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'[EE] - 50 mil copper squares on PCB fabricated boa'
2007\02\10@105033 by Carl Denk

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I sent Gerbers for a board roughly 2.5" x 2.5" to PCBFABEXPRESS to get 5
boards fabbed. This was my 2nd order with them, the first order came
back perfect, except I had some holes that were too small. Reordered
with the fixes, when that order came back, there were apprroximately 50
on the top copper, and 7 on the bottom copper of 50 mil squares. All are
covered with  green mask. Non of the squares affect the electrical
characteristics of the board, but are very unsightly in particular under
the board label info. Checking the  copper  Gerbers, they are clean of
these squares. What is the cause of these?? Is this common, and should
it be tolerated?

In 3 days my efforts to contact PCBFABEXPRESS including E-Mail from
their web site and several phone messages to the automated answering
have gone unanswered. I would not recommend anyone go their direction at
this point. From this list's archives, I have since learned they do no
work themself, but broker everything. If I would have known that ahead,
I would not have gone their way. I like talking to the horse's mouth
end, and not other.

2007\02\10@112838 by Nigel Duckworth

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I once ordered PCBs with intentional copper shapes to aid component
orientation and the PCB manufacturer contacted me thinking there was an
error in my Gerber files, I think you've had poor service. If time
allows why not return them recorded delivery and ask for replacements?

Regards,

Nigel    



Carl Denk wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\02\10@114824 by Carl Denk

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Thanks for replying.

Some time is available, but if I can't contact them, why bother, I'd be
out the freight and bother of shipping. It's only $78 (if much less I
would just forget and move on), I could protest to the credit card and
eventually get my money back, but that drags out more time than I can
tolerate, and if they say some time from now they will replace the
boards, and I have moved on and ordered somewhere else or used these
boards, then where am ?
And then, I could use the boards, populate them ($125 in pieces and my
time soldering) and use them, but I'm fussy and like things to look nice
too, even though the board in use is hidden in a box, and the spare
boards wrapped an labeled for someone in future to just swap out the board.

I'll wait a few days and then decide.

Nigel Duckworth wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\02\10@124628 by Peter P.

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Carl Denk <cdenk <at> alltel.net> writes:

Afaik the little squares are generated by the board house to help balance the
copper percentage on the two sides of the board. This prevents a panelized
(large) board from sagging and warping during heat processing (like wave
soldering). It also reduces the etchant consumption. You can often see such
squares or dots (round) on mass produced relatively large boards, especially
where there are large areas of free board (no traces) or when the trace density
between top and bottom varies a lot. This does not mean that this is what you
have, but it figures that way. Probaby the maker panelized your boards with a
large job and he used this feature. If the people you are talking with are
brokers then they likely don't know about this or consider it normal. The amount
of service one gets is somewhat proportional to how much one is worth to them.
I.e. 30 minutes phone support from people who take two $50 orders from you is on
the luxury side imho (I am not assuming that you gave them a small job, it's
just a point that needs to be made imho - this reminds of gripe sites where
about (only) 200 people complain about bad service from an ISP that has 5-6
million clients who pay about $20/mo each).

Peter P.


2007\02\10@130853 by Carl Denk

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This sounds reasonable and appears to be the case. On one side (face)
there are traces concentrated toward the right, and toward the left are
a mess of the squares, mostly arranged in an array. It appears  that the
original order and the later order came out of different shops,the green
and opacity are different shades.

Is there a way to specify this copper balancing not be done?

I had been trying to keep all the traces on the bottom of the board,
sounds like I should try to balance the top and bottom copper? From a
hand soldering view, and knowing that (shouldn't happen but once in a
great while does) a trace may become loose, and it's easier to fix if
the trace is on the bottom.

Really appreciate this explanation, I try very hard to be equitable with
everyone, but I can't excuse PCBFABEXPRESS from not replying promptly.
Likely will go ahead and use the boards. :)

Peter P. wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\02\10@174307 by James Nick Sears

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On 2/10/07, Carl Denk <spam_OUTcdenkTakeThisOuTspamalltel.net> wrote:

> Is there a way to specify this copper balancing not be done?

I'm not sure, but I would recommend using a different fab house in the
future as a start.  I've made one order from PCBFABEXP before with no
such problems (although they did put their name on the board, which
I'm not so fond of), and this will probably ensure that I don't make
another.

