Custom design PCBs and how to get them manufactured

So, I have received the PCBs which were designed for the DIY portable signal generator. This post will be more about the PCBs and its manufacturing tutorial than a regular update on the project. So, it might be useful for those who wants to get their own PCBs manufactured, but don’t know how to do that.

Links to project’s all posts

  1. VCA822 Gain Amplifier Circuit
  2. LM7171 Offset Circuit
  3. Gain and Offset Control Filter Circuit
  4. Dual 5V Power Supply
  5. Dual 12V TPS65131 Power Supply
  6. Battery Charging Circuit with BQ24295
  7. Basic WEB Interface
  8. IPS Capacitive LCD on an ESP32
  9. IPS LCD, ESP32 with eSPI library and Touch screen
  10. Final PCB Design for the DIY Waveform Generator
  11. Custom Design PCBs and How To Get Them Manufactured (this post)
  12. Soldering the PCB
  13. AD9833 Library and Further Output Noise Reduction
  14. Arduino BQ24295 Battery Charger Library
  15. LCD GUI with LVGL on ESP-32
  16. 3D Printed Enclosure
  17. Finished DIY generator

The PCBs made by PCBWay

I have ordered the PCBs from The pricing starts from 5 USD for 5-10 boards. The manufacturing times are also very fast – it is possible to get the boards manufactured in 24 hours (even for 5 USD if default settings in online quoting page are used). So, how fast you will get the boards is really more dependent on what type of shipping you will choose. They have several options here. From China Post (the slowest, but the cheapest option) to DHL, FedEx or others. Shipping time will also depend on where the parcel is shipped to.

PCBWay has low minimum order quantity (as low as 5 pcs) – that is a great thing for prototypes such as my DIY Signal Generator when you are really going to build just several devices… Also, when I registered on their site, I got a 5 USD coupon which could be used on your order. Moreover, they have more services than a PCB manufacturing – they also make flexible PCBs, SMD stencils and assembles PCBs.

The boards

The boards came bubble wrapped and packaged in a sturdy cardboard box as it can be seen below.

DIY Generator PCBs made by PCBWay packaged in a box
DIY Generator PCBs made by PCBWay

I have chosen to make them in black, but this option takes longer to manufacture (2-4 days instead of 24 hours).

These are good quality boards – PCB’s dimensions are as designed, solder mask is clean and silkscreen is durable. Even the text which I have made to be quite small (text height – 0.7 mm) came out perfectly readable.

DIY Generator PCBs Top and Bottom

One thing that I was not sure about, was the USB Type-C connector’s footprint. It has narrow slits in a PCB to accommodate little pins which are used for holding down the connector in place. But as you can see it in the picture – to my relief, the connector fits perfectly.

Perfect USB Type C connector fit in a PCB

So, as I have received the boards next step will be to assemble one and test it out. About that I will write in next post(s) as I am still waiting for some of the components.

How to professionally manufacture your PCBs

This part is written for those people, who wants to get their PCBs made, but don’t know how or hesitates because it seems like a difficult task.

In reality, everything is quite simple.

Note, that I won’t write here how to use a PCB design tool (like KiCAD) to design a board from scratch. I will cover only the last design part – generating needed files for manufacturing and ordering them on the site.

Before generating Gerber files needed for manufacturing, I suggest looking to your board design in a 3D viewer (usually design tool has it built in). In this view you will see how the board, and most importantly, how the silkscreen will look in real life. You should check if all part references are in place and do not cover each other or are placed outside the PCB borders. If it looks all right then you can proceed to the next step.

Needed files

Next, you need to generate Gerber files. These files are Silkscreen, Copper, Board Border and Solder Mask layers used in board fabrication process. I will show how it is done in KiCad, but it should be similar process in other tools:

Open KiCADs PCB Layout editor and select File -> Plot. Here are shown settings that I have used to generate the Gerber files:

KiCad Gerber files generation

F.Cu, B.Cu, F.SilkS, B.SilkS, F.Mask, B.Mask and Edge.Cuts layers were selected. After selecting the layers you need to press Plot button and those files will be generated.

The next step is to generate Drill file which is used for drilling holes in the PCB.

In the same screen where you have generated Gerber files, click button Generate Drill Files and select settings as shown below:

KiCad Drill file generation

Finally, click Generate Drill File.

After that you should have 8 files: 7 are Gerber files and 1 Drill file. You will need to archive those files into a .zip file.

Register on the site and order PCBs

When you have needed files for manufacturing, you will need to make an account on a manufacturers site. I will briefly show how it is done on PCBWay’s site where I have got my boards from. More detailed information you can find at their web-page here.

The account can be created by simply clicking the Sign In / Join button.

After successful registration you will need to make a quick quote by uploading .zip archive to Quick Order page.

Then select setting needed for you. Here is the example what I have chosen:

PCBWay selecting PCB properties

As you can see, I have left everything in default except for the PCB thickness and solder mask color. Here you can play around with the settings and instantly see the pricing of the boards. Usually default settings are good for most cases, unless you have some tight tracing tolerances or need different board material, etc.

On the same page you can also select preferred shipping method and your country to get an estimate how much the shipping will cost for you.

After that click Add To Cart button.

Now PCBs need to be approved by the manufacturer. Usually it will take up to 10 minutes to get the boards approved.

After approval you can pay with Paypal, Credit Card or other payment method. It is also possible to combine the order to be shipped in the same packaging.

Finally, after successful payment – wait for the boards to be manufactured and sent to you.

So, as you can see the process is really straight forward and I hope it will help to get started with your own PCBs.

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