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'[EE] - has anyone used a CNC Milling machine for P'
2010\07\07@104309 by jimf

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 BODY { font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px; }  

       Hi guys,

       I come from my place of lurking quietly in the shadows of the list
to ask a quick question.

       Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
PCB's?  

       As far as electronics goes, I am an advanced hobbyist, and i've done
far too much chemical etching during my life, I just looked at a 600
GBP milling machine on ebay (made in taiwan) and wondered what your
experiences are if any?

       TIA

       Jim

2010\07\07@110436 by Jeff Galinat

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On 07/07/2010 10:43 AM, spam_OUTjimfTakeThisOuTspamwebstudios.co.uk wrote:
>    BODY { font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px; }
>
>        Hi guys,
>
>        I come from my place of lurking quietly in the shadows of the list
> to ask a quick question.
>
>        Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
> PCB's?
>
>        As far as electronics goes, I am an advanced hobbyist, and i've done
> far too much chemical etching during my life, I just looked at a 600
> GBP milling machine on ebay (made in taiwan) and wondered what your
> experiences are if any?
>
>        TIA
>
>        Jim
>    
Hi Jim,
  Here are a few website/links to get your research started courtesy of
Phil Moore who provides a lot of excellent info.

< http://pminmo.com/PMinMOwiki/index.php5?title=CNC_PCB_Milling>

< http://millpcbs.com/

Regards,
Jeff

2010\07\07@111338 by Michael Watterson

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jimf@webstudios.co.uk wrote:
>   BODY { font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px; }  
>
>        Hi guys,
>
>        I come from my place of lurking quietly in the shadows of the list
> to ask a quick question.
>
>        Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
> PCB's?  
>
>        As far as electronics goes, I am an advanced hobbyist, and i've done
> far too much chemical etching during my life, I just looked at a 600
> GBP milling machine on ebay (made in taiwan) and wondered what your
> experiences are if any?
>
>        TIA
>
>        Jim
>  
I used kit based on article in Elector

1) The motor wasn't great, play in bearings limited accuracy. Using a
Dremel motor we managed to do the finer pitch SMD ICs

2) The bed needs to be very flat, maybe even milled in place

3) tape down / sticking / hold PCB was tricky, but it was 0.8mm board.

4) Small End mills (< 1mm) are easily broken and best results was with
engraving tips.

5) we used the machine to drill two holes in blank PCB at pre-calibrated
peg holes and used machine screws as pegs for PCB for double sided
registration.

6) We used Eagle as there was a plug-in to create milling files.

7) We made sure no large area of bare board by having (usually earthed)
flood fills in "empty" parts of board.

8) "Printed" coils, striplines and capacitors "cut" by the machine
worked according to design (700MHz  to 1000MHz band)

9) Some boards we created two files. One for 1.5mm end mill for larger
open areas / wider track space (Raster mode) and 2nd file for engraving
tip (Vector mode).


2010\07\07@113555 by Dwayne Reid

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At 08:43 AM 7/7/2010, .....jimfKILLspamspam@spam@webstudios.co.uk wrote:

>         Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
>PCB's?

We have a much-modified commercial engraver that my buddy uses to
make simple PCB's with.  It actually works quite well but resolution
is limited - you can barely get a single trace between two pads on
0.1" centers.

We are using standard "D" engraving cutters that we have had
re-sharpened to a 0.005" flat.  The resulting isolation path is
probably about 0.01 - 0.015 inches wide.  Traces that run between
adjacent DIP pads wind up being REALLY skinny - hair thin.

Right now, the processing required to generate the G-code files is
such that only my buddy can do it.  He's written a couple of custom
programs that takes the output from our CAD system (I'm not even sure
what format) but it still takes some tweaking by hand before he has
files that work.

On the other hand - the file conversion process does look to be
pretty quick - I used to hand him the link to the board files that I
wanted made and he would hand me the finished boards a couple of
hours later.  Most of that time was machine time.