I've had great luck with GoldPhoenixPCB's panel service
(http://goldphoenixpcb.biz/special_price.php).  The price is right
($120/155sq.in with multiple designs, $90 for multiple copies of a
single design), the service is good, and they don't mess with your
files.  You have to do your own panelization, but if you only have
freeware EAGLE or some other such limited capacity board software,
there is a nice python app called gerbmerge that does the trick
relatively simply.

Hope this helps.

-n.

2007\02\10@192425 by William Chops Westfield

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On Feb 10, 2007, at 2:43 PM, James Nick Sears wrote:

> I've had great luck with GoldPhoenixPCB's panel service
> (http://goldphoenixpcb.biz/special_price.php).  The price is right
> ($120/155sq.in with multiple designs, $90 for multiple copies of a
> single design), the service is good, and they don't mess with your
> files.  You have to do your own panelization,

Do they cut the individual boards apart?

BillW

2007\02\10@193302 by James Nick Sears

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Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  It depends on some combination of your
layout and the mood of the people at the factory, I think.  Usually
they are cut, and almost always they are scored if they aren't cut.
Once or twice I received them neither scored nor cut, but in that
case, they cut very easily on a bandsaw if you have access to one.

-n.


On 2/10/07, William Chops Westfield <.....westfwKILLspamspam@spam@mac.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2007\02\11@090532 by Carl Denk

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2 items:
1: For cutting boards I have been very successful with a Bosch hand held
jig saw. Use Duct tape each side of cut to protect board from scratching.

2: For the board fabber, did you see below the prices: "No Electrical
Testing for 1-2 layers, maximum 15% fail rate, Free Testing for 4
layers, maximum fail rate 2%". That seems like a high rate that's being
guaranteed. The experience may be better, but that's a flag to me.

James Nick Sears wrote:
{Quote hidden}

>> --

2007\02\11@121853 by Peter P.

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Carl Denk <cdenk <at> alltel.net> writes:

>
> This sounds reasonable and appears to be the case. On one side (face)
> there are traces concentrated toward the right, and toward the left are
> a mess of the squares, mostly arranged in an array. It appears  that the
> original order and the later order came out of different shops,the green
> and opacity are different shades.

The squares thing may be applied only to certain materials. I don't know which.
Google does not seem to have a term for this. Here is a nice glossary of terms
wrt. PCB:

 www.ami.ac.uk/courses/topics/0100_gls/pdf/edrmt005_v2.pdf

> Is there a way to specify this copper balancing not be done?

Don't know. You have to talk to them first ;-) Afaik the patterns are used for
wave soldering and for IR ovens for large areas, only for SMD and mixed boards.
It depends on the process.

> I had been trying to keep all the traces on the bottom of the board,
> sounds like I should try to balance the top and bottom copper? From a
> hand soldering view, and knowing that (shouldn't happen but once in a
> great while does) a trace may become loose, and it's easier to fix if
> the trace is on the bottom.

It is not your concern, it is theirs. You only need to deal with this if you
have to work with production to avoid warping boards from 'tossing' SMD parts or
causing large bulky components (like large SMD chips) to be become unseated. The
squares were certainly not put there to 'help' your design, and they almost
surely help with chemical consumption (etchant and manuf. speed) and someone
else's more stringent design (if it was panelized with that).

> Really appreciate this explanation, I try very hard to be equitable with
> everyone, but I can't excuse PCBFABEXPRESS from not replying promptly.
> Likely will go ahead and use the boards. :)

You have no reason not to use them. Only some boards with HV clearance or RF or
low capacitance requirements are affected by this.

Peter P.


2007\02\11@124905 by Phillip Vogel

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The term is THEIVING. It's a common practice to even out the current flow
during plating.

You can talk to the production people at your board shop and they may say
that they can do without it, but they may charge extra because they have to
keep a closer watch on the process.


> {Original Message removed}

2007\02\11@125216 by Peter P.

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Ok, I found a reference here:

 http://www.answers.com/topic/pcb-layout-guidelines

Search for 'diamonds' to find the paragraph. Also here for nightmares (scroll
down to pt. 14):

 http://www.compliance-club.com/currentissue/article.asp?artid=338

I usually make small one or two sided boards but I am aware of 'issues' even
with this ...

Peter P.

