Using PCBgogo PCB fabrication is pretty painless. You save money at the cost of a few more steps and a bit of waiting for the postman.
I thought I would add a few more comments on my experiences using PCBgogo PCB fabrication service. There are a few things you should know.
First, and most important, is Gerber files. The Gerber format is the industry standard for describing all images needed to manufacture a PCB. While OSH Park skips this step and lets you upload your KiCAD file directly, most other factories including PCBgogo want some Gerber files.
The good news is that KiCAD will plot the Gerber files for you, as well as drill files for holes in the PCB. I suggest you save these in a sub-folder, separate from your PCB files. To order a PCB, you just need to compress these Gerber and drill image files into a ZIP file, and upload it to start your process.
PCBgogo includes a “verification step” where it checks the quality of your Gerber files before you actually make the order. I found this step very fast, as long as I kept in mind the time difference to China!
You should do your own check on Gerber files first. You can view these in KiCAD or other viewers. You can check that the traces and spaces look right, and that the plated through holes are in the right places. The picture above shows the Gerber files for a SMD wideband loop amplifier, including voltage regulator, low pass filter, Coilcraft output transformer and RJ45 connector.
Using PCBgogo PCB Money Saving Ideas
OSH Park charges per square inch for three boards. PCBgogo has a flat rate for five boards as long as they are smaller than four inches square. In addition, you can save on shipping charges by combining orders into one delivery.
I recently placed two orders for circuit boards. After each was approved, I paid for the first board and then circled back to combine the second order into the first. By grouping two orders, I virtually eliminated the shipping cost on the second PCB, i.e. reduced it from $8 to $1.
Using PCBgogo PCB web site is pretty straightforward. But you need to think about how to combine orders. And, to be honest, I have yet to figure out how to apply my “new user” coupon to save even more money. To date, I have saved 60% versus OSH Park on four orders.