Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question about our products or about OCTO by CERcuits, your order or anything else, you can always contact us.

However, if you do not want to wait for a reply, you might find the answer below.

General questions (organization, orders, payments, shipping, returns)

How long does it take until my order ships?

Answer: please take a look at the product page. Estimated lead times will be given in or below the product description. In the case of C-proto orders, the estimated lead time is generated with the quote.

What payments do you accept?

Answer: We accept Credit Card, PayPal, bank transfer and check

Will you issue credit or longer payment terms?

Larger orders qualify for longer payment terms and account credit. This is subject to a credit review. Contact us to inquire.

Can I return a product? 

Yes for standard products like bare and metalized substrates. If you are unhappy with your purchase you can return it within 10 days of your purchase and receive a full refund given the products arrive in our warehouse in the original packaging and without damages.

For machined ceramics and ceramic PCB, we are making the product to your design and standard returns are not possible. However, when products arrive damaged or if they are not made correctly or are not working, contact us immediately within 10 days of your purchase. We will either rework, replace the products or issue a partial or full refund excluding the NRE & Tooling cost of your order as listed on the quote.

To start a return or demand a refund, contact us here.

What happens if you cannot make my design?

In development and engineering projects, sometimes a design on paper is not feasible in production. We will check your design for manufacturability and verify if it meets our design rules before we start production. If they do not we will come back to you and propose changes to the design in order to fix this.

Unfortunately, occasionally, manufacturing issues only appear during production. In this case, we will notify you and discuss a possible design or process change to resolve this. If we cannot find a fix or if it happens to be unacceptable by you, we will cancel the order and give you a refund excluding the NRE & Tooling cost of your order as listed on the quote.

How do you ensure secure payments?

All payments are done using a secure connection and service. We cooperate with PayPal, one of the leaders in online payments to process your credit card payment. We will never see or receive your credit card details.

How is my data protected?

We value your personal and company data and adhere to a strict privacy policy that you can read here.

If you wish to have a signed NDA before sending us your drawings. Contact us here and we will be happy to issue one to you.

Are there any import duties/tariffs that I need to pay?

You are responsible for local import formalities and duties on your order. Note that when you are based in the USA and order ceramic PCB via our EASY ONLINE solution with copper metallization, your order will likely be made by our partner in China and is thus likely subject to a 25% tariff.

If you would like to avoid this, please switch to silver metalization (never made in China) or order via C-Proto if possible (made in Belgium). If both options do not suit you, contact us. Whe have other partners in Taiwan that are also able to supply copper-based ceramic PCB but we need to quote this separately.

Can you ship faster?

Answer: We might. It depends on the production schedule of our partners. Contact us to discuss this.

FAQ - Blank ceramic substrates

What is the best way to cut ceramic substrates?

Answer: It depends a bit on the shape and precision you are trying to achieve. In general, laser cutting is the best way to do it but be aware that laser cutting is very difficult, you will need a powerful one and conductive residue might be formed at the edges. Alternatives are diamond drills and diamond saws if precision is less a requirement. We have had customers that cut the substrates into shape with a Dremel and a diamond cutting blade. Just make sure you always use cooling or cut small parts at a time.

Last but not least, for straight cuts, you can scribe and cleave the boards using a diamond-tipped scribing pen. It requires a bit of practice but will work well for thinner substrates below 0.635mm (0.030").

However, we do advise you to use our services for proper cut-to-shape ceramic substrates. Take a look at our precision laser cut services.

FAQ - Machined Ceramics

How are the ceramic substrates machined?

We use 100% laser processes. This is the best way to ensure precise and clean milling and drilling of the ceramic.

What is laser scribing

Laser scribing is drilling a series of blind holes in a line to create a weak spot in the material and ensure a clean cut when breaking out. We have a full page dedicated to this technique. Read more about laser scribing here.

How can I single out a panel?

If you have chosen to add laser scribing, you can simply break out the individual design from a panel with manual force. it will require a bit of practice initially bit will go very fast after a few rounds. You will notice that designs will snap-off along the scribing line. Remember to always snap off the shortest scribing lines first. Read more here.

If you are unsure about doing it in, build a small jig that holds the rest of the panel in place while snapping off individual designs.

What type of design files can you accept ?

