CNC circuit board fabrication

[Jonathan Ward's] pcb mill is as impressive as it is inexpensive. Twenty-six plywood parts, labeled A-Z, are used to assemble the machine along with the customary precision rods, stepper motors, and router assembly. His bill of materials prices the unit at $458.18, a small price to pay in order to forgo a multi-step etching process.

His test board shows some fairly fine pitch that could turn out most home-project circuit boards. We’ve contacted [Jonathan] regarding the specifics of milling the plywood parts out of a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of plywood. Watch for an update with any information he’s willing to share. We hope he’ll make the milling files for the plywood parts available so that you can build a copy of the device for your own use.

[Thanks Charles]

Comments

  1. wolfy02 says:

    thats waaaay cool, but waaaay out of my price range. Guess it’s time to build my own

  2. Manfre says:

    I’m curious how long it took to mill that pcb he’s holding.

  3. andrew says:

    That’s awesome. I wish there was a video, I can’t see how it moves in both X and Y (although the Z is obvious).

  4. nave.notnilc says:

    @andrew
    the other axis moves the bed from the bottom, it seems to me

  5. medix says:

    Heh. My acme nuts are far superior!

  6. tantris says:

    $150 off, if you can find a cheap alternative for linear bearings. brass on steel? printer/scanner parts?

  7. medix says:

    (good job tho ;) )

  8. Troy says:

    Looks promising.

    I wish there was more information. What’s being used to drive the stepper motors, etc. How is this being interfaced to a computer?

  9. Charles says:

    Your welcome for the find. I can not take credit for it thought. I was first linked to it by Bre Pettis on his blog and Twitter.

    I hope he plans on releasing the design files and more info on this project. I would love to set one beside my RepRap.

  10. Charles says:

    Just got a reply from Mr. Ward. Here it is below.
    ________
    Hi Charles,
    Yes, the machine is open source. I’ll be posting DXF and ShopBot files this afternoon. Feel free to make or modify my design to meet your needs.

    Best,

    Jonathan Ward
    _____

    So it looks like we will know more this afternoon.

  11. Fallen says:

    “We hope he’ll make the milling files for the plywood parts available so that you can build a copy of the device for your own use.”

    Or if he could get them milled and then sell kits for say $600. That would be a great price, and he could make a decent profit if he started buying parts in quantity.

  12. It looks like a nice design, but you can make it for a lot less money by sourcing parts elsewhere. You can, probably, get equivalent motors for much less at a place like http://www.alltronics.com (disclaimer: I’ve never purchased from them myself). Also, while McMaster-Carr tends to be convenient they do tend to be more expensive than most other sources. Besides going elsewhere, you could consider going with normal threaded rods, nuts, and shafts instead of “acme” and “precision”. It’d be a little less accurate, but a lot cheaper. Lastly, I don’t see motor controllers listed anywhere on his BOM which, unless he has some alternate way to control it, is normally one of the most expensive parts in a build and would drive up the price a great deal.

  13. MS3FGX says:

    Very interesting. Been looking for a reasonable method of rapid PCB creation. A kit of this machine in the $600 range seems like something that would sell fairly well.

  14. I updated my site with the DXF and ShopBot file. The boards shown took about 12 minutes to mill w/ a 1/64″ endmill. Currently, I’m using unipolar stepper motors and an xylotx drive with EMC linuxcnc.org, but motor controllers are 2 dollars on digikey http://search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail&name=620-1082-ND

    This machine will be able to mill the boards for the motor driver.

    I should have the motor controller done in a couple weeks for bipolar motors, and I’ll post the schematic. I would really like to get the cost of this machine down by using other vendors. Thanks. I’ll check out alltronics.

  15. sneakypoo says:

    @medix: Bah, my ballnuts could beat up your ACME nuts any day! ;)

  16. jeff-o says:

    Very cool and compact design. What’s the largest PCB size that can be milled with this machine?

  17. I really like the design, jonathan. I have my own homeade cnc that I’ve been using for a year now with good results.

    My experience w/ driver boards:

    In the process I went through 3 driver boards. First, a cheap “MDfly” board from ebay that burn up every driver IC and never worked. Second, a Xylotex board that burn one driver IC. Tried to repair it but it’s an SMD IC and I ripped up the traces upon trying to remove the IC. After talking to the guy at xylotex, he basically said i was screwed and wouldnt offer me a replacement board for $70 (he usually does if you’ve already paid 150)…this really ticked me off since he doesnt even repair the boards, he just sends new ones.

