Having prior experience with other PCB (Printed Circuit Board) services from various companies, I decided to test out and review the PCB service from Seeed Studio, one component of the Seeed Studio Fusion service. I have been engaging with Seeed Studio for a while now, having the opportunity to review some of their hardware products (microcontrollers & sensors) as well as some of the other services they provide. Whether you are an electronic hobbyist or a maker planning on industrializing your creation, I believe that prototyping and creating a PCB of your circuit is a vital step along the way. Designing a custom PCB for your circuit allows you to mass produce your design and move it away from a breadboard/protoboard, enabling more permanent applications. Furthermore, their PCBA service allows for an already completed circuit board with all components soldered on, saving you valuable time in the design process. This article will feature my experience using Seeed Studio's PCBA service and for more information on their PCBA service including their certifications, capabilities, customer reviews, etc, please click here. Keeping in mind the other services provided, this article will focus on Seeed Studio's PCB fabrication and assembly service.
To start with, ordering the boards was extremely easy as Seeed Studio's website makes it easy to add (drag & drop) your Gerber files and customize your PCB according to your preferences. I was able to easily select my desired number of layers, PCB thickness, PCB color, surface finish, copper weight, and other options before proceeding with the order.
One of the unique features on the Seeedstudio website that is extremely helpful when fabricating PCBs is the Gerber Viewer, which allows you to have a detailed look at your PCB Gerber file before placing an order. You will be able to view all the layers of your PCB as well as the tracks and any necessary PCB dimensions, saving you time and money in the case of a failed PCB design for example.
In addition to PCB fabrication, you can opt-in to have your custom PCB assembled so that it arrives as a complete circuit with all the components professionally soldered in, leaving you with less work to get your prototype ready. To achieve this, you will need to upload assembly instructions and a BOM file that lists down all the needed components for the PCB assembly. Regarding the assembly instructions, you will need to upload the assembly drawing, a pick & place file, and optional images/drawings/prototypes that may help with the PCB assembly. To assist you, Seeed Studio has already prepared guides on any requirements as well as how to upload all the needed files for the assembly instructions on their website.
In regards to the BOM file, there is a specific BOM template that is featured on the website (and in the image below) of how you should prepare your list so that the components can be read accurately and correctly to prepare for assembly. There are also a few specific requirements that need to be followed before uploading the file and that is all clearly displayed on their website (and in the image below). Seeed's open parts library (OPL) offers a wide selection of components so you can be assured that even some of the rarest components will be available for assembly. In terms of a minimum order quantity (MOQ), the minimum number of PCB boards that you can order is 5 boards but for PCB assembly, there is no minimum quantity of boards to be assembled so you can select an appropriate quantity that suits your needs. If required, you can opt-in for functional testing of the boards but a test plan is required to be uploaded. Visual inspection and functional testing for one PCB is free but 100% functional testing of all the boards is an added cost.
Now that the web aspect of Seeed's PCB service has been covered and many of their features have been mentioned, I will describe my personal experience with the Seeed Fusion PCB service. I ordered my custom PCBs and received them in about a week with FedEx delivery and regarding the packaging, the boards were neatly vacuum-sealed and packed compactly in a box to protect against rough handling during delivery. In terms of the boards themselves, they were all fabricated well with no errors on the boards and the LED circuit (the PCB design I ordered) functioned with no problems at all. An aspect of Seeed's customer service that I appreciate is that there will be constant email updates informing you about your order and a customer service representative always available to quickly assist you if there is a problem with your order. I have been in contact with Seeed's representatives before and they are always more than happy to help you out along the way if something arises. Overall, the cost of the boards is fairly reasonable with a striking price of $4.90 for 10 boards (excluding shipping & assembly costs) and as a result, I definitely would make use of Seeed's PCB services in the future again.