Answer: We prefer Gerber or ODB++ format but can also accept most other vector/CAD formats (DXF, DWG, SVG, AI, ...). 
Also 3D designs are possible to be made (.step, .stl, .stp).
And if your design is simple, we can also work of a pdf file or even a simple word document or a drawing as long as you clarify all relevant dimensions.

We cannot work with native files from PCB design files (for example Altium's .pcbdoc, Eagles '.brd or KiCad .kicad files)

FAQ - Metalized Ceramics

How to etch a copper metalized substrate?

Answer: You can use a typical PCB etchant like Ferric Chloride or Ammonium Persulphate. Homemade etchants based on hydrochloric acids and hydrogen peroxide usually do not generate satisfying results. Note that doing this etching process alone will mostly not be sufficient as a thin layer will remain. Read the next question how to solve this. 

Remark! Please take safety precautions and follow all the guidelines from the etchant manufacturers. Etching can be dangerous!

After etching my circuit, a thin conductive layer remains?

Answer: This is the interface layer that ensures proper adhesion of copper to the ceramic. It is usually between 0.1-0.5um thick and its exact composition is proprietary information and cannot be shared. Contact us for guidance how to remove it. 

Can I route a circuit using a CNC mill?

Answer: We honestly never tried this and advise to use a fiber laser that is capable of copper ablation. We assume it is possible but you will risk losing a lot of drills and/or breaking/cracking the substrate.

However, if you were successful and want to show the rest of the engineering community how to do it. Contact us and we will pay you the boards back in exchange for a (video) tutorial.

There is discoloration and/or stains on the copper and/or some light color on one of the sides?

Answer: this is oxidation and/or leftovers from handling during the metallization process and we try to avoid them as much as possible. Note that we advise you to clean copper layer(s) before any processing which should eliminate the stains.

How do I drill holes in the substrate?

Answer: you can drill holes mechanically using a diamond drill on a CNC or a Dremel (at least 20K RPM needed - Remember to use coolant!) but it is slow and you risk cracking the substrate. Our advice is to use a powerful laser or make it easy on yourself and let us do it for you. We have the experience in house. 

I have a double-sided metalized substrate, how do I make interconnects between the layers. 

Answer: there are a number of ways. You can make a hole and connect top and bottom filling it with solder or by placing a wire in it and solder it from top to bottom. Another method is to use copper rivets but control your force when applying them.

Can I use a regular solder mask on the substrates? 

Answer: Most solder masks, both as an ink or as tape will adhere very good to the substrate.

What is the maximum operating temperature?

Answer: We advise staying below 200C-250C continuous operating temperature. Taking the boards through reflow is no problem but you need to consider it is hard to get the pads to follow the recommended solder profile. Expect that you will need to try several times. 

I want to make an Antenna for usage above 300 C?

Answer: We do not advise the usage of these substrates for such high-temperature conditions. Better is to make a thick film printed antenna on a blank substrate. The easiest way is to order this from us online in prototype (C-Proto Alumina or C-Proto AlN) or production (Easy-online Alumina or Easy-Online AlN) volumes. Or see how we can help by contacting us.

What is the resistivity of the copper?

Answer: The copper layers are electroplated which has a resistivity of roughly 1mohm/Sq.

FAQ - Ceramic PCB (C-Proto)

When should I consider ordering via C-proto and when via C-Production?

Answer: C-proto is perfect for people that only need a few pieces (5 panels or less => Please note; depending on the size, several PCB may fit on one panel). And the design needs to be relatively simple with only limited options regarding thickness, finish, and masking. The advantage of C-proto is that you can have your PCB relatively fast and at a much lower cost as you do not need to pay for tooling. C-proto orders are made on a specifically designed production line for prototypes and low volume.

C-production orders, on the other hand, will be made on a fully-fledged ceramic PCB production line at one of our partners which are designed for higher volume orders. It gives you many more options and tighter specifications but the downsides are price and longer lead time.

Where do you make C-Proto order?

Answer: All C-proto orders are made by us (CERcuits) in Belgium.

What is your lead time / production time?

Answer: When you generate your quote, the estimated lead time will be shown next to the cost. Usually it takes about 4-5 working days to make a design but this can go up to 15 working days for certain surface finished and higher volumes.

