I saw today a news item that captured my interest. BatchPCB, a PCB prototyping company is offering a new service that allows you to place your PCB designs into the public domain. This is a new and interesting way to share designs with other interested electronics builders.
I am a fully signed up convert to RSS feeds. In case you are not aware of hot to use RSS feeds, have a look in your browsers address bar… See an orange logo? If you click on this is will allow you to save the RSS feed for the site you are in. You can try it out now with www.justblair.co.uk if you like.
Personally I use “Google Reader” to manage and browse my RSS feeds. in the morning I log into my Google account and catch up on the feeds much in the way that a non-geek may read the daily paper. Best thing about it is that you don’t tend to miss out on stories that interest you. Today a news item from Sparkfun caught my interest.
Sparkfun, if you haven’t heard of them already is a company that sells all manner of electronics project kits, catering for the amateur builders. For slightly unusual kits, sparkfun is one of the few places available on the internet. BatchPCB is a spinoff company from Sparkfun that provides a PCB prototyping service.
BatchPCB I learned today have been working on their website to improve the service that they are offering to customers. The basic premise to their service is that they have automated the process of submitting PCB designs. What they label their DRC bot (Design Rules Checker) will examine your submitted Gerber files looking for basic mistakes. Once checked, your design is loaded onto a PCB board template alongside other customers designs. For a one off prototype this sharing of the boards saves money on the build. BatchPCB are candid enough about their lead times. Obviously when you order your design is cued and waits for other customers designs to fill the sheet.
Whilst it’s nice to have another bookmark for PCB manufacture, what really caught my eye about BatchPCB’s newly redesigned site is a new feature which allows you to place your pcb design on the Batch PCB site for the public to order. If you are the sharing type, this altruistic act may give you a cosy glow. Basically you can opt to make your design available and others may order the board as a one off order. I can see this as being an interesting idea for hobbyists who are collaborating on designs say through forums such as DIYaudio and similar. Obviously your handing over your pride and joy to the public domain.
From BatchPCB’s point of view the advantages are obvious. If you want to benefit from someone else’s design talent, the path of least resistance is to use their service. However, even with the longish lead times for getting your board made, consider how long a group buy takes to organise. With BatchPCB, the design is already verified and loaded onto the site. No waiting around for others to join in the group buy.
BatchPCB is a growing but still small scale company. Erik and Devlin are basically it for now. It is admirable that there is someone out there catering for the small production runs. Erik was telling me that they have some other innovative site features in the pipeline just now, so keep an eye on their site for future announcements.