At the dirty board house in Shenzhen

Through the marvels of globalization and modern technology, my solar charger design, dubbed the Solar Stage, has been sent off to a board house in China for low cost production. Thanks to DirtyPCBs, and its sassy yet functional website, I placed my order for 9 to 12 boards of my 10 * 10 cm 2-layer design for only $25 (including Hong Kong Post — no tracking). Yes, that’s no typo. $25. Oh, and a pick from 6 colours (I chose red). 5 * 5 cm is a jaw-dropping $14.

Front of the image generated by the DirtyPCBs website. After countless revisions, the board is ready. A Dangerous Prototypes Bus Pirate and a self-designed SD/flash combo board occupy the space unused by the Solar Stage.

According to the DirtyPCBs website, my Gerber files are transmitted through their automated system to a board house in the high tech heart of China, where it’s batched up with other boards and given the full treatment. The boards are then forwarded on to the DirtyPCBs agent, to be sent on to me. The whole process takes 6 to 8 days, not including the postage time (1 to 8 weeks for Hong Kong Post, dependent on your country). Amazing!

Back of my board order.

One feature I really appreciated is DirtyPCBs unlimited file revisions. Up until the point the board design is sent to the board house, the site accepts a re-upload of your design files. In the 31 hours before it was batched, I submitted five (5) updates. In my post-submission high, I noticed little bits I could improve and went over everything with a fine-tooth comb. Nothing like the thrill of working against the clock! Granted, it might be a bust, but at least I have some useful boards out of the experience.

To be honest, I enjoyed the cheeky language that peppers the website. Apparently the website was originally made as a joke poking fun at people complaining about the quality of a new process. Or a very clever dirty marketing. Either way, the results are impressive for the cost, so I decided to give them a shot. Tonight I received a notification saying my board has been batched up. Stay tuned for an update when my dirty boards arrive.

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Filed under Battery power, DIY, fabrication, ICs, micro-controllers, PCB design, Solar Stage, Teensy

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