One of the reasons our machine works so well for PCB milling is that
it was designed from the ground-up for engraving.  It uses a floating
Z-axis head that has an adjustable collar that rides on the material
being milled.  You can set the engraving depth very accurately, which
is really important when you are using "D" cutters for milling.

Most of the problems that people seem have when milling PCB's occur
because they can't control the Z-axis depth accurately enough over
the entire surface area of the PCB.  Our machine avoids that problem
with the floating Z-axis head.

dwayne

--
Dwayne Reid   <dwaynerspamKILLspamplanet.eon.net>
Trinity Electronics Systems Ltd    Edmonton, AB, CANADA
(780) 489-3199 voice          (780) 487-6397 fax
http://www.trinity-electronics.com
Custom Electronics Design and Manufacturing

2010\07\07@120257 by Robert Young

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{Quote hidden}

I use an LPKF ProtoMat, about 1997 vintage machine.  It works well for small, one off prototypes where I'm in a hurry to get something made.  But it is NOT a cost effective way of prototyping for most projects.  The bits get expensive, you need to replace the backing board frequently, the FR4 dust must be contained and there are maintenance issues associated with keeping these machines running to their specifications.

Also works very well for making front and rear panels to accommodate connectors, knobs, switches, etc.

And I've used it to cut out templates for use in other construction.

Rob
                                           

2010\07\07@120532 by Olin Lathrop

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jimf@webstudios.co.uk wrote:
> I just looked at a 600 GBP milling machine on ebay
> (made in taiwan) and wondered what your experiences are if any?

That buys a lot of prototype boards made at real board houses, with plated
thru vias, solder mask, and silkscreen.


********************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, http://www.embedinc.com/products
(978) 742-9014.  Gold level PIC consultants since 2000.

2010\07\07@125007 by Michael Watterson

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 On 07/07/2010 17:05, Olin Lathrop wrote:
> jimfspamspam_OUTwebstudios.co.uk wrote:
>> I just looked at a 600 GBP milling machine on ebay
>> (made in taiwan) and wondered what your experiences are if any?
> That buys a lot of prototype boards made at real board houses, with plated
> thru vias, solder mask, and silkscreen.
>
We went CNC route because we designing pcb filters and wanted hours
rather than week turnaround.

For less than GHz designs, or even non-experimental designs, I agree,
even the 10 days from Chinese house to Ireland is better idea.
My prototyping was attempting PCB duplex filter with <40MHz guard at
900MHz approx using no custom ceramics or SAW.

The bits are very expensive and don't last long. You really want to be
looking at 1 off quantities and 1/2 day turn around to make CNC worth
while. Though very handy for plastic and even alloy panels.


2010\07\07@140105 by Herbert Graf

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On Wed, 2010-07-07 at 17:49 +0100, Michael Watterson wrote:
> On 07/07/2010 17:05, Olin Lathrop wrote:
> > @spam@jimfKILLspamspamwebstudios.co.uk wrote:
> >> I just looked at a 600 GBP milling machine on ebay
> >> (made in taiwan) and wondered what your experiences are if any?
> > That buys a lot of prototype boards made at real board houses, with plated
> > thru vias, solder mask, and silkscreen.
> >
> We went CNC route because we designing pcb filters and wanted hours
> rather than week turnaround.
>
> For less than GHz designs, or even non-experimental designs, I agree,
> even the 10 days from Chinese house to Ireland is better idea.
> My prototyping was attempting PCB duplex filter with <40MHz guard at
> 900MHz approx using no custom ceramics or SAW.
>
> The bits are very expensive and don't last long. You really want to be
> looking at 1 off quantities and 1/2 day turn around to make CNC worth
> while. Though very handy for plastic and even alloy panels.

I think the real point of CNC is not that it's super great for PCB work,
it's that it's so versatile for MORE then PCB work. Once you've got
access to a CNC it's amazing what kinds of things in the prototype (and
even small production) space you can do.

Yes, the initial investment isn't small, and the initial learning ramp
is pretty steep and long, but once you're going a good person can get
something made VERY quickly.

