OSH Park bundles together PCB orders to obtain the lowest price per square inch for small prototypes. The boards are manufactured in the United States. The quality is extremely high, and includes a silkscreen, dark purple solder mask, and lead-free gold-plated pads. Double sided and four layer boards are available.
This article shows examples of the boards and describes the OSH Park ordering process.
The first thing that hits you about OSH Park's boards is the distinctive, attractive appearance.
PCB manufactured by OSH Park
The second thing that hits you is the low price. It is only $5 per square inch for three boards, and shipping is free! For example, three 3.8 inch by 2.5 inch boards (9.5 square inches per board) is only $50 total.
For comparison, ExpressPCB is $85 to include solder mask and silkscreen. That being said, ExpressPCB ships the order in 1 or 2 business days, whereas OSH Park takes weeks. However, OSH Park is flexible on the size and shape of the board.
Not only are the boards beautiful, but the technical quality is excellent. The gold plating is smooth, hole centering is great, and there aren't any splotches or glitches.
Snap off tab from panelizing
Edges include extraneous snap off tabs (see above) that held the boards together when they were routed from the large production panel. The tabs are easily removed and the rough spots that remain won't be an issue for most projects.
Although the silkscreen is dotted at extreme close up, at a normal distance it is readable and really pops on the dark background. Here is a comparison with other manufacturers, with OSH Park shown on the bottom:
Diode silkscreen and pad comparison, top to bottom: Advanced Circuits, ExpressPCB, Electronic Interconnect, and OSH Park
To order boards, you need to upload your file to the manufacturer's website in an industry standard format. With the exception of the specific export settings, the following steps will need to be followed regardless of the manufacturer you choose.
1. Open the board in Copper Connection.
2. (optional) If you have given your parts schematic ids and part numbers, then choose Bill of Materials in the Data menu. Double-check that everything looks right and matches the labels on the board.
3. (optional) Choose Design Rule Check in the Data menu to check for errors. Although the automated check won't catch everything, it can help avoid certain mistakes.
4. When you're ready, choose "Export to Gerber and Excellon" from the Copper Connection File menu.
5. OSH Park requires some non-default settings, so be sure to choose their configuration by name
Choose OSH Park in Copper Connection Export window
6. Click the Export button and choose a folder to store the Gerber and Excellon files. I usually pick an empty folder on my desktop. Click Save to output the files.
In Windows, the folder where you exported the files should be open. Copper Connection created a bunch of files with the project file name. These files represent the industry-standard layers and drill locations for your board.
Copper Connection also copies the files into a single compressed file ('.zip'). Not only does the compressed file save upload time, but it keeps all of the layers together. The 'zip' file is the only file that the manufacturer needs to make your boards.
OSH Park only accepts orders online through their website. However, their website is by far the best PCB ordering process. Each step is carefully described and includes big well-worded buttons.
1. Go to http://www.oshpark.com/
2. Register, if you haven't already. Log in, if you haven't already.
3. At the home page, click the Get Started Now button.
4. Upload your board by clicking the "Select a file on your computer" button, select the .zip that you exported earlier, and then click Open.
5. The site will compute for a while. Then, an image of the board will appear along with a price. Click the continue button.
6. Now for the best part of their process: Each layer of the board will be shown so that you can approve it before continuing. Take the time to make sure everything looks right. Not only is this super cool, but it gives you confidence that the file formats and file settings are correct. I wish all manufacturers would do this.
Note: OSH Park has a display bug for 360 degree filled or outlined ellipses (for example, circles). They either don't show up or they show as a little dot. I reported the bug and they acknowledge it is an error in their rendering package. However, it does not affect the actual physical board. For example, see below that the circle around the copyright symbol is missing only in the viewer.
7. Along the way as you proceed, you'll be given a choice of shipping options. I'll bet almost everyone chooses free shipping.
8. Unlike most other manufacturers, OSH Park accepts PayPal and Google Checkout.
9. Continue to follow their instructions step-by-step. They do a nice job of letting you know where the order stands along the way.
After placing your order, you'll receive email updates to let you know they have received the order, and when it ships. The order will take a number of weeks; however that is the tradeoff for such a low price.
OSH Park caters to hobbyists and small shops. So, there isn't any hassle or hidden cost. The entire process is smooth, modern, and professional. I love their quality, attractive solder mask, and board viewer. I encourage you to give them a try!
Robot Room has no affiliation with OSH Park or any of the other manufacturers mentioned. The use of their trademarks is for comparison purposes. Information reflects when the article was written (December 2013).