Print A Drill Press For Your Printed Circuit Boards

If you make printed circuit boards the old fashioned way by etching them yourself, you may need to drill a lot of holes; even surface-mount converts still need header pins on occasion. But, drilling these holes by hand often leads to broken drill bits, which always seems to happen with one un-drilled hole and no spare bits left. [Daumemo] came up with a solution: a 3D printed drill press for a Dremel or similar rotary tool.

While you can buy commercial presses designed to fit these tools, there’s a certain satisfaction to building your own, and if you have a well-stocked parts bin you might even finish it before a mail-ordered version could arrive. Certainly you could do it at lower cost. The design is straightforward, and uses printed parts augmented with “reprap vitamins” (i.e. the non-printable, typically metal, components). If you’ve ever built — or repaired — a 3D printer, you may have these pieces already: a couple of LM8UU bearings, some 8 mm steel rod, and a pair of springs seem like the most esoteric parts required, although even these could probably be substituted without much trouble.

Only a few pieces need to be printed: a base is outfitted with a removable table for holding the workpiece, while a lever actuates the frame holding the tool. [Daumemo] chose to print the design in ABS, but found that it flexes a little too much, occasionally requiring some care during use — a stiffer filament such as PLA might yield better results. Overall, though, this seems like a great project for that 3D printer you haven’t used in a while.

Be sure to check out the video of the press in action, after the break.

In case you’re getting started with a larger drill press, check out these basic tips for using one.

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14 thoughts on “Print A Drill Press For Your Printed Circuit Boards

      1. I once saw an article about using an electric razor as a drill for tiny bits. But how they coupled a chuck (I think it was a pin vise) to the razor was either vague or glossed over, I can’t remember.

        I think I saw someone use a fan in another article.

        Certainly with bits small enough for component leads, you can make do with things that aren’t suitable for larger bits.

        For forty years ny drillpress has been a Black & Decker cord drill and their drill press adapter, a piece of metal that holds the drill and has a lever to raise and lower the drill. Maybe $30 back then, it’s fine for the minor drilling I.have to do. If I really neededheavier drilling, I’d buy a drill press, but getting it home on foot would be a burden.

        Michael

  1. A long time ago, say 70+ years, Levin used to make a special kind of desktop finger sensitive drill press for watchmakers. I’ve used them, they’re nice.

    They work extremely well for very small, short holes- extremely accurate and safe to use. Instead of the drill moving up and down, a small table under the drill moves up and down on a rack when you push a long finger lever that sticks out.

    Moving the platform up into the spinning drill gives you sensitivity to feel the drilling better for very small holes, so you can feel if the drill is about to break or wander. The mechanics are simple too.

    Try designing this with a small platform under the dremel tool, that raises up with a finger lever. I know it seems like the same thing- but trust me, it gives you a lot more feel than moving a massive drill head down. Less error in spindle going out of alignment too.

    1. Those 0.01″ diameter circuit board drills are always twist drills, even at small size, and often more than 8x their diameter long- they snap in an instant at any side load on your drill, or wobble from a drill press head. I’ve done tons of tiny holes this size by hand with these in custom watch repair- these drills snap instantly if you don’t have the most careful touch.

      Making a new design using a small, perhaps cam and lever raised platform will greatly decrease your chances of snapping these carbide circuit board drills. They aren’t cheap- often 4$ each. I keep several hundred in stock, and only use them when I have no other choice

      1. I only make SMT boards and at most 20-30 holes for vias at a time. I use the much cheaper steel bits on a Dremel held by one hand. They are less brittle and forgiving. They get dull and retire instead of being broken, so I actual get more for my money.
        If I had a proper setup and need to drill a lot, I would pick the bits for the board houses. They are long because the board house stack PCB for production.

  2. that’s because you live in a nice country with non-prohibiting taxes and no crippling inflation. lol

    i’d love to have a cnc myself too, but it’d cost me 4 times what it costs you to get a kit and i’d have to buy the raw materials

  3. I understand your point and partially agree with it. What I don’t like is that you buried your justifiable criticism of this project under a condescending and mocking attitude. Here’s how I think comment should have been worded:

    “This looks like a fun project and all but I think that it would be better and easier to get an inexpensive CNC kit from amazon.”

    I got your point across without being insulting and also allowed for other opinions (such as this project may not be practical but instead, is something challenging and fun to do using equipment and technology that some of us already own).

    PS. I will no longer comment on anything further as my above remarks have now fixed the internet :-)

  4. IF (it_works==true) OR (learn_from_it==true) OR (it_was_fun_to_build == true) THEN project=succes

    For almost everything we do, there is a good reason for not doing it.
    Though I have a very strong feeling that this project is a succes in many ways.
    It also reminds me of my first plastic PCB drill press, the build shown here in this article is a great improvement compared to that.

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