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Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards (dirtypcbs.com)
132 points by unwind on Apr 8, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

Holy shit. I'm ian, I did this. This was an inside joke and a weekend hackathon, never meant to be public. We will ship orders but it really is a joke. I mean... you like it dirty and you're back for more... where are my damn pcbs? I thought it was obvious lol. All the backend is there and boards are proper, we have a logistics company, but its really just a joke that went too far. It started cause we saw people bitching about cheap pcbs having bad silks and I'm like, well its dirt cheap dirty boards... thanks for the post though, were sitting in Shenzhen with a dozen hackers eating hot pot loling it up :)

I submitted this.

I'm sorry if I caused confusion, I really did think it was a real service and it sounds as if it is, even if you didn't intend it to be. I read quite a lot of the site before submitting. I agree the tone is a bit odd, but then it's a bargain-basement service so it wasn't "odd enough" for me to ignore it, I guess.

I'm a closet fan of Dangerous Prototypes, I think it was that connection that made it interesting enough to submit, to me.

Also, stop doing joke PCB ordering sites, and get back to designing that STM32-based Bus Pirate v5, please. :)

Its real, boards will ship, its just that we _thought_ we were sharing it with a few forum members and LOLing it up... Now we're being hammered. All good. Tomorrow we start doing stencils and bigger quantities too.

Also: dirtycircuits.com will do routing! dirtycables.com will do custom cables! It's a dirty world!

Are you guys planning on doing custom cables as well (at least on the other sites)? I imagine the molding tooling makes this a no-go for anything but larger orders.

Hi Ian, love your prices.

> dirtycables.com - Great idea, hope you're not joking again.

How about a dirtyassembly.com? Please?

Am I the only one that tried dirtycables.com and dirtycircuits.com and was surprised to find nothing?

A custom cable joke site too? You guys are asking for it.

Hah. Turns out you made a minimum viable product instead of a joke. I say roll with it and see if it's profitable.

There are dozens of hobby and one-off projects that I've been doing manual wiring for that I would _like_ a PCB but haven't been able to justify the price.

Example: http://www.ebay.com/itm/1pc-DIY-J-edition-12AX7-vacuum-tube-...

I'd like to buy in bulk and I really don't care of the PCB quality because it's just to mess around with.

Also, after talking to a few people this is a really good marketing strategy. Last year it would have been great to be able to go through one company for proto-pcbs then when we had ironed out all of our own kinks we could have placed an order for 'production ready boards'

Basically it's another way to get prototype-quality printed circuit boards manufactured and shipped to you.

They're explicitly saying the quality is not top-notch, but compensating with the price level to target prototype runs.

With only two pricing tiers (5x5 cm for $12, 10x10 cm for $24, both include 10 copies of the board and global shipping) it's really simple and very cheap.

It's by the people at Dangerous Prototypes (http://dirtypcbs.com/) so I'm pretty confident they have plenty of experience in dealing with pcb manufacturing houses.

> It's by the people at Dangerous Prototypes

Source? I can't find any mention on their website.

My source is the Hackaday post at http://hackaday.com/2014/04/08/dirt-cheap-dirty-boards-offer..., which says:

[Ian] at Dangerous Prototypes has just announced Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards, a PCB fabrication service for times where quality doesn’t matter too much.

There's "© 2014 Where Labs, LLC" at the bottom of dirtypcbs.com page.


What I love about this company- I don't have to upload my gerbers and fill out a few forms just to find price (seed, looking at you).

I'm not quite sure if they can make a sustainable business at this price level but if they can- this looks like another great service!

Having used these services, here's some advice/traps for young players:

1) Silkscreen isn't that important unless you're going into production - and are you really going to stiff your customers with crappy boards? The only other place it might matter is if you're dealing with particularly sensitive layouts where you don't want gunge on your traces, but again - why are you using a $10 manufacturer?

2) Etch quality is normally fine with these boards, pushing the fab minimums is asking for trouble, but standard 6/8mil is never normally a problem.

