Skip to main content

 I urgently need individuals who are willing to cooperate on my website and projects.

Making high-density PCBs, SMD footprints, trace widths, via size

Published: 27 December 2017
Last updated: 02 April 2024

This article is a bit outdated, I'm looking for PCBs with smaller dimensions than described here, using 008004 parts.

Example high-density PCB from a Sony Handycam DCR-TRV17E

The standard SMD footprints in, for example Eagle, are actually all too large, in the industry much smaller dimensions are used. Here's a PCB from 2001 that was made in large numbers. This PCB comes from a Sony DCR-TRV17 MiniDV Camcorder. I found it interesting because it contains many components in a small area. I wanted to know what the trace-width and other dimensions are:

Example high density HDI PCBExample high-density HDI PCB

Minimum values for trace width and via size

Here are some standard minimum values for low cost PCBs which are used by PCB manufacturers:

Track width

6mil (Recommend >8mil)

Track/Vias space 

6mil (Recommend >8mil)

Pads space


Silkscreen text size


Drill hole


SMT Solder Mask Width


Solder Mask Clearance


Incidentally we may need a smaller trace width of 4mil, e.g. under ball grid chips.

PCB trace width and via drill used in smartphones, laptops etc.

  • Samsung GT-S5660 smartphone: Trace width 2mil, via diameter 12mil
  • Acer laptop 2008: Trace width 4mil
  • Sparkfun-samd21-mini-breakout: Trace width 10 and 6mil, via drill 10mil
  • Arduino-Zero-Pro-V3: Trace width 16 and 8mil, via drill 16mil

High-density PCBs at PCBWay

Note that the price for a high-density prototype PCB may be much higher than for a standard PCB. For example, at pcbway, a standard PCB of 100x100mm costs just $5 with a minimum track/spacing of 6/6mil (0.24mm) and a minimum hole size of 0.3mm. A high-density PCB with 3/3mil track/spacing and 0.15mm hole size, costs $170, which is 34 times more expensive, while the minimum dimensions are only halved. If you take the minimum dimensions one step larger (4mil / 0.2mm), the price drops significantly to $64, see the example below:

PCB prototype price with 4/4mil track/spacing and 0.2mm hole sizePCB prototype price with 4/4mil track/spacing and 0.2mm hole size

PCB prototypes in 3-5 days at PCBWay

I often need prototype PCBs that I want to receive as quickly as possible. How fast is the delivery time and what does it cost? I always have my PCBs made at PCBWay and I choose the following:
Manufacture in 24 hours and shipping with DHL in 3 to 5 days. So you will have your PCB at home in an average of 4 days:

PCBWay Prototype PCB

How to choose resistor and capacitor SMD size

This list is outdated and needs updating.

Note that the assembly of SMD parts smaller than 0402 size is more expensive.

  • 0805 Very large and is not used much anymore.
  • 0603 The most used, also in laptops. The advantage is the low assembly costs. 
  • 0402 The most used in smartphones.
  • 0201 
  • 01005 
  • 009005
  • 008004 

PCB checklist

  • Carry out the Design Rule Check.
  • Check unconnected pins. In Eagle file > export Pinlist.
  • No traces under crystals and TO220.
  • Large pads for components that may need to be replaced.
  • Check if the Gerber files contain all layers, don’t forget Tdocument, Bdocument in Eagle.

Silkscreen text checklist

  • All text is vector
  • Pin1 at ICs, connectors and jumpers
  • PCB name and company name
  • Date or version
  • TS and BS
  • Name test pins

SO / SOIC package footprint pad size

The standard Eagle pad dimensions for SO-8, SO-14 etc. in Eagle are quite large: 26 x 80 mill, I prefer 26 x 60 mill or even smaller.

QFN package footprint pad length

Note the finger pad length for QFN footprints. The pad lengths in libraries, such as Eagle, are often too short, it protrudes too little outsite the package. That make it hard to make contact with the tip of a soldering iron when needed. It is then difficult to replace the QFN chip later.

QFN footprint path length too short QFN footprint path length too short

This video demonstrates how to solder 0.5mm pitch QFN chips using only hot air and a soldering iron, without solder paste or a stencil.

Here is a video with another QFN soldering method.

QFN package solder absorption vias

When applying solder to the QFN package manually, the thermal pad easy gets too much solder. This causes that the distance to the PCB becomes too large, so the pins will not be soldered properly. To prevent this, there is a handy solution: add large vias, which absorbs the surplus of tin:

QFN package solder absorption viasQFN package solder absorption vias

Online Gerber Viewer

Here you can upload the entire set of Gerber files in one go and see how the PCB looks like:

Online Gerber viewer EasyedaOnline Gerber viewer Easyeda

Adding breadboard pads to a prototype PCB

I always place extra pads on a prototype PCB, that allow easy modifications afterwards, see the PCB above. In Eagle do this:

  • Place the first via: square 42mil, drill 20mil
  • Delete the solder mask: select Stop
  • Change net name for instance to: BREADBOARD
  • Place multiple pads by copying and group copying, set the net name to BREADBOARD if needed
  • Set Airwires hidden

Using the PCB as a drilling jig for switches

It is difficult to precisely drill holes for switches in a front plate. I came up with a handy solution for that. Add a center hole in the middle of the switch, the PCB can then be used as a drilling jig:

 Tactile switch Eagle package with center hole

Cheap PCB manufacturing in China

I’m an inventor and regularly make electronics prototypes, nowadays this can be done with low costs in China. But many people already know this.

For example, a double-sided PCB of 10 x 10cm costs less than $10, including shipping. You will get always five pieces, even though you only need one. The PCB is completed with a solder mask and a silkscreen on both sides.

Make the first prototype PCB sloppy

The first prototype PCB can be designed quickly and sloppily. It is not necessary to spend time on aesthetics, it often has to be completely redesigned when many things change. During the development process you always get new ideas and insights. Designing fast and sloppy is however quite difficult for a precision neurotic as me.

Hand soldering 008004

Androkavo made this video on how to solder the smallest SMD components by hand like the 008004.

Hand soldering smd 008004Hand soldering smd 008004

008004 capacitors are 150 times more expensive than gold

In the past, a lot of effort was made to create gold, of course that didn’t work. But now you can transfer cheap material into something that is 150 x more expensive than gold. Namely MLCC capacitors in size 008004. The size is just 0.25 x 0.125 x 0.125mm, the weight is 16 micrograms and the price is about $0.1 per piece.
That makes $6000 per gram which is 150 times more expensive than gold. Moreover, a cube of 1cm3 built from these capacitors costs $25000.
(If I've made a mistake, I'd like to hear about it.)