After seeing the post about DirtyPCBs last month on Hacker News, I decided to give them a try and ended up ordering some prototypes of a basic Arduino matrix shield that I had been working on in KiCAD. When I placed my order on April 10th, 10 5cmx5cm boards cost me $12. Looking at the site now, it seems that prices have risen by $2, however, there are now large quantities and stencils also available.
Ordering was simple, and I used the same Gerber export settings that I had used with SeeedStudio in the past, along with this Perl script to merge the non-plated drill hole file that I needed for panelization slots with the main drill file (as DirtyPCBs would only accept a single drill file, and KiCAD outputted two separate files). I also renamed the board files to match EAGLE’s export names (which is what they required, as listed on their about page). Since two of my boards could fit onto one 5cmx5cm board, I simply used a single, long, non-plated slot so that I could place two boards onto one, and break them apart easily once manufactured. The ability to choose a different colour solder mask instead of the standard green for no extra charge was a nice feature, as I could match the colour of the shields to the colour of the Arduino itself.
I received the boards a little under a month later, on May 6th. As for the quality of the boards, I was very impressed. For the price and from what I expected based on what was described on the site, I wasn’t expecting much. However, almost everything turned out perfect. There were a few minor imperfections on the silkscreen, however, nothing that was really noticeable unless you were looking closely. I actually received 12 boards instead of 10, and the e-tested boards were marked on the side in black marker. One of the boards had a damaged solder mask, but there were extras, so no complaints there. A small order number was placed on the corner of the silkscreen by DirtyPCBs.
Here’s what I received:
Overall, I’m very pleased with what I received, and if you don’t mind the 30 day wait, would recommend DirtyPCBs to anyone looking for cheap prototype boards.