How to Order Printed Circuit Boards

This is a guide on how to order PCBs and what to keep in mind when doing so. I am giving a short overview what Data the Manufacturer requires to build your Printed Circuit Boards and what manufacturing options you should choose for getting the best results.

Required Data

For ordering PCBs from a manufacturing house you have to provide the manufacturing data for the PCBs. These files are called Gerber files and include all the information a manufacturer needs to produce your boards.

Gerber files come in the Gerber file format which is an open ASCII Vector file format that describes the printed circuit board images like copper layers, solder mask, silk screen and drill data. Each layer has its own Gerber file that can be input into the standard board fabrication equipment like photoplotters.

I provide the gerber files for all my projects. You can download them on my GitLab site and send it to the manufacturing house.

Below you can see some layers of the gerber files of the Tetra VCA displayed with a gerberviewer program (in this case KiCad’s ‘gerbview’).

Tetra VCA Gerber view of top copper layer, top silkscreen, top soldermask and the edge cuts layer.

Manufacturing Options

After uploading the gerber files to the website of your manufacturer you have to set manufacturing options. These depend on the capabilities of your manufacturer. Below I have listed the standard settings I normally use for my synth projects. If you stick to these options when you order my PCB designs the results should look like the pictures of the modules on this website.

Number of LayersProject dependent. Please check the project documentation for this.
Material FR-4
PCB Thickness1.6 mm
PCB/Solder Mask ColorBlack
Silkscreen colorWhite
Surface finishHASL lead free !!!

PCB Manufacturer recommendation

There are a lot of PCB manufacturers available all over the wold but the cheapest ones are most likely located in China. I have only tried two manufacturers so far. These are PCBway and JLCPCB. Both are Chinese manufacturers and I was always very happy with the results of my orders.

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