TTYL

2010\07\07@143318 by Dwayne Reid

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At 12:01 PM 7/7/2010, Herbert Graf wrote:

>I think the real point of CNC is not that it's super great for PCB work,
>it's that it's so versatile for MORE then PCB work. Once you've got
>access to a CNC it's amazing what kinds of things in the prototype (and
>even small production) space you can do.

I concur.

I mentioned that my buddy is the guy who preps G-code files for
milling PCB's.  At this point, he's the only guy here who can do that.

But we use the machine all the time for milling enclosures for our
projects and for some of our lower-volume products.  Its easy: create
the file in CorelDraw, export as PDF to Cut2d (Vectric Software), run
the resulting G-code file in Mach3.  Quick and VERY easy.

There are at least 3 of us here who do this regularly.

dwayne

--
Dwayne Reid   <KILLspamdwaynerKILLspamspamplanet.eon.net>
Trinity Electronics Systems Ltd    Edmonton, AB, CANADA
(780) 489-3199 voice          (780) 487-6397 fax
http://www.trinity-electronics.com
Custom Electronics Design and Manufacturing

2010\07\07@182013 by Brent Brown

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On 7 Jul 2010 at 15:43, RemoveMEjimfTakeThisOuTspamwebstudios.co.uk wrote:

>   BODY { font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px; }  
>
>        Hi guys,
>
>        I come from my place of lurking quietly in the shadows of the list
> to ask a quick question.
>
>        Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
> PCB's?  
>
>        As far as electronics goes, I am an advanced hobbyist, and i've done
> far too much chemical etching during my life, I just looked at a 600
> GBP milling machine on ebay (made in taiwan) and wondered what your
> experiences are if any?

Hi Jim,

I read a magazine article about DIY converting your mill to CNC. Seems there is a
whole community out there that's into this. You can buy all the necessary stepper
motors, interface boards etc, use free version of Mach3 software. I'm toying with
getting one and using it for machining plastic boxes and front panels etc, and in my
dreams PCB drilling/routing/milling and pick and place.

Problems with an off the shelf cheap Chinese made mill is backlash - practically
unworkable without modification. To improve it you can fit ball screws for x and y
axis, difficulty I'm told is space to do this in smaller machines.

Some links that might be of use:
http://www.machsupport.com/
http://buildyourcnc.com/
www.toolsnz.com/store.php/category?id=58
http://www.theshedmag.co.nz/cms/-previous-articles/december-january-10/180-mill

--
Brent Brown, Electronic Design Solutions
16 English Street, St Andrews,
Hamilton 3200, New Zealand
Ph: +64 7 849 0069
Fax: +64 7 849 0071
Cell: +64 27 433 4069
eMail:  spamBeGonebrent.brownspamBeGonespamclear.net.nz


2010\07\07@194515 by BOB

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jimf@webstudios.co.uk wrote:
>
>        Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
> PCB's?  
>
>  
There are alot of  DIYers (do it yourself) making double sided PCB with
small table top routers.
check out
www.probotix.com/FireBall_v90_cnc_router_kit/
They even have a section on PCB milling

bits, I do not think, are that expensive  check out
http://www.precisebits.com/default.htm

Are the worth the money?  Consider this:
you get a circuit Idea
draw it up with EAGLE soft or simular program.
convert to GCODE
cut the PCB.

One person on forums claims to have gotten a request at 7:30 AM for a 4
IC and 14 other components circuit. Using eagle to design the board and
other software to support the table top router.  He had a finished
PROTOTYPE board by 11:30 AM.
The board was double sided but no thru hole or silk screening.

lots of people already doing it.  A big milling machine is kind of over
kill.
A lot of the lower cost machines are built out of MDF but can maintain
0.001 to 0.005" tolerances

Any questions ask I will try to help.

BOB


2010\07\07@200759 by jimf

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         BODY { font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px; }
Firstly, thanks everyone for the many replies!

