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When prototyping electronic designs, vero-board and "white chocolate" are invaluable tools. they allow the placing of standard components and jump wires to test the design and allow for the changing of components with the minimum of fuss (when your capacitor goes 'pop').
The problem with prototyping
this way is that a lot of components do not fit the standard layout provided by these tools. Surface Mount, SIL packages and custom pins all need to be tested in a different form, or they need to have jump leads soldered to their legs and then connected to the white chocolate.
One solution for this would be to create the PCB and test accordingly. However, PCB printers mainly operate on an economy of scale model and charge a similar amount for 1 board as they do for 1000 boards. This makes them unsuitable for a quick prototype/test or a design for 10 boards.
My proposal is that a company set up an operation with Dick Smith (or Radio Shack if you are from the US) to take small orders for PCBs at the electronics counter (like when you send away for photos from a chemist) which then get sent to the manufacturing plant and printed accordingly.
The main business proposition here would be in small run orders. The requirements for a board would need to be clearly stated on the order bag (protel format images, 10mil minimum track width, 20mil minimum spacing, one board, two layers only), but a quick, low complexity printing setup could be set up and the orders could be run with a quick turnaround.
For an extra fee vias and pin-holes could be drilled, but they are not part of the base service.
This would allow home-designers and students to prototype their designs, utilising surface mount packages, without destroying a fishtank and filling their house with chemicals to print the PCBs themselves.
As mentioned in the idea [reap, Nov 08 2004]
Or Breadboard, as it is otherwise known. [reap, Nov 08 2004]
The DIY Method
If you don't mind playing with chemicals in your fishtank :) [reap, Nov 08 2004]
3 boards in 3-4 days 2.5" x 3.8" for just $51 (plus shipping). [csea, Nov 08 2004]
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) manufacturer. We Specialize in Complete Turnkey Capabilities, from Design to Completed Product Build!. We are a Manufacturer of Printed Circuit Board Assemblies, Wire Harnesses, and Mechanical Assemblies. [tgrover, Apr 11 2007]
||I heard somewhere that emachineshop.com is thinking of expanding into electronics as well.
||Well, I'll say this is mostly baked. There are places you can order small quantities of PCBs online much cheaper than you ever could in the past. They are still fairly expensive, so price improvements are always welcome. I'm guessing though that the cost of producing PCBs in low quantities makes it hard to sell them cheap. If you could figure out a way to sell them cheaply enough, I'm sure you could sell a lot of them.
||I also like the idea of being able to get them locally. I'd love it if I could upload the data to the local electronics store, then pick up the completed board the same day rather than waiting for it to come in the mail.
||Baked by several service companies; I have used ExpressPCB [link] on 2 occasions with great success - if you can use their standard board size, you can't beat the cost / turnaround time. And the design tools (schematic capture / layout) are free, and easy to learn.