A comparison between 2 and 4 layer PCBs – Made with Kicad 

 September 30, 2018

By  Peter

The text in this post is based on the transcript of the video.

In this video I’d like to show the results of the PCBs that I ordered a few weeks ago from PCBway.com and I’ve finally received them a couple of days ago. These are the PCBs from one of the projects from my new book “Kicad Like a Pro” that I have completed working on and it should be available in print and a book by the end of the year.

The ebook version (in PDF, epub and mobi formats) is available now at the Tech Explorations bookstore. Use coupon code MUAHKDMQ for a 20% discount.

The good news is that the writing is finished.

But I wanted to show you the result of one of those projects in the book. I’ve got the exact same board with the only difference being that one of those two is a two layer board, and the other one is a four layer board.

So I used the autorouting feature in Kicad 5 and did the routing in those two boards.

In one board I used two layers, and in the second board I used four layers. I just wanted to see what the differences in the final manufactured version of the board. Now, at first glance you can’t really see see which of these two boards is the four layer and which one is the two layer board.

They look identical. Look at the thickness; the thickness is identical for the red and blue. The layout of the components is identical. You can probably get some clue as to which one is the four layer board and which one is the two layer board by looking at the traces.

For example you can see the blue one has got more traces showing on the surface than the red one does.

Turn it over, similarly, there’s more happening on the blue board than on the red board and that is an indication that the red board is the four layer PCB.

That’s because there are traces you can’t see because they are sandwiched in between the top layer and the bottom layer of the front and back of the PCB. That makes the traces on the outer layers look less dense compared to the ones on the two-layer PCB.

The red one is the four layer PCB.

They both work in identical ways. You still stick the components in the same way. There was no real reason for me to go for a four layer PCB other than just testing out the process and looking at the final result and comparing between the two. I should also say that the four layer PCB, even though it has the exact same functionality as the two layer PCB, is double the price. Double the price.

But other than that it’s identical. The silkscreen looks the same. The artwork is there. The pads are identical, and it takes much the same amount of time to have it manufactured. So the only real difference is that the four layer one is more expensive.

I’m very pleased about the quality as well, from PCBWay. The one thing that I really like is that the edges of the board are all nice and smooth. The finished product seems to be a little bit better to what I get from OSHPark. OSHPark’s boards always have these rough edges that haven’t been trimmed away.

Obviously I can finish this and cut off the bits off the boards that are left. It’s not a big deal. I’m just comparing the two manufacturers and I really like what they see with PCBWay with how smooth the edges are. The overall quantity is really nice.


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