       The unit I am thinking about is on ebay (co.uk) item numbers
190401595129 and  200474122605 comes to about 600 GBP and they quoted
115 USD shipping
(if it gets caught by customs, i'd expect another 100 GBP in duty
etc. )

       The ebay seller  also recommend Mach3 for windows or EMC2 for linux.
( I use VMWare workstation, so am happy running up a copy of each just
to see which is my favourite).
I hadn't even thought of one thing someone said about making the
front panels, great idea for prototypes.  

       I think one nice thing is the lack of chemicals in the spare
bedroom, although I will lose the ability to make boards late at
night (i'm thinking about noise here)
The stuff I work on is mostly 0.1" pitch DIL stuff, although I do
have a heap of SMD bits I really should use for some things.
I did play with making a homebuilt CNC using some stepper motors and
drivers from old Epson Dotmatrix printers, and have a working X and Y
axis bed (not very accurate on the first run but it was a proof of
concept) made from MDF/chipboard etc and whatever was in the shed ;)

       It seems like it will be a yes to buying one,  roll on payday :D It
seems a lot to pay on a hobby tool, so if anyone wants to buy an
almost unused Alto Saxophone (i can't play!) that will go towards it
:D

       -Jim
On Thu 08/07/10 12:45 AM , BOB TakeThisOuTBOBSCNCEraseMEspamspam_OUTcharter.net sent:
 RemoveMEjimfspamTakeThisOuTwebstudios.co.uk [1] wrote:
>
> Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype
> PCB's?
>
>
There are alot of DIYers (do it yourself) making double sided PCB
with
small table top routers.
check out
http://www.probotix.com/FireBall_v90_cnc_router_kit/ [2]
They even have a section on PCB milling
bits, I do not think, are that expensive check out
http://www.precisebits.com/default.htm [3]
Are the worth the money? Consider this:
you get a circuit Idea
draw it up with EAGLE soft or simular program.
convert to GCODE
cut the PCB.
One person on forums claims to have gotten a request at 7:30 AM for
a 4
IC and 14 other components circuit. Using eagle to design the board
and
other software to support the table top router. He had a finished
PROTOTYPE board by 11:30 AM.
The board was double sided but no thru hole or silk screening.
lots of people already doing it. A big milling machine is kind of
over
kill.
A lot of the lower cost machines are built out of MDF but can
maintain
0.001 to 0.005" tolerances
Any questions ask I will try to help.
BOB
--
http://www.piclist.com [4] PIC/SX FAQ & list archive
View/change your membership options at
http://mailman.mit.edu/mailman/listinfo/piclist [5]


Links:
------
[1] jimfEraseMEspam.....webstudios.co.uk
[2] www.probotix.com/FireBall_v90_cnc_router_kit/
[3] http://www.precisebits.com/default.htm
[4] http://www.piclist.com
[5] mailman.mit.edu/mailman/listinfo/piclist

2010\07\08@003843 by BOB

picon face

>        The ebay seller  also recommend Mach3 for windows or EMC2 for linux.
> ( I use VMWare workstation, so am happy running up a copy of each just
> to see which is my favourite).
>  
Both EMC2 and MACH3 do the same thing.  EMC2 is for linux OS and MACH3
for windows.
EMC2 is free but Mach3 costs about$150 for a license.  Having tried both
I prefer Mach3. the have excellent tech support.
With EMC2 I was not able to even get it running.  It was the old thing
of emc said it was a linux problem and linux said it was an EMC issue.  
But when its free what incentive do the software people have to help a
newcomer to the product.

