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Sure Electronics' PCB prototyping service

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
A lot of folks here seem to make use of PCB prototyping services, and I know there are a few "firm favorites" everyone likes to use. I've used BatchPCB in the past, and while their service is high-quality, it's not really that cheap - especially once you start dealing with two or more copies of the same board - and I've yet to have an order with them be produced in even the "worst case" timespan. So I've been looking at other alternatives to them, and have stumbled across a few that look interesting, which I'm trying out as time, projects, and funding permit.

A lot of us are no doubt familiar with Sure Electronics (sure-electronics.net), who sell all kinds of DIY electronic stuff, on their website and through eBay. Well, they also happen to offer some pretty low-cost PCB prototyping services; the cheapest is $35 USD, shipping included. To be entirely honest, I have no idea what you theoretically get for that; their listing says something about "16 square inches or less, 5 pieces or less". I needed two small PCBs made which, at 3.75 square inches each, would cost ((8 * 2.50) + 10 + ~2) around 32 USD through BatchPCB. For three bucks more, Sure Electronics would provide me... four, maybe five? Eh, what the hell.

I paid my money, and sent 'em the gerbers. They acknowledged receipt, kept me updated of what was going on every step of the way, and four weeks later - the same time as it would take for a BatchPCB order - I got six PCBs in the mail. (Which doesn't resolve my confusion about what, exactly, is on offer, here; 6 * 3.75 = 22 square inches of board; even 5 would be 18.75 square inches, so I'm going to guess that you can get five boards, each up to 16 square inches... but I could be wrong. I assume the 6th board is just a fortuitous byproduct of efficient panelization, or something...)

Anyway, they're darned nice boards: physically on par with BatchPCB/Golden Phoenix, if not slightly better; my only complaint - if any - is that the silkscreening isn't as crisp and clear as it could be.

I've no other affiliation with Sure than as a (happy) customer, and one who'll be using their services again. If you're looking for a short-run PCB prototyping alternative to BatchPCB, and can work with Sure's requirements (12mil width and spacing, for example), they appear to be a perfectly competent, economically competitive option.

Incidentally, somewhere on their website, it mentions that they don't offer plated through holes - something I didn't see until after I'd paid, oops. There I was, (not) looking forward to having to solder up all sixteen vias on that dumb board, when, as it turns out they do, actually, do PTHs. Go figure.
post #2 of 6
They seem to only be on Ebay, and I couldn't find their PCB house service? The website you listed (sure-electronics.net) brings up an order tracking site for their Ebay customers.

EDIT: hmm interesting, now their site itself is coming up. You have to use sureelectronics.net (no hyphen).
post #3 of 6
Interesting indeed.. I will try them on my next project. thanks for the info.
post #4 of 6
Has anyone used this lately, and still satisfied with the results?
post #5 of 6
My projects always require multiple panels with special instructions so I use San Francisco Circuits:

San Francisco Circuits Inc - California manufacturer specializing in pcb design, assembly, prototypes, printed circuit boards

They offer a proto service for small quantities.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
I've used 'em a couple times, now, and have no real complaints. Like everybody else based in China, they got behind schedule during the Chinese New Year holidays, but I believe they're back on track now. They upped their prices slightly around the new year, the smallest sixteen-square-inches-times-five offering is now $40 USD shipped, rather than $35, but it still generally beats BatchPCB's pricing for comparable quantities.

I should get my latest set of boards from them sometime this week; five (or so) copies of a roughly ten square-inch board, for $40.

I can also report good things about makepcb.com, if anyone is looking for further recommendations. "They" are a Holland-based front-end (I think it's one guy, but anyway) for a fab house somewhere in China, and offer quite a few more options than BatchPCB or Sure, at pretty attractive prices. Their ordering system is kind of strange and fails to inspire confidence (you enter your info into their online quote calculator, choose shipping and payment options - in my case, PayPal - get the final price (in Euros), and upload your Gerber files; a day or two later they email you a PayPal invoice) but if you're willing to put up with their foibles, they offer a heck of a service for the hobbyist. (Want ten tiny boards on 2mm FR4, with 2oz copper, gold plating, and black soldermask? They'll do it, and for a *lot* less than anywhere else.) Like any other overseas service, you're looking at a three or four week turnaround, but it's like they say - you can have 'em fast or cheap - pick one.
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