3) Shipping is a lottery, sometimes stuff arrives very fast, sometimes it doesn't, that's just HK mail.

4) Drill quality is where you might start to get worried because if the holes are sloppy, you might end up with messed up vias or holes in traces where they shouldn't be. (see https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/115) This is something that the cheaper houses tend to fall over on, but you can get round this by making the via rings larger to allow for their mistakes.

5) Panelising is an interesting case here, as someone mentioned. DirtyPCB specifically mentions V-cuts in the fab specification so presumably they're allowed. There's no good reason why any middle-man should prevent you from making a design if the fab wouldn't make it for the same price.

6) Cost per board - there's a fixed cost here which seems to imply that if possible and allowed, you should panelise your boards or at least put multiple copies into a single 5x5 or 10x10 shape.

If you want an alternative, look at OSHPark, http://oshpark.com. They offer $1/sqin for 3 boards shipped anywhere - this scales to 9 boards for $12 so fairly similar to dirty PCB and often cheaper because often you only want one or two revisions of a prototype board.

The quality is excellent, you get ENIG (gold tinned) plating and they're made in the US which should mean fast shipping. For us in Europe, shipping is still a gamble. For more advanced designs you can get 4 layer boards and there are cheaper options for large orders. You can only get purple boards, which look cool, but aren't for everyone.

Critically the price is per square inch rounded down to the hundredths or thousandths. So if I want to make an LED breakout board that's only 0.5 square inches, I only pay $0.50 for 3 (and I've done this).

There's also BatchPCB, but as they lost my order and are no longer price competitive I'd have to say they're not worth it any more.

Panelising is interesting... Most forbid it, our house calls and asks if it's ok to panelize small boards :) Imagine that! They charge $2 for it, but whatever. We did Hacker Camp Shenzhen this week and made everyone's PCBs as part of the camp. The board house panelized anything that would fit!

Now, quality fade may set in. It might get crappy over time... however we're prepared! It's dirty boards after all!

Thanks for the reply Ian, look forward to trying the service out! Although I see lower down that it was meant as a joke, so perhaps not :P

I said so below too, but OSH Park really is $5 per square inch, for three copies. Not $1. They are awesome, but not as cheap as you seem to be thinking.

Interesting, what's oshpark's real-world turnaround time like for 4-layer boards? I've used batchpcb before, but I always had to wait a few weeks for a 4-layer panel to go out since most people use 2 layers.

FYI, BatchPCB merged into OSH Park.

Ah I didn't realise, thanks for the update!

So this price is so cheap, I've never seen anything like it. As in, about 1/10 the price of the competition.

It doesn't look like the owners have shown up here yet. If they do, here are some (hopefully helpful) suggestions from a target user who purchases proto pcbs all the time over the internet:

> Examples: 4cm by 2cm, red PCB: $12 for 10 copies - This should go on the front page. The price is so low that I thought it might be $12 per copy, but you have to order 10.

> Return customers - You like it dirty, you're back for more - Ok, for $12, I guess I can put up with this kind of stuff. But you're not helping yourself here.

> Is my design safe? - Your board will go to a cut-rate prototype PCB factory in China. In all likelihood they have too much volume to give a crap about what's on your PCB, but if this is a concern PLEASE FIND ANOTHER SUPPLIER. - Well, this one is actually funny, but in a sad, tearful sort of way. Why remind people of sad truths? All it can do is take away what could have been a potential customer.

> Shipping is by Hong Kong Post (or similar), which takes 4-30 days - This is great for a lot of people, but there are a whole class of other people (maybe 50% of your audience) who would gladly pay quite a bit more money to get something faster. 30 days is a long time. A different shipping option, even if it was $35 or so, would go a long way here.

PS Good job with the site! The cost is so shockingly low that it certainly gets your attention.

Thanks for the earnest comments, I made the site as a joke cause I live in China and you have no clue what the markup on your boards are... But I think you missed the joke...

