Usually when one thinks of using a CNC machine for producing PCBs, one thinks of those big, bulky CNC machines that pretty much fill an entire desk. But what if a CNC machine could be small enough to fit on a desk without getting in the way, yet still be useful enough to make single- and double-sided PCBs? This was the idea behind The Ant, the compact PCB manufacturing machine which [Mattia] and [Angelo] designed and open sourced.
In addition to the above linked Bitbucket repository for the project, the ‘Ant Team’ has a YouTube channel on which they have a range of rather professionally edited videos on the project, ranging from constructing the little machine, to various updates and more Also see the video that is attached after the link for a visual introduction to the project.
Support and community interaction is mostly performed via the Reddit group for the project, where the diminutive machine finds a welcoming community as it continues to evolve. The machine itself is specified at this point as being able to built from commercially available and 3D printed parts, requiring no further tools for cutting or shaping. The precision is about 0.2 mm trace spacing.
Optical alignment for double-sided boards is achieved using a USB micro camera and the bCNC software, while the cost for materials is said to be quite inexpensive when compared with commercial solutions
Honestly, after seeing the machine in action, wouldn’t you want to have a CNC machine that’s so small and good-looking on your desk? If there’s one thing one might want to add, it’s probably a way to deal with the copper dust that’s produced while creating PCBs. Having to clean that off the desk after each PCB manufacturing session would get a bit cumbersome, we imagine.