Milling PCBs With An Off-The-Shelf CNC

There’s a lot of little things that can go wrong before you get great results out of a process. We like to read build logs to learn from the mistakes made. [Marc Liyanage] bought a Nomad CNC machine from Carbide3d, and after a bit of learning has gotten some very nice PCBs out of it.

The first trip up he encountered was not setting the design rules in EagleCAD to check for gaps too small for his router bit. After he sorted that, and worked around an issue with Carbide not supporting R values for curves; instead opting for IJK, he made a nice TQFP to DIP break out board.

The next board was a more complicated double-sided job. He cleverly had the machine drill two holes all the way through the PCB to give him a space for two alignment pins. Unfortunately this didn’t work out exactly as planned and he had a slight misalignment with some of the via holes. It looked alright and he began assembling. To his dismay, the clearances were off again. It was a bit of deja vu for us.

We’ve made lots of boards on a CNC machine, and can attest to the task’s finicky nature. It’s certainly quicker than the photoresist technique for boards with lots of little holes. It will take someone quite a few tries before they start having more successes than failures, but it’s very rewarding.

[lovablechevy] transforms a Nomad into the HandyGen

[lovablechevy], aka the Queen of Bondo, has added another member to her Mushroom family of custom portable consoles.  This time, it’s the HandyGen, an improved Sega Nomad.  As an owner of the latter, we can attest that the Nomad had limitations, including its unwieldy size and shape, and its godawful battery life. As part of a build-off contest over at the Bacman forums , [lovablechevy] took apart a half-working Nomad and trimmed its board to fit into a smaller case of her own design, while retaining features such as the A/V out, headphone jack, and Player 2 controller port.  She also bumped up the size of the screen, swapping in a new 4″ LCD and its corresponding controller board. The best improvement was increasing the battery life considerably; HandyGen uses 2 LiPo batteries lasting 7 hours instead of the Nomad needing 6AA’s that barely lasted two. HandyGen’s battery life is roughly double that of the GeneBoy, an earlier portable Genesis mod we’ve featured before.

[lovablechevy] always does a great job with her portables, from the Nintenduo to the HandyNES. Being avid PS fans, we also award her bonus points for testing out the HandyGen with Phantasy Star 4. Check out her video of the HandyGen after the break.

Continue reading “[lovablechevy] transforms a Nomad into the HandyGen”

Finally, A Desktop CNC Machine With A Real Spindle

While cheap hobby CNC mills and routers are great machines that allow you to build things a 3D printer just can’t handle, they do have their limitations. They’re usually powered by a Dremel or other rotary tool, so speed control of the spindle via Gcode is nigh impossible. They’re also usually built with a piece of plywood as the bed – cheap, but not high on repeatability. The Nomad CNC mill fixes these problems, and manages to look good and be pretty cheap, to boot.

Instead of using a Dremel or other rotary tool to cut materials, the Nomad team is using a brushless DC motor connected to a real spindle. With a few certain motors, this allows for closed loop control of the spindle;  Sending S4000 Gcode to the mill will spin the spindle at 4000 RPM, and S6000 runs the spindle at 6000 RPM, whether it’s going through foam or aluminum. This is something you just can’t do with the Dremel or DeWalt rotary tools found in most desktop mills and routers.

Along with a proper spindle, the Nomad also features homing switches, a tool length probe, and a few included fixtures that make two-sided machining – the kind you need it you’re going to machine a two-layer PCB – possible, and pretty simple, too. The softwares controlling the mill are Carbide Motion and MeshCAM, a pretty popular and well put together CNC controller. Of course the mill itself speaks Gcode, so it will work with open source CNC software.

It’s all a very slick and well put together package. Below you can find a video of the Nomad milling out a Hackaday logo.

Continue reading “Finally, A Desktop CNC Machine With A Real Spindle”