A. Get your head outta the sand and take a look around, our prices copy existing services just without all the bull.

1. The top header has that info, not sure how you missed it...

2. Yeah, we like it dirty and we don't want your business. Don't put up with it, go somewhere else...

3. Finish the quote, don't select the random bit that proves your point. This is for open source hardware, we WANT to share and propagate. Take our stuff China, please!

4. We don't care. Pay a ton of handling fees or do the environment a favor and go local. We want to drop stuff off to xiao dou (Mr. Little Bean) at espeed in Huaqiangbei and be done with it. Can't be assed to do more at these prices...

Thanks for the compliments on the site. It's amazing what 12 hours of PHP/Javascript/MYSQL coding and a case of Tsing Tao can get you.


> Examples: 4cm by 2cm, red PCB: $12 for 10 copies - This should go on the front page.

Funny. It would be a thing that would discourage me from using your site. Lack of graphic and flashy ads actually is very pleasant to the eye.

I just meant the text. When buying proto boards, you typically get asked to buy a minimum quantity, but they still show you individual prices - here it's a total cost, but that isn't 100% clear on the front page.

you have no clue what the markup on your boards are

We have a clue, we just don't usually have a choice.

http://oshpark.com is comparable.

$1 per square inch rounded to some fraction. You get three boards shipped anywhere in the world (see my other post for my thoughts). A 5x5 board is roughly 4 square inches, so would cost you $4 for three or $12 for 9. If it's smaller, you pay less.

Turn around time is around 10 days + shipping from the US so either a blessing or a curse.

Seeed used to be cheaper for massive orders, but now OSH has a medium run order it's about the same.

I've ordered from OSH Park, they are fantastic. Still, I question your definitions of "comparable" and "some fraction". :)

At OSH Park:

2 layer boards are $5 per square inch (with 3 copies of your board included in that price)

So a 5x5 cm board from OSH Park is $20 for three, with this service you pay $12 for ten. Way cheaper.

Oops, my inch->cm was off by a factor of 2 there, very true!

All it can do is take away what could have been a potential customer.

You don't want every customer you can get.

Is there a gallery with some high resolution pictures of the type of result they achieve?

For UK or EU or even Glabal :) I think www.Ragworm.eu is a great service. If you are looking for a group of guys and girls whose service isn't Dirty and isn't Cheap - But is Competitive and Compliant. Check them out. Great for prototypes and volume. Designs are made in their own fablab not farmed out to China which is great! No fear of my products being ripped off! They will also help you to fix your designs if you have missed something and you are allowed to panel up numerous designs and copies! Great when you're like me and what to try out numerous ideas at the same time :)

It seems they don't have any rules against panelization. I wonder if they'll accept panelized designs with slots and mouse bites.

as long as your panel is less than 10x10cm.

I guess they panelize internally at a period of 10x10cm(+margin).

5 mil trace/space... guess it's time to start using BGA packages in my designs

Yeah, the specs are an improvement over some other options, but can't break much out on two layers.

A 4 or 6 layer option would be excellent. The design rules have been improving at the batch PCB order houses, I remember when 10mil was a nice feature. I think a good 4+ layer option is only a matter of time. 100% e-test is great as well.

OSH Park has a 5mil trace/spacing 4 layer option. No e-test (Got burned by that one. Always double-check your boards before assembly!) and the schedule is a bit unpredictable.

There are a few options for 6+ layers that don't seem too unreasonable. For example, Pheonix PCB does 100sqin of 6-layer board for a single design for $550. They go down to 4mil trace/spacing and 8mil drill (about $90 extra). There might be better options. At this point, for the hobbyist market, design tools start to be the barrier, not manufacturing. $500 for a bunch of prototype boards seems like peanuts compared to the price of Alitum.

The challenge with BGA isn't the board, it's mounting! QFN gives me enough trouble. Although it's possible my reflow technique could be improved.

How is it both 100% tested, and dirty?

