Designing my first ever PCBs with JLCPCB and EasyEDA

Having recently finished designing my first ever PCB project, an ATMEGA-based WS2811 RGB LED strip controller, I began researching potential PCB production facilities, including Germany-based Aisler and US-based Oshpark.

However, after having seen several prominent electronics YouTubers (Great Scott, ElectroNoobs, learnelectronics, Julian Ilett) promoting a PCB service called JLCPCB.com, I decided to go with the China-based fabricator. With 10 boards being offered for just $2, I had little to lose but I didn’t have my hopes up too much for whatever might arrive.

Well, just 6 days after submitting my design, my boards have arrived! I was expecting to have to wait weeks, a month or more even, but no, just 6 days to produce and verify my board and send them to the UK from Shenzen!

My first PCBs from JLCPCB!

It’s got to be said, the boards are fantastic! So much better than what I expected from such a cheap service. All the component holes are proper plated through-holes, the board itself is thick, sturdy and feels like a proper fiberglass circuit board, not at all like the low-quality single-sided boards you often get in low-end electronics. By the way, JLCPCB can do 2 layer boards, but I managed to get all my traces on just the one side. I used a ground flood-fill on both the top and bottom sides with a margin around the edge, looks really nice and professional if I dare say so myself. I have seen many hobbyists’ PCBs with no ground fill and it does stand out as looking amateurish and unfinished, so this was something I was keen to do with mine.

I was a little worried about how the silkscreen would turn out, but pleasantly surprised to see all my component designators and footprints nice and sharp, the text legible even at such a small size. For a few extra dollars, I chose the blue solder mask, in my opinion it just looks so much nicer than the plain old green.

Designing my PCB in EasyEDA editor

By the way, I designed the schematic and PCB using the free-to-use EasyEDA.com web-based app which is part of the JLCPCB/LCSC family. The web app is really easy to use and feels like a native IDE even though it’s basically just a web page in the browser. No software to download and install and you have access to your projects from basically anywhere. Perhaps I should write a little tutorial some time for my website, that’d be nice!

This evening I’ve been busy soldering together one of the boards, my soldering is still pretty terrible, I hate when the flux ruins the board, it looks so messy, I think I need to invest in a better soldering iron soon. With a bit of luck, my LED strip controller will work fine once I’ve fitted the 2 regulators and ATMEGA chip.

Anyway, after this I’m definitely motivated to start a new, more interesting project, perhaps my long-planned 4x4x4 LED cube, I don’t know, but I am certain I’ll be using JLCPCB again in the near future, good job guys!