Hack a Day had a post a while back involving a site called Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards offering (10) 5cm x 5cm boards for ~$15 shipped. I immediately wanted to test them out because that sounds like a pretty fair price. I tried to look into them a bit more, and after going through a few forums, it turned out that the site was made intending to be a joke (although they seem to actually be providing services now thanks to demand).
Despite them seeming like a non-option, I did a bit more research. There are a number of other fab shops that offer similar prices. The one that kept turning up in my search was IteadStudio, although others like OSHpark also showed up. IteadStudio had pretty good reviews though, and the prices were decent ($12 for 10 5×5 boards, and ~$3 shipping). I ended up deciding to go with IteadStudio and give them a try.
I don’t have too many Eagle boards designed just yet, because most of my stuff is breadboarded, so I only had a few options as far as what to send them. I ended up using the board layout for the Fireflies I posted earlier as well as a new board for noise makers (a device that can be hidden and beeps randomly). IteadStudio allows panelization of boards, so I managed to fit 3 Fireflies and 1 noise maker in the design, giving me 30 Fireflies and 10 noise makers overall. I submitted the order after adding a few misc electronic parts and got away spending less that $20 including shipping. That feels cheap enough that even if all I bought was crap, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Anyhow, about 3 1/2 weeks after I placed the order, I received the PCBs and parts in the mail. They did ship registered airmail so I needed to pick them from the post office after not being home to sign for the package. Once I had the package though, I opened it up and the PCBs looked like I would expect them too.
They all seemed to have perfectly etched traces, silkscreen, solder mask, even the vias seemed fine. I hadn’t ordered PCBs before, so I wasn’t sure if vias would be included or extra. But, they all seemed pretty good, so I cut them out to their respective boards and soldered on all the necessary components.
Then I programmed the microcontrollers for each. I found this connector for SOIC-8 packages on eBay for ~$10 and it makes programming this SMD package loads easier.
All said and done, I don’t think I found a defect on any of the boards. I’m absolutely impressed with the quality and will source PCBs from IteadStudio in the future for sure.