping.
For UK users, I hear very good things about Ragworm. Their customer service is meant to be very good.
*somewhat necrobump* This thread is old enough that it needs a little bit of updating. My go-to board houses these days are OSHPark (previously DorkBot) and DirtyPCBs. I've only tried DirtyPCBs once, but I've heard almost universally good things about them from others. Both OSHPark and DirtyPCBs aggregate jobs from many people, panelize them, get them fabbed, then break them up and ship them to you. OSHPark gives you exactly 3 copies of your board for the cheapest option, and DirtyPCBs gives you roughly 10 copies (imagine a Gaussian distribution with μ=10 and σ=??).
DFrobot have pricing competitive with Dirty PCBs, and appear to use a US-based fab (read: faster shipping, better guarantees on turnaround).
Tari wrote:
DFrobot have pricing competitive with Dirty PCBs, and appear to use a US-based fab
Huh, I wonder how they're able to get that kind of pricing in the US. I'm impressed. Have you seen any reviews of their quality yet?
(read: faster shipping, better guarantees on turnaround).
Not to mention supporting US manufacturing. Hooray!
I'll have to try some of those out. I've had a number of good builds from ExpressPCB. They can do copper-clad boards with or without a soldermask and silkscreening. The main limiting factor used to be that error checking had to be done visually, node by node. ExpressPCB seems to have noted the feedback on this and recently included a new error-checking tool. The only major hitch left is the incompatibility with Eagle .brd or gerber files. But once your design is ready, you basically mouse over to Layout -> Order, enter your information, and the board shows up in about 5 business days.
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