Friday Hack Chat: Perfect Purple PCBs

Every Friday, we gather ’round the hot air gun over on, invite some cool people over, and get them to talk about what they do. This is the Hack Chat. It’s become a tradition, and already we’ve had a ton of awesome people walk through our doors.

This Friday, we’re going to sit down with the purveyors of perfect purple PCBs. Over the last decade or so, a lot has changed in the space of small-run PCB production. Ten years ago, PCBs were expensive, and it wouldn’t be abnormal to spend hundreds of dollars on a small run of tiny boards. Now, The DEF CON 24 badge, in a panel are cheaper than ever, giving industrious hardware creators access to professional quality manufacturing at a fraction of the price seen just a few years ago.

For the last few years, OSH Park has been a mainstay of low-volume PCB fabrication. Their website is as simple as it gets: Upload some Gerbers, an Eagle board file, or a KiCad PCB, press a few buttons, and in a week or so you’ll have a perfect purple PCB in your mailbox.

This week, we’re inviting [Drew Fustini] and [Dan Sheadel] to talk about what OSH Park does, how they became the first place that comes to mind when you need a PCB. They’ll explain why the boards are purple, environmental regulations for PCB manufacturing in the US, shared projects and tips and tricks for creating the perfect board.

What would you like to see from a PCB supplier? Would you like to see OSH Park expand further into their burgeoning Pog business? How about a sticker club? Who would win in a fight, a blue robot dog or a purple robot shark? All these questions and more will be answered; if you have a question for the OSH Park team, drop it in this spreadsheet.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This hack chat will take place at noon Pacific time on Friday, June 23rd. Confused about where and when ‘noon’ is? Here’s a time and date converter!

Log into, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about

26 thoughts on “Friday Hack Chat: Perfect Purple PCBs

  1. I have about a 50% success rate with OSH Park…

    The renders look perfect, but the boards I get back are are missing silk screen and/or copper features*. Or what looks like something dripped (random blob shape) onto the board during the etching stage, leaving a copper void in the middle of a DPAK pad, etc…

    *I think the panelize script deletes features from the boards, if the Gerber file starts the draw outside the board edge (I have reported this to OSH Park tech support).

    For example, if you have potentiometer foot print with a silk screen bounding circle, and you place it over the edge of the board. Depending on how the Gerber file starts the draw of the circle (inside the board outline, or outside), the whole circle will be missing:

    I will say that OSH Park will at least give you a partial credit or remake the board, if they do have a defect… Although, every time I reorder the boards in the above video, they are missing that potentiometer silkscreen circle. ;)

    1. I had a large blob of copper that covered four holes randomly appear in one of my boards, shorting five nets. Surprisingly I had two smaller blobs too. Unfortunately with me the mystery features I didn’t ask for were on the copper layers, and it took me a couple of days to debug. Everything else about oshpark including their customer service is outstanding.

        1. Hi Drew, yes the remade board had a similar problem, i didn’t have time to track it down but the third one was fine, i wasn’t charged. It was odd because i’m a couple of mils above the minimum spec.

  2. “and in a week or so you’ll have a perfect purple PCB in your mailbox” Oh I wish that were true. Most orders take over a month to arrive here in Canada. Such is life.

    1. Sorry to hear that. Our standard mail shipping to Canada now averages 8.7 days to delivery to Canada, though 90% percentile is 20 days, so there can definitely be delays. 20% of orders arrive in under 6 days. We’re working on providing a (relatively) inexpensive FedEx option. Thanks, Drew Fustini

  3. I’ve used OSH Park a couple of times. Can’t say they are all that fast, but the boards were perfect. If it’s something I can wait a couple of weeks for I’ll go to them every single time.

  4. I’ve never seen a fab bug from them.

    Why are you putting silkscreen outside the edge of the board? Put the component within the board, or change the footprint appropriately.

    1. Why not? I don’t want to make a new footprint for every orientiation or place I place a component. In case of the potmeter it is convieniant to know where the casing is (IMO that is why the layer is called tplace and bplace layer and why it is exported to silkscreen)

  5. Used OSH Park lots, sometimes little boards maybe 15mmx15mm, others bigger and medium run quantity, occasionally there have been problems [which they’ve happily sorted out], ALWAYS found them great to deal with and would recommend them, boards arrive swiftly in the UK & price is great too – nothing to complain about here.

  6. Not sure what all the hype about OSH park really is, they don’t seem to be cheaper than most borad fabs, they take just as long to deliver, and they only give you 3 boards instead of the 5-10 most other fabs give you. Is having a purple PCB that much better?

    1. What you’re paying for with OSH Park is quality. Edges are milled smooth, ENIG finish by default, good layer-layer registration, and DRC with instant feedback. It may be too pricey for production, but when I’m making a prototype or one-off I don’t want to wait another 2-3 weeks because the board house screws up solder mask alignment or misinterpreted my drill file.

    1. Meh. Most people here want a quick prototyping option for a handful of boards, delivered in a few days. Oshpark gets me a quick prototyping board in 2 weeks or so, typically for < $25. That's not your company's typical service. Other cheap places' (China) boards take over 2 months to receive here in Canada, so oshpark is the best option if your time is worth anything, and their quality is better than China's popular shops too. Their ENIG finish is very good too. I'm very happy with the boards I got back so far.

      As for your company, I've dealt with it in François Bouchard's time. You also were there when we met him though — and I'll admit you've certainly got the field experience and knowledge. You make decent boards overall but when some boards had problems (and were produced elsewhere without issues for a couple years…) François managed to blame it on us… and somehow that seemed too typical of him. Hopefully that's changed now.Your prices are alright too but nothing outstanding. Sure, you're better than Labo Circuits overall (before and after the switch from Mr Josien to Mr Labelle), but Crest and ITL are still better options IMO. Sorry!

  7. Hi

    I’ve had a few RF boards made by OSH Park with SMA connectors ceramic filters and amps and they were excellent. The substrate they use gives good results up to 6 GHz which is as far as I can measure. I have used the boards to make uWave couplers and filters with excellent results. And I like the color!!

    Best regards


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