2007\02\11@131100 by James Nick Sears

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On Feb 11, 2007, at 9:05 AM, Carl Denk wrote:
> 2: For the board fabber, did you see below the prices: "No Electrical
> Testing for 1-2 layers, maximum 15% fail rate, Free Testing for 4
> layers, maximum fail rate 2%". That seems like a high rate that's  
> being
> guaranteed. The experience may be better, but that's a flag to me.
>


I agree that it sounds pretty bad, but in my experience I've never  
had a defective board from them.  In fact, the first time I ordered  
from them, I received two copies of my entire panel and the only  
reason I could ascertain was that the first one had some minor  
(cosmetic only) defects in the soldermask and apparently they re-ran  
the panel and sent me both.

Most of the time when I panelize boards for a project to order, I end  
up ordering more than 15% extra anyway, just to fill the panel.  But  
your concern does seem reasonable.

-n.


2007\02\11@134233 by Carl Denk

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Thanks again for all the input. Surfing the glossary was enlightening,
and also the links provided. In some respects it appears my boards were
done in a better way than I needed. The board only has a 8 mhz 18F1320
PIC with 2 pressure sensors, a LM335 for temperature, RS-232 through
either MAX232 or fiber optic transmitter/receiver. Being new to this
area, the squares looked out of place, but at the same time I thought
there might be a good reason, which has been pointed out. I'll use the
boards. Thanks again. :)

Peter P. wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\02\11@154712 by Bob Axtell

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Carl Denk wrote:
> I sent Gerbers for a board roughly 2.5" x 2.5" to PCBFABEXPRESS to get 5
> boards fabbed. This was my 2nd order with them, the first order came
> back perfect, except I had some holes that were too small. Reordered
> with the fixes, when that order came back, there were apprroximately 50
> on the top copper, and 7 on the bottom copper of 50 mil squares. All are
> covered with  green mask. Non of the squares affect the electrical
> characteristics of the board, but are very unsightly in particular under
> the board label info. Checking the  copper  Gerbers, they are clean of
> these squares. What is the cause of these?? Is this common, and should
> it be tolerated?
>
> In 3 days my efforts to contact PCBFABEXPRESS including E-Mail from
> their web site and several phone messages to the automated answering
> have gone unanswered. I would not recommend anyone go their direction at
> this point. From this list's archives, I have since learned they do no
> work themself, but broker everything. If I would have known that ahead,
> I would not have gone their way. I like talking to the horse's mouth
> end, and not other.
>  
I've dealt with them for some time now, though not continuously.

They don't have a PCB shop at their office. The only thing they have is
a computer and some PCB
software. Rather, they locate bigger shops that have spare capacity and
purchase processing of
panels as needed. Its an interesting idea, but it causes some strange
results.

For example, if you do a job once then do the same job later, the
results will NOT be identical.
So they are not useful for production. But for prototypes, it is fine
inexpensive source.

Their customer service is almost non-existent (I think you found that out).

--Bob

2007\02\12@101230 by alan smith

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Bob Axtell <.....engineerKILLspamspam.....neomailbox.com> wrote:  Carl Denk wrote:
> I sent Gerbers for a board roughly 2.5" x 2.5" to PCBFABEXPRESS to get 5
> boards fabbed. This was my 2nd order with them, the first order came
> back perfect, except I had some holes that were too small. Reordered
> with the fixes, when that order came back, there were apprroximately 50
> on the top copper, and 7 on the bottom copper of 50 mil squares. All are
> covered with green mask. Non of the squares affect the electrical
> characteristics of the board, but are very unsightly in particular under
> the board label info. Checking the copper Gerbers, they are clean of
> these squares. What is the cause of these?? Is this common, and should
> it be tolerated?
>
> In 3 days my efforts to contact PCBFABEXPRESS including E-Mail from
> their web site and several phone messages to the automated answering
> have gone unanswered. I would not recommend anyone go their direction at
> this point. From this list's archives, I have since learned they do no
> work themself, but broker everything. If I would have known that ahead,
> I would not have gone their way. I like talking to the horse's mouth
> end, and not other.
>
I've dealt with them for some time now, though not continuously.

They don't have a PCB shop at their office. The only thing they have is
a computer and some PCB
software. Rather, they locate bigger shops that have spare capacity and
purchase processing of
panels as needed. Its an interesting idea, but it causes some strange
results.

For example, if you do a job once then do the same job later, the
results will NOT be identical.
So they are not useful for production. But for prototypes, it is fine
inexpensive source.

Their customer service is almost non-existent (I think you found that out).

--Bob

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