Note that the lead time is given in working days and not calendar days. If you want to check our working day calendar, check it here

What are main cost/price drivers?

Answer: For our C-proto line the price will mostly increase with

  • Thickness: very thin (0.38mm or 0.5mm) substrates require a more careful and slower production process and has higher scrap rates. This results in higher costs and thus pricing. 
  • Surface finish: Gold (ENIG) plating is done at a partner which requires shipping/set up and other cost and will increase price and lead time significantly
  • Number of panels: Our C-proto line requires no tooling but in exchange the process is longer and slower. Hence every panel that we need to process will increase the cost more significant then in a production environment. This is why we recommend to keep C-Proto orders below 5 production panels (100mmx80mm each) . 

Do you have a design guide?

Answer: The design specs are listed on every product page when you scroll down.

We realize that more design help as well as background might be helpful and we are creating a full design guide that will cover most topics related to designing a ceramic circuit. Hopefully we can launch this towards the end of 2020 but for now if you are unsure about something or you want us to help you with your design before you have it made, just contact us and it will be your pleasure to assist you. 

What happens if you cannot make my design?

Answer: We will contact you to let you know what parts of your design are outside of our capabilities and we will propose the necessary changes to be able to manufacture it. In case these design changes are not acceptable, we can check if it is possible to make at one our partners or we can cancel your order and refund you. 

Even if we encounter a manufacturing issue during fabrication which lead to design changes or cancellation, we will not charge you for the work that has already been done. 

In very specific cases it might happen that, even though your design is outside of our capabilities but changing it is impossible, we agree to try to manufacture it anyhow. When this happens, we discuss this upfront with you and we will make an agreement on the costs that are involved. 

When do you expect double-sided / multilayers to be available? 

Answer: we have all the necessary equipment and processes in place to make them but still need to validate and thoroughly test it before we can release double-sided design to be quoted and ordered via the C-proto. In the meantime, you can either contact us or we can offer this via the C-PRODUCTION order form.

Can you ship faster?

Answer: We might. It depends on the production schedule. Contact us to discuss this.

How are Ceramic PCBs made?

Answer: we made a page about this that explains the different manufacturing technologies. Find it here. 

What type of design files can you accept ?

Answer: We prefer Gerber or ODB++ format but can also accept most other vector/CAD formats (DXF, DWG, SVG, AI, ...). 
Also 3D designs are possible to be made (.step, .stl, .stp).
And if your design is simple, we can also work of a pdf file or even a simple word document or a drawing as long as you clarify all relevant dimensions.

We cannot work with native files from PCB design files (for example Altium's .pcbdoc, Eagles '.brd or KiCad .kicad files)

FAQ - Ceramic PCB (C-Production)

When should I consider ordering via C-proto and when via C-production?

Answer: C-proto is perfect for people that only need a few pieces (5 panels or less => Please note; depending on the size, several PCB may fit on one panel). And the design needs to be relatively simple with only limited options regarding thickness, finish, and masking. The advantage of C-proto is that you can have your PCB relatively fast and at a much lower cost as you do not need to pay for tooling. C-proto orders are made on a specifically designed production line for prototypes and low volume.

C-production orders, on the other hand, will be made on a fully-fledged ceramic PCB production line at one of our partners which are designed for higher volume orders. It gives you many more options and tighter specifications but the downsides are price and longer lead time.

Where are the C-Production orders made?

Answer: We have several production partners in China, Taiwan, India, the USA, and Europe. In order to ensure consistent quality, every order standard passes our Belgian location for a final quality check before it is shipped to you.

Are there any import duties/tariffs that I need to pay?

You are responsible for local import formalities and duties on your order. Note that when you are based in the USA and choose copper metallization, your order will likely be made by our partner in China and is thus likely subject to a 25% tariff.

If you would like to avoid this, please switch to silver metalization (never made in China) or order via C-Proto if possible (made in Belgium). If both options do not suit you, contact us. We have other production partners in Taiwan that are also able to supply copper-based ceramic PCB but we need to quote this separately.

Can you ship faster?

Answer: We might. It depends on the production schedule of our partners. Contact us to discuss this.

How are Ceramic PCBs made?

Answer: we made a page about this that explains the different manufacturing technologies. Find it here.