An In-Depth Comparison Of Hobby PCB Manufacturers

[Icamtuf] has been working on a prototyping run of a project, which involves getting PCBs made by several low volume PCB manufacturing companies. After receiving the boards, he analyzed the results and produced an interesting analysis.

The project he is working on is Sir-Box-A-Lot, a Sokoban gaming console clone that we’ve covered before. It uses an AVR128DA28 microcontroller to emulate the original box-pushing game¬†and drive the OLED display. He ordered PCBs from OSHPark, DigiKey Red, JLCPCB, PCBWay and Aisler.

OSHPark boards are gorgeous, but you pay for it.

There were pros and cons for each of the services: OSHPark produced the nicest-looking boards, but at the highest cost. DigiKey Red had a flawless solder mask, but a rather sloppy-looking silkscreen and shipped the boards covered in adhesive gunk. JLCPCB was fast, shipping the boards in less than 7 days, but the smaller details of the silkscreen were blurry and the solder mask was thinner than the others. The solder mask from PCBWay was very slightly misaligned but was thicker than most, and they were the only ones who queried a badly shaped hole to see what [Icamtuf] wanted to do: the others just made assumptions and made the boards without checking.

To be fair, this analysis is based on a single PCB design ordered once and it is possible that some companies were having a bad day. These were also delivered to the US, so your delivery times may vary. So, there are no clear winners and I wouldn’t make a choice based on this alone. But the analysis is well worth a read if you want to know what to look out for on your own PCBs.

Pushing Crates In 8-bit Color

Moore’s law isn’t strictly holding anymore, but it is still true that most computing systems are at least trending towards lower cost over time, if not also slightly smaller size. This means wider access to less expensive hardware, even if that hardware is still an 8-bit microcontroller. While some move on to more powerful platforms as a result of this trend, there are others still fighting to push these platforms to the edge. [lcamtuf] has been working to this end, stretching a small AVR microcontroller to not only play a classic video game, but to display it on a color display. Continue reading “Pushing Crates In 8-bit Color”