After proving that our simple double-sided board design does actually work, it was time to "pull the trigger" and get some on order from 3pcb.com
3pcb is just another name for pcbway.com and both websites use what looks like the same calculator to give the same price (the pcbs arived last time in pcbway.com branded boxes, but 3pcb is just easier to remember!)
I don't know if it's deliberate, but - like those 3 for 2 deals at the supermarket, or those 24-packs-of-crisps-for-the-cost-of-15 - their calculator seems to encourage you to over-buy. For example, 100 PCBs costs the rather reasonable price of $53 (including delivery don't forget).
But when you see prices like that and realise that set-up charges and delivery make up a large part of the total order cost, it's tempting to see how much more you can get for your money. 200 pcbs is only $78 - that's $25 more for double the volume....
So what if we rack up the numbers? A thousand units costs $260. That's a lot of money - but that's a helluva lot of boards! In the end we settled on 500 pcbs for $159. It's probably more than we're going to need initially, but since we're using them in multiples of 20 at a time, they won't last too long!
The 3pcb.com website is dead easy to use. Enter some values, if you like the price, upload some gerbers, pay by paypal. Bang - done in less than ten minutes.
There's even a detailed beakdown of the fabrication process available on the website. Because this order has only just gone in, there's not much there at the minute. But as the boards get built, you can track them in realtime and see which part of the manufacturing process they're up to. So you can see when they've gone in for etching, when the soldermask has been applied, when they've been routed and so on.
It's not really very useful information (you can't influence what's going on!) but it's nice to see so much effort has gone into keep the customer informed. We'll report back here in about a week or ten day's time when they finished boards arrive....