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!
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.
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!