I'm considering using a PCB manufacturing house to make me some boards. Since you have to pay, I'm trying get my PCB designs correct but will unavoidably have to go through a learning process. My concern is that this process will be expensive as I design a board, send it off, see the mess that comes back and so on till I get it right.

In KiCAD the plot menu has about 10 options x several layers which equals a lot of combinations and perhaps cost. It also will take time as boards go back and forth to the manufacturer. If that manufacturer is in say China, that's even more time.

It would be very useful to have a reference file(s) that is formatted to industry norms. I've looked at some manufacturer's web sites ard they all seem short on helping newbies even though they are intended for hobbyists. They seem far from friendly and warming. The issue seems to be that one size fits all. KiCAD can produce a PC motherboard, and some of the PCB manufacturers can make one. I want a circuit that blinks a single LED with a DIP timer chip and a couple of mounting holes.

I would expect it to have correctly laid out tracks. Some mounting holes, perhaps logos /graphics on the board. Correct sized component holes. Just the basics really to cut my teeth on and save a lot of needless waste. We all have to learn to walk before we can run.

Do such reference files exist? Where is my "Hello World" PCB example?

Just to be crystal clear, I'm not asking for recommendations for cheap PCB manufacturers. I'm asking for reference layouts of how I should layout to industry standards whilst being a hobbyist.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You could consider using ExpressPCB for your first few boards. This frees you from worrying about much of this stuff. I think what will happen on your first board (if you don't use ExpressPCB) is that the board house will have questions and you may not even really understand them due to terminology or whatever. But once you get past that point, the board will probably work OK. \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Oct 22 '16 at 19:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Look at dirtypbcs.com. You get 'about 10' boards back, 2 or 4 layer, 2" or 4" square. They fit small pcbs onto the edges of palettes going through major manufacturers to use up spare space. Colleagues have used them for prototyping with good results. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil_UK Oct 22 '16 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are from Europe, you could consider eurocircuits. \$\endgroup\$ – domenix Oct 23 '16 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ As long as your design meets the board houses capabilities specifications, you won't get "a mess" back. \$\endgroup\$ – whatsisname Oct 23 '16 at 7:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @PaulUszak: I suspect you're thinking too hard and about the wrong things. Make sure you're not confusing a manufacturing error, a problem of the board house, and a schematic design error, a problem of you. If you have a known good schematic, then your only concern is the mechanical aspects. Making wide traces, lots of clearance, large annular rings, and you shouldn't have any problems. It's not like you're making a flex board, have blind vias, or dozens of layers, right? \$\endgroup\$ – whatsisname Oct 23 '16 at 23:44

I would say "Hello World" is more related to the usage of the EDA tool so that you can create boards according to tool's rules and processes which would validate properly in the tool and have correct Excellon and Gerber files as output. I use EAGLE, and it has several examples. As you have already chosen the tool, just search something like "KiCAD usage guide for newbies" over internet.

As to manufacturing standard, they are relatively simple, every manufacturer should have requirements listed on their websites. To name those coming to my mind:

  • number of layers
  • size of board, thickness of the board
  • copper thickness
  • minimal width of conductors
  • minimal distance from board edges, and from polygons to conductors
  • minimal distance between pads/vias; minimal diameter of drills
  • material of board

In general, start with defaults if you do not have really special requirements - e.g. high power, high EMI requirement, high-frequency etc.

Respected manufacturers always check and validate manufacturing files before production, and return back to you for corrections and suggestions if they may have issues during producing. In general it is their business and making board which will not make well will harm their reputation heavily.

Competition on the PCB manufacturing market is really high (you can find dozen of such firms in China), thus I doubt you will have problems if you will choose one using word of mouth or positive feedback on the internet.

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ The manufacturers specifications is the key. Most respectable tools allow you to specify them and it will warn you if your design violates the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – whatsisname Oct 23 '16 at 7:25
  • write specs on expected inputs and outputs
  • simulate it and estimate any hot spots and confirm results to your specs
  • do layout , add extra pads for jumpers and spare IC's for addons
  • run DRC and then panelize small board into larger board with V-score or routed with biscuit tabs
  • send out for 3 quotes 2 wks

  • read No touch cheapest quote requirements, otherwise pay extra for shop to run DRC for you with changes

There is tons of free info. You just have to know where to look.


  • DFM Design for ease of Manufacturing
  • DRC Design Rules Check
  • DFT Design for Testability https://www.protoexpress.com/betterdfm/

  • Better DFM does a comprehensive Design For Manufacturability analysis on your files.

  • 40-Point Checklist includes the following DFM
  • checks: Signal Checks Conductor Width Spacing Annular Ring Drill to
  • Copper Hole Registration Text Features Missing Copper Features
  • Connection Missing Holes Unconnected Lines Rout to Copper Plane Checks
  • Drill to Copper Annular Ring Spacing Conductor Width Thermal Air gap /
  • Spoke Width Missing Copper Rout to Copper Drill Registration Clearance smaller than hole

Q7. What are the most common issues I should watch out for before submitting files (zipped gerber with readme showing panel size thickness etc.

  • If any file in your gerber packages is corrupt or missing.
  • If some gerber file has not been assigned correctly;
    • for example, on Layer Assignment screen, if you assign your bottom copper layer as top layer.
  • If a complete board outline has not been provided.
    • (We need full outline, not just crop marks.)
  • The board outline must be on one of the layers, preferably on the soldermask layer.
  • If the layers are not properly aligned in your design.
  • If your drill file is corrupt or incomplete.
  • If any of your drill holes lie outside or on the board outline OR if your board has NO drill holes!
  • If the Gerber data is not in 274x format or if the Gerber files are not 1:1 (true size).
  • If the Copper pour areas in your design are filled with trace width of less than 10 mils and less than 1 mil overlap.
  • If the actual dimensions of your board are not what you entered. (We want you to be very accurate: e.g., 4.353" X 3.221")
  • If your Netlist file is not in IPC-356 format.
    • (Note that uploading a Netlist file is optional)

instant online quote

Now get it right the first time!


| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your last link links to a login page \$\endgroup\$ – Ferrybig Oct 22 '16 at 21:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ sorry , free registration needed \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Oct 22 '16 at 21:35

For hobbyist in USA I would highly recommend the ExpressPCB.com . They have free design tools (schematics capture and PCB layout). Their cost is $50 for two-layer board, and about $100 for a 4-layer board, for five days turn-around for 3 boards 2.5"x3.75" in size, 64 mills thick. They have an extensive hobbist-like library of DIPs, and it s easy ro make any SMD footprints. The tools have pretty much intuitive interface (unlike craziness of Allegro, Eagle, or PADs). A disadvantage is that once you used to a design in ExpressPCB format, it is really difficult (morally) to re-do everything in other tools if you want to produce Gerbers for mass manufacturing, although they can produce Gerbers for an additional fee.

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ Located within easy driving distance from me, too. Pretty good people. \$\endgroup\$ – jonk Oct 23 '16 at 5:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.