Cyclone PCB Factory: 3d Printable Circuit Board Mill


If you can 3D print most of the parts for another 3D printer, why not also for a PCB mill? That’s the question answered by the Cyclone PCB Factory. It will help you kiss those toner transfer or photo resist days goodbye.

Homemade circuit boards tend to be rather small, which really helps keep the cost and scope of this project down. Most of the mounting parts, as well as the gears, are 3D printed. Of course there’s the usual machine tool items which you pretty much have to purchase: the ball screws, precision rod, stepper motors, and a motor to spin the routing tool.

Check out the video below to see where the project is right now. One of the crucial aspects of PCB milling is to have a level build table. The cutter head tends to be ‘V’ shaped so cutting just a bit too deep can blow out the traces you’re trying to isolate. The demo shows that this can automatically calibrate the software to account for any variances in the height of the copper clad.

We remember seeing a snap-together PCB mill. But we’re pretty sure that that one used parts milled from HDPE rather than 3D printed components.

[via RepRap]

27 thoughts on “Cyclone PCB Factory: 3d Printable Circuit Board Mill

    1. I’m also concerned about glass fiber dust (you can see the vacuum cleaner in the video), but as Bob says that is not a problem with commercial PCB mills.
      This problem could be addressed by using a small hand-held vacuum cleaner with a fine filter, some flexible tubing and the necessary printed parts.

      1. You can buy PCB material which uses something else other than the fiberglass. I’m not sure how much it changes the board impedance, but at the slow frequency/speed of most of the electronics on these boards it probably doesn’t matter. This the material that Tech Shop requires to be used. I’ll have to make some inquiries to find out more about that they require.

        Mark Harris (High-speed board designer)

    2. If you slather your PCB in oil before cutting the traces, all the dust gets trapped and you can just wipe it off afterward. This has the added benefit (in my limited experience) of cutting cleaner traces.

      1. Hmm interesting, might try that if I build one of these.

        I was just thinking about chopping up a smaller vacuum cleaner and building a small liquid filter. To catch all the dust in suspension.

  1. I love the idea of moving over to a mechanical PCB fab system (as opposed to a wet-etch), but having watched the video above, I don’t fancy the odds of something like this dealing too well with fine pitch (read: SMT) work…

    It’s very good work though, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this for any improvements, as I don’t see myself getting a LKPF mill any time soon!

      1. I have a desktop CNC that I routinely use to make PCBS. I can quite reliably get down to 10mil traces and 10mil clearances. It’s not super great, but works fine for all but the most fine pitched SMT.

  2. Some nice work, although if building a mill from scratch just for PCBs it might be worth looking into a floating tool that automatically follows the contours of the board for a consistent cut depth. Getting accurate Z height over a PCB that’s not as flat as you think it would be is a pain. It can be done, but it’s a pain.

    I’ve been milling some PCB on a small mill (converted Proxxon MF70). I’m now trying out etching on presensitised photoresist boards – partly for SMD accuracy and partly because the less contoured end result makes solder mask application easier. A CNC mill can’t be beat for driling and cutting out the board though.

  3. I was sold on the idea around the time I saw it drilling the holes for the components. The Toner transfer and etching isn’t so bad but drilling all those holes blegh :P

  4. I noticed that the PCB is suspended from the bed. I don’t think that is the best solution. The LKPF’s and like used a precision ground metal bed that the PCB sits directly on. While you can’t subsequently do your drilling using that arrangement, I think you’d get much better results.

    Personally, I’ve done PCB milling on my Sherline mill and use a second piece of PCB under the board being milled clamped to the mill’s bed. That way the PCB is held more flat and I have a sacrificial piece underneath to drill into.

  5. This is awesome, is the green trace guard/covering/stuff whatever it is available to purchase and apply yourself? It would be awesome to get some seriously pro-looking PCBs from a 3D mill.

  6. All things considered the cost+effort vs the benefits ratio is just not there at all for the purpose of making prints, and they’d be better off making an automatic system to do the toner transfer method, 3D print a feeder system from a printer to a heat roller andsoforth.

  7. PCB milling is a pain in the a**, the depth of the z axis is like never right, and thats using a highend protomat. even using a “foot” on the tool to set the depth is hit or miss due to the runout of the router bearings. Setting the z a little deep is probably better than having it skip over dips in the board surface.

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