Syringes Put The Squeeze On This Mini Drill Press

If you’re making your own PCBs for through-hole projects at home, getting the board etched is only half the battle; you’ve still got to drill all those little holes. It’s a tedious process, and if you’ve got a lot of them, doing them freehand with a drill just isn’t going to cut it. Which is why [Ruchir Chauhan] built this tiny 3D printed drill press.

This design is actually interesting for a number of reasons. The fact that it’s primarily 3D printed is a big one, though of course it’s not the first time we’ve seen that. We also like the minimal part count and low-cost, which is sure to appeal to those looking to produce PCBs on a budget. But the most impressive feature has to the hydraulic system [Ruchir] has come up with to actually do the drilling.

Rather than pulling an arm to lower the bit towards the work piece, a system utilizing four syringes, some water, and a bit of tubing is used to pull the tool down. This might seem extravagant, but if you’ve got a lot of holes to drill, this design is really going to save your arms. This method should also give you more consistent and accurate results, as you won’t be putting any torque on the structure as you would with a manually operated press.

[Ruchir] doesn’t offer much in the way of instructions on the project’s page, but once you print out all of the provided STLs and get your syringes ready to go, the rest should be fairly self explanatory. Personally we might have added a smooth steel rod in there to make sure the movement is nice and straight, but we can see the appeal of doing it with a printed part to keep things cheap.

Looking for more ideas? If you’re after something a bit larger we might suggest this one made from PVC pipes, and this 3D printed desktop press would look good on anyone’s bench. Just don’t blame us if your arms get tired.

19 thoughts on “Syringes Put The Squeeze On This Mini Drill Press

  1. That looks slow as balls…

    Having to hold both the whole thing and the PCB steady with one hand, while pulling on the awkward plate with the other, trying not to nudge the PCB while drilling (which would definitely break the drill bit) seems highly impractical. Also, there seems to be very little space for the PCB.

    The whole idea isn’t bad though; if you move the primary actuators to a foot pedal (easy, since it’s just a tube connecting the syringes), and include a spring for the return stroke, the setup might actually work. The high friction of the syringes wouldn’t really be a problem either.

    1. Yeah either that or it needs bolting to the desk – though I’m not sure the idea is sound either – too much mechanical advantage and spring in the system means you are bound to break drill bits (as you have less precise tactile feedback) and you can’t peck easily either.. because its aiming so squarely at PCB’s which are pretty easy to drill perhaps it won’t break bits often, but even then that activation method seems awkward as anything – a pedal as you suggest would be much better and leave both hands free to position the PCB.

  2. I’ve never seen a pneumatic sensitive drill press before, very interesting concept.

    I like the idea of recreating this fully in metal, with a foot switch connected by tubing from the floor. If you did the cylinders right, it would be very very sensitive indeed. Perfect for very tiny sub 0.030″ diameter drills.

    The micro 0.01″ diameter carbide twist drills for circuit boards I have snap at the slightest excessive pressure even on my watchmaker’s finger sensitive drill press.

  3. Too slow. You also eliminate the force feedback. The most difficult aspect of PCB drilling is actually parallax. If you have an etched center hole then the bit bends to center itself. Too far off and it breaks. No center, it’s hard to judge and you wind up with less breakage but inaccurate hole placement. The best solution I’ve found is having a camera underneath the board. No parallax. Cursor on the display shows exactly where the drill will emerge. You also need a higher RPM than most Dremel or equivalent tools can spin. 30K RPM is marginal. 50K or 100K is desirable. And spindle runout needs to be better than most Dremel-type tools can do. Not thousandths. A tenth or better.

    I liked the old Dremel drill press better. No longer made. The table moves up and down. The spindle is stationary. Your hands are in a better position. Tool was supported better. Couple that approach with a camera and a sliding table that locks as soon as you start drilling.

    1. Yes- you are absolutely correct that this method isolates the feel of the drill from the operator which is very critical on very small drills.

      For that reason I retract my own comment above forgot you really need feel for this kind of thing

  4. Great idea, too bad so many people in these comments try to diminish it, clearly the whole point of it is to be cheap and easy to make, im sure all of you have highly complex fully automated pick and place machines in your homes, but this guy doesnt, calm down…

  5. With the delay in the video between moving the arm and the press moving, I’m pretty sure the one being shown off is pneumatic. [Ruchir Chauhan] calls it Hydraulic, but on the build page says it can be pneumatic or hydraulic.

    I kind of like the idea of pneumatic over hydraulic, with the right syringes you could probably tune it to not exert too much force on the PCB (at the expense of feel).

    1. It’s hydraulic–air bubbles can be clearly seen in the liquid filling the driven syringes. The delay is probably due to the unreinforced plastic lines and syringes expanding/compressing.

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