It took me a while to think of something to have manufactured, but I stumbled across an interesting project here AVR-PCI bridge that I thought could be interesting to play around with.
Seeed offer the "standard" hobbyist level PCB spec, but also give the option to get smaller drill sizes and/or trace widths for a relatively small extra cost directly from the ordering page, rather than having to pay for their "advanced" service. For this board though, the standard specs were more than good enough, so I had it finished in ENIG just because I could! One notable missing option from the standard list was for a matte black solder mask (specifically matte, not shiny black). Elecrow offer this for an extra $20 or so.
So a timeline:
29th April - I placed my order.
2nd May - Board went in to production
8th May - Boards shipped, a somewhat useless(!) photo came with the notification email:
Normally I like the pre-shipping photo, it gives me a slight comfort that I haven't done something really silly with the Gerbers... but this one I can't see anything!
15th May - Boards arrived
I forgot to mention this was using their cheapest shipping option "Post Link". For me in the UK that resulted in the parcel being shipped internationally by 4PX (trackable), and delivered to my house using Royal Mail Tracked. For my purposes, this is great, I have no need for a faster delivery service (this only took 1 week anyway).
As you would expect, all of the boards were usable (excuse the shadow of my phone in the reflective solder mask). Just below C5 on the back of the board is the Seeed production code. They do warn about this being added in their FAQ (here).
It's hard to tell in those photos, but 3 of the 10 boards have no solder mask on some of the vias. Here is a close up (top board normal, bottom board missing solder mask). I guess it was just spread too thinly or something, not really sure to be honest. It was the same on both sides of the 3 affected boards. In this application, just a minor cosmetic issue though and will not affect the functionality.
Here's a close-up of some of this board's finer detail. Looks good:
The silkscreen quality isn't too great, but is no different to other manufacturers at this price point. The alignment is good.
Finally, the solder mask alignment is a little out, but not by any problematic amount. Maybe 2-3mil (at a guess based on the 12mil vias)
In conclusion, I'd definitely use Seeed again. Their pricing is as good as other companies for the low cost, low quantity boards that hobbyists need! The only improvement I could suggest to this service would be the addition of matte black solder mask option to the website (at a small extra cost of course). I'll do a follow up post when I get the remaining parts delivered and soldered on.