Sunday, 24 November 2013

Seeedstudio - cheap PCBs for the hobbyist

This article describes my experience with a low-budget China based PCB service. 

Although making PCBs with homebrew methods is perfectly feasible, it still remains a painful task nobody likes. For me personally the manual drilling is the last step after which the PCB is ruined. This is why I prefer SMD.
The alternative to stains and stench in your bathroom is to use a professional PCB service. Unfortunately, for a couple of prototype PCBs typically needed the starting price is usually about 40 EUR - too much for hobby projects bringing no financial reward. For a couple of years I've been looking for a cheap PCB service. Many companies were offering good prices, but just in theory. After adding the costs for shipping, money transfer and possible customs the 40 EUR constant remained. Here I exclude all services where you have to contact the people per mail to find out the price.

Recently I came across Seeedstudio ( from China offering extremely low prices. Having a little project in the queue I immediately decided try them out. I adapted my design slightly to fit into the 50 x 50 mm window. If you stay below that size you get 10 double-sided PCBs for 10 USD. The shipping price was calculated on the website to 8 USD giving 18 USD in total, far below the customs limit of about 30 USD in Germany.
I guess this price comes close to the do-it-yourself price when taking into acount FR4 material, chemistry and all the broken drills. 

Here are the detailed steps of the order:

Adapted my design to 50 x 50 mm for the lowest price. 

Created Gerber files using the Eagle script downloadable from the website. BTW, this was the first time I played with Gerber. It turned out to be very simple. I used the free tool gerbv ( to view and check the Gerbers and the Excellon file under Linux. Because I had just a single layer, I omitted the top layer Gerber files in the uploaded zip archive completely. No complains from the service.

2013-10-25 Placed the order uploading the Gerbers. Payment via PayPal, 18 USD.

2013-10-30 Confirmation of shipping

2013-11-23 Received the PCBs! There were even 12 instead 10. The build quality is decent and totally OK for my needs. The drills are centered and the traces look clean. It's of course hard to fail with a design with 24 mil routing. Have a look at the high resolution picture below.


Seeedstudio seems to be a serious business. If you are OK with one month processing time you can enjoy unbeatable prices. The website is user-friendly showing clearly the final price you have to pay. The scripts to generate the Gerbers are provided.
No, I don't have any shares in the company;)

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