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Why is everyone promoting JLCPCB?

31 May 2022 at 7:13 pm

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I spend way too much time on Youtube and these days, “everyone” but Carl Bugeja promotes JLC. I’ve used them a couple times and my experience is less than stellar. The picture above shows how a USB Type C port were soldered on a board I recently received. It clearly shows that this board received way too much solder paste and there is even a short between two pins.

Other boards had too little solder. On this connector, there just wasn’t enough to make contact with the PCB.

Having such a variance in the amount of solder dispensed is an indication of a poorly controlled process. This is obviously why JLCPCB is cheaper than others, but I would never use them for a commercial product. The support cost of cheap PCB’s like this would just be too high.

Looking over the boards there are blobs of excessive solder and lots of flux all over the boards, so it’s clear that JLCPCB does not clean the PCB’s in any way before handing them over to the customer.

On this board, the correct amount of solder is used on the pads, but there are small blobs of solder around the surface of the board. At some point, these will come loose since they’re basically stuck due to flux. This means that a board that looks good initially can easily develop short circuits in random places. There were also parts that had the incorrect orientation by quite a few degrees like this one.

For a second spin of this board, JLC PCB damaged 1 of the 5 boards and also did not assemble the reverse mount LED’s. They claimed that they did not have the capabilities to place reverse mount LEDs, but they obviously did on the first run of the order? When I pointed out this, they claimed that the holes for these reverse mounted LED’s were too small, despite them being a little larger than the size recommended in the datasheet for the part. The part was supplied by LCSC, so it’s basically their own datasheet that I followed when layoing out the board.

They insisted to refund me for the 1 broken board and bill me full price for the rest. It was simply impossible to get the 5 boards I needed.

After 5 days of mailing back and forth to avoid a refund, they suddenly sent me 4 boards with the reverse mounted LEDs placed by hand. I really wanted to avoid getting the refund since the hourly wage in Norway for accountants is quite a bit more than in China. If I get a tiny refund, it’ll likely cost me more than it’s worth in terms of accounting and handling of accounting documents.

In general, I perfer to use Eurocircuits for all my professional boards. Just for comparision, here is a similar USB Type C connector on a board I got from them a year ago.

This one is a little dusty after being used for 6 months in a prototype, but when delivered it looks spotless. Note how every pad on the connector has a good amount of solder “hugging” the part? Also note how well centered the via hole to the right is. You just won’t get this precision from asian vendors.

I should note that I have limited experience with asian PCB vendors. My preferred board house for low price has always been PCBWay and I have 50+ orders with them currently. Most of these are customer projects that needed a low price or hobby projects. Common for them is that the project had no hard time constraints. Getting a bare PCB from PCBWay typically takes 7-10 days to my door with DHL. By comparison, I can get a the PCB from Eurocircuits within 3 days. PCBA with PCBWay can take 30-40 days, but for the lower price this is ok. With PCBA it’ll typically take 9-10 days with Eurocircuits, but if I pay extra I can in some cases get this down to 7-8. Time is money. It’s that simple and in many cases, you can wait.

I have to say that I find PCBWay to be much more professional than JLCPCB. I’ve had issues with boards on PCBWay also, but they discover problems before assembling the boards. That’s a big difference. If they ruin a board like JLC did, they’ll do an extra quick run so you get all the boards you paid for. In general, PCBWay will also throw in one or two ekstra PCB’s if it fits better that way. PCBWay can also get the parts from LCSC, so you’re not bound to use JLC if you use LCSC parts. It does not help me much that the JLC representative says “So sorry for this inconvnience. We will try to improve on this part in the near future.”

I have a friend that says that he’s very happy with them, but he does mostly high-end stuff with impedance controlled boards so it’s not the same as their prototype service. Another friend just got boards back from JLC (Aug 2022) and they had cut all of his stackable headers without asking. This made his boards worthless since they are made for stacking and also put him in a difficult situation since he didn't have the stock he thought he would.

Anyone out there have good experiences with JLC prototypes? I don't have any...