The silkscreen might be a bit smudged. To be honest unless you've spent the effort to tweak your CAD package defaults, it'll be suboptimal anyway whoever you get to fab it unless you're paying them to tidy it up. In Eagle I found it's real easy to get the font ratio wrong or sizes too small and end up with a mediocre silk-screen result.

From what I can tell it's the same kind of service that Seeed, Itead, etc offer. Seems that the title is a joke/marketing.[0]

On the picture they posted, the silkscreen registration is pretty bad, but that's par for the course for these types of services.

[0]: http://dangerousprototypes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=619...

Does anyone know how long it takes HK post to reach the US? 5-30 days is a big window.

I make a lot of orders for RC equipment, shipping time seems to be improving, everything I've order this year has gotten here in 5-10 days and tracking info has been quicker to show up and more reliable. Just don't make any orders around Chinese new year. That being said Chinese prices have inflated to the point that I can often find a similar price here in the US for most items and get them in 4-5 days.

5-30 days fits my experience with ordering stuff from China / HK. Sometimes it arrives really fast, other times, not so much.

That's about right. Depends on customs and other mysterious bits. I've had shipments take a couple of weeks and I've had others take 6 (in fact 30 days seems a bit aggressive). It just depends.

The window is pretty accurate. I've had shipments take a week, and others take 1+ months to the exact same address. It is pretty much random and I just assume it's going to take longer than a month.

I always imagine there's a plane that leaves at regular intervals, e.g. twice a month. If you order right before the plane leaves you'll get the order sooner, otherwise your order just sits in some depot until the next plane arrives weeks later.

I'm about to give this a shot. Fingers crossed, i'll update the result.

Whats cheaper, Quality PCB manufacturing costs or engineering time chasing build / manufacturing errors?

In my environment it's pretty easy to answer that question.

At what stage in the process? If you are building CCAs for brassboard prototypes or the final CCA design is still in flux, quality manufacturing is probably a waste of money as you are likely to end up modifying the design and blue-wiring the board anyway. Nobody, including the company, is remotely suggesting that Dirty PCBs is an option for production boards.

A service not in HK will get you your boards faster though, I'd pay 4x to get my boards this week instead of sometime in the next month.

For professional work? Absolutely. For hobbyist or venture work? Less clear.

hobbyist time is considered free. If you are talking about ROI, then you're in a different league.

If you give them files with 20mil trace and space specs is there really that much of a risk?

I was on the OSH Park website a few minutes ago, and I think I will give this a try instead.

I've had good results with OSH Park and 10mil trace / ground plane isolation, FWIW - and they take Eagle 6.5 natively (although depending on third-party library setup you'll probably want gerbers anyway).

The name makes it sound like they're using unsound environmental practices, and shipping out boards full of who-knows-what.

'Quick and Dirty' never conveyed environmentally unsound. I think you're reaching here.

Sometimes you have to stretch to find some arbitrary point you can hang a negative viewpoint on otherwise what is the point.

It's one of the things I enjoy about HN "Oh you cured cancer and it costs $10 a dose and can be made in a kitchen, brilliant but the site doesn't work properly on Firefox Pre-Alpha on Solaris so I have no faith in you".

It used to bother me but somewhere down the line I just stopped reading the comments and looked for the positive stuff instead.

The url is http://dirtypcbs.com/ and the title on the page is "Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards" and the tag-line is 'No bull, just crappy PCBs'.

I get that they're trying to convey 'quick and dirty', but they're only saying the dirty, crappy part of it, and de-emphasizing the cheap and easy. To me it says not environmentally friendly crap.

It's totally their marketing decision to make though. It would be interesting to see them comment about this, and what their rationale was in choosing the name (it could be that this was extremely well tested and researched).

I'll be using them, anyway!

I like people who focus on the main selling point and who don't try to hide any possible negatives.

This company have very cheap proces but have set expectation for quality low - so when the customer actually gets the boards they're probably going to be pleased.

But this is just my opinion!


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