Choosing a PCB Manufacturer

Definitions: A “mil” refers to a thousandth of an inch. While most engineering processes have standardized on the far more understandable metric system, physical products still rely on imperial units. “Clearance” refers to the separation from the edge of one trace to the nearest edge of another.

While one manufacturer may be able to produce 6 mil traces with 6 mil clearances (3/3) another manufacturer may be limited to a (8/8) setup. You do not want to design your board and route all of your traces at a very small width only to find that your manufacturer cannot produce the board at that specification. This could leave you resorting to much more expensive manufacturing options, or receiving a non-working PCB when the manufacturing house attempts to manufacture your design anyways.

If you thought there were a lot of CAD packages to choose from, then you would be truly overwhelmed by the number of different manufacturers and assembly houses there are. Rather than compiling a huge list of all of the PCB manufacturers and assemblers, I am just going to post a short list of those that I either have personal experience with or that have made a strong impression on me.

These are just some of my recommendations, but as I noted earlier, there are many, many more out there. Suggest your own favorites in the comments below.