Mach3 has great forum group  go to their website to sign up.
http://www.machsupport.com/
You can download a working version of the software the only restriction
is it is limited to 500 lines of Gcode.
>  I hadn't even thought of one thing someone said about making the
> front panels, great idea for prototypes.  
>
>        I think one nice thing is the lack of chemicals in the spare
> bedroom, although I will lose the ability to make boards late at
> night (i'm thinking about noise here)
>  
A person of mine made an enclosure out of the 2" thick foam insulation.  
He held it together with duct tape.
He used a piece of 1/8" plastic for one side.  It really did a lot to
keep it quiet and cut down on the dust getting on every thing.  It was
just a temporary thing till he had time to decide on the final version.
>  The stuff I work on is mostly 0.1" pitch DIL stuff, although I do
> have a heap of SMD bits I really should use for some things.
>  I did play with making a homebuilt CNC using some stepper motors and
> drivers from old Epson Dotmatrix printers, and have a working X and Y
> axis bed (not very accurate on the first run but it was a proof of
> concept) made from MDF/chipboard etc and whatever was in the shed ;)
>  

lots of stepper driver boards  kits out there  do a search for hobbycnc
and probotix.  Several others in Europe

Check out   http://www.Cuteminds.com
They have a lot of CNC for the electronics oriented people
 One thing to consider if you are going to make
>        It seems like it will be a yes to buying one,  roll on payday :D It
> seems a lot to pay on a hobby tool, so if anyone wants to buy an
> almost unused Alto Saxophone (i can't play!) that will go towards it
> :D
>
>        -Jim
>  
BOB

2010\07\21@042121 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Jul 7, 2010, at 8:04 AM, Jeff Galinat wrote:

>> Does anyone here use a CNC milling machine to make their prototype  
>> PCB's?
>

Here's a repost of an older message I sent...

On Feb 28, 2007, at 4:02 PM, Robert Mann wrote:

> A machine to do proto boards in house would be okay but I would not
> be against doing all of the PCB work in house if I could find THAT
> machine that was affordable and quality worthy of production boards.

I have an LPKF.  It's fun, and it's great for optimizing the tiny
little single sided boards I make quite a few of, but I find the
limitations compared to professionally manufactured boards rather
frustrating.  Design rules are so-so, no Plated holes, no soldermask,
no silkscreen, no tin plating.  (all of which you can add, more or
less, for additional cost and trouble.)  It'll take a long time to
"break even" WRT the current cost of professionally made boards,
and for boards of moderate size and complexity, I'm not sure you
even DO break even (tools are relatively expensive and don't
(officially) last that long.

There are amateur-made devices similar to the LPKF (or T-Tech), but
there is "stuff" to the professional models that I don't see duplicated
(like a honking big Aluminum plate for a base, and a very-high-rpm
rather fancy looking drill motor), and I can't believe that they're
there for no reason.  With the LPKF, I don't have much problem putting
single tracks between DIP pins.  I'm not sure the homebuilt system
can do that.  A professional PCB shop will usually allow you to get
two tracks between pins...

BillW

2010\07\21@085245 by PICdude

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Late to this thread.  I have a very capable CNC mill, and another  
very-precise multi-axis "workcell" I'm now finishing up building  
(details later).  Both would do very well for PCB-trace routing, but I  
won't use them for that, as the hassle with adding thru-holes is an  
issue for me.  Almost all my boards nowadays are 2-layer, 6mil  
trace/space, 0.015" via, and I'm averaging around 30 vias per sq. in.,  
so any workarounds (manual eyelets for thru-holes, re-route for  
jumpers, etc) would be a major hassle.

Instead, I get my PCB's made by barebonespcb with many different  
circuits on one panel, then use my CNC mill to separate them.  See  
here... http://www.narwani.org/stuff/PCB-Milling-01.jpg

I don't really need soldermask except under 28-SSOPs and for traces  
that run between SOT-23's or 0603's, so I cover those up with "MG  
4190-GP Green Overcoating Pen".  Price is right (my last board cost  
$153 for 29 circuits, one of which was quite large) and quite  
hassle-free.  Since many of my PCB's are non-rectangular, it would  
cost me quite a lot more to have them made to the correct shape anyway.

Only downside is waiting until I have enough PCB's ready to make a  
decent-sized panel, but I usually keep my non-urgent boards completed  
and on-hold, then add them onto a panel when some urgent board is  
required.

Cheers,
-Neil.






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