    The board I found to be the best was the last one i got here: http://cgi.ebay.com/3-AXIS-CNC-ROUTER-OR-MILL-STEPPER-MOTOR-DRIVER-BOARD_W0QQitemZ330379816955QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item4cec2beffb

    It’s a very similar design to the Xylotex board but it offers one major design advantage: Sockets for the driver IC. That means if you burn one up (it’s super easy) you can pop out the burnt one and replace it with a spare for $4-5 instead of buying a new board for 70-150.

    So far I haven’t burnt any more up but I at least know I’m safe and the board works perfectly with my 3 axis setup.

    I’ve yet to mill PCBs because my machine isnt that precise/level yet.

    I’d be interested in buying a kit with the precut wood pieces, btw.

  18. should read “burnt” not burn

  19. Charles says:

    You should be able to easily control bipolar steppers with the RepRap electronics kit Makerbot sells. There have been some guys milling with repraps in the past so I know the electronics are capable.

  20. Sasha says:

    One of the cutest mills around. Good job!

  21. ericwertz says:

    Looks like a very nice job.

    As usual I’m interested in knowing how many sq.in. you get out of what (priced) bits (and $4 spindle motors). Certainly the fixed cost points are interesting, but I’m personally more interested in the marginal ones.

    Well done.

  22. Howie says:

    How do you go about finding someone with a Shopbot? I’m in the UK, and I can think of a couple of things that I wouldn’t mind being able to turn up somewhere with a cad file and go away with CNC-cut parts. Not least this, so I could do smaller things myself.

    Who does this as a service for one-offs?

  23. Charles says:

    If you go to the shopbot site there is a directory and an estimate system that will point you towards someone near you with one. You can also post your request and they will have people send your estimates via email.

    I am in the process of converting the .DXF file to a .EPS so you could have the parts cut out of plywood at ponoko.

  24. erikc says:

    Big up to Jonathan! All skill

  25. Charles says:

    I sent an estimate request for the parts to be cut on a shopbot via the shopbot site and got a reply today. Prices range from $65usd a set to $100 a set. The shop that quoted the $65 said that they normally charge $85/hour on the shopbot but discount opensource projects.

  26. nedodelkin says:

    I am interested in buying this as a kit for the spontaneously community manifested price of $600. (Although I prefer synthetic materials over wood.) The nature of my workspace limits my choice of means for PCB manufacture, but this is the best solution I have seen so far.

    I wish you good luck and profits should you decide to sell these.

  27. tom says:

    Hello all, I’d just like to say that if anyone could get a half decent CNC mill (like this) to market in the UK via eBay or similar, they would clear up in no time. There is nothing at all (to my knowledge – I’d very much like to be proven wrong) currently available at anywhere near this price. In the UK, like many other countries, there is a huge hobby/cottage industry market. This machine would go down a storm if someone could offer kit/pre-built and good aftersales support. I make between 10 and 50 circuit boards a month using the photo-resist UV/developer/ferric chloride method – messy and time intensive. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that this is a perfect gateway product for a user to ‘get into’ CNC milling. I’m very excited to see this and hope to follow in Mr. Ward’s footseps in creating a very similar machine. Thank you and good luck.

  28. Robert says:

    I am very much interested in the pcb machine. I have the x and y table and the z axis, it is time to install the stepper motors (3 6 wire motors), which I also have. It is time to think about the interface these motors with my desk top machine which will be the dedicated machine for my circuit drilling machine. I figured it would be best to etch the boards and then drill the holes for the components. I also see there is two ways to to make the cnc machine. I have chose to move the parts instead of the spindle. I will be interested to see the next part of the system and then where I might get the operating system. Thank Robert

  29. Stainiget says:

    Illilipordify
    rpgf

  30. BGW says:

    I would love to see more info on the “home made” machine.

  31. ahmed says:

    Dear Sir/madam
    this circuit diagram as attached .
    Can you design PCB layout for it by using Traxmaker or ISIS software
    thanks alot

  32. daviduxresll says:

    I’m refining their plans business trip to Norway, Sweden, as well as Finlandin 04, 10. Might anyone kindly to tell me personally how many days it will be,generally, for Easter vacation in these 3 nations? Many thanks!

  33. tiker says:

    Look at this project:

    http://nhcad.com/cnc/cncmill

    It is CNC machine witch use stepper motor and electronic from PC 5.25″ floppy drive and ISA LPT board. Best of all is that all parts can be find for 0$

  34. Michael Rempel says:

    Please incude me on the ‘shoppers’ list if you ever make this available as a kit. $600 seems very reasonable.

  35. ShaZz says:

    is there any method by which i can plot cad file on a board via atmega 8515 or any other microcontroller. thanks

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