PCB Making with a Low End CNC Mill

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PCB Making with a Low End CNC Mill

Generally you have two options when you need to get your hands on a custom PCB. One is makes it yourself using etchant. This can be tricky to do since chemicals are messy, potentially toxic and can be difficult to acquire depending on where you live. Another is to pay a professional company to do the job for you. While this option is not terribly expensive it can take a few weeks for you PCB to get to you and no one wants to wait that long. Making the PCB yourself on a mill is a quick way to make the item yourself without messing with chemicals.

Making PCB with a CNC Mill

Making PCB with a CNC Mill

Like any special project, milling your own PCB has upsides and downsides. On the positive side of things this is a very fast project and you do not have to handle chemicals. The mill does the drilling so things should remain relatively error free and even if they do not all you have to buy are blank circuit boards, which are fairly cheap. Once you have your board made you can also make duplicates if you need more than one. However, you should also be aware of the project’s negative aspects before you decide to jump into it. The actual process of milling the board can take a while to complete, tying up your machine if you need it for other things. The project is also going to be very messy; expect to clean up a lot of pieces and copper clad fiberglass. Doing this work yourself will cause some wear to your bits and other tools and those things are expensive when they need replacing. Most of the negative aspects are things you would have to worry about anyway with any milling project so do not get too detracted by the potential downsides of this project.

Making PCBs with CNC Mill

Making PCBs with CNC Mill

This project will require you to have the same basic tools that you would use for a regular CNC milling project. A mill (obviously), CAD/CAM software and so on and so forth; additionally you will need the G-code for this particular project, a 30 degree V-shaped engraving bit and some carbide PCB drill bits (any random surplus bits should work fine). The V-shaped bit is going to be the trickiest thing that you are going to have to mess with. You are going to want very small and very clean lines to be etched while you are milling. A V-shaped bit is going to widen the cut it makes as you cut deeper. It may take a little trial and error before you find the ideal cutting depth to use with this project.
There are a few things that can go wrong while you work on this. If your V-shaped bit is too dull your cuts will be wider than you intended. You may also need to lower the Z height in order to cut at all with a dull bit. Using wide traces when designing your board can be a good safety net so that sloppy work does not result in too bad of a problem. Beyond that you just need to remember to follow basic rules of working with a CNC mill. Wear safety google or some other form of eye protection at all times, do not leave the room while the machine is running and all of that good stuff. This project is not terribly complicated compared to some of the other things you can do on a CNC mill so you should not run into too much difficulty.

Summary
Article Name
Making PCBs with a Low End CNC Mill
Description
Generally you have two options when you need to get your hands on a custom PCB. One is makes it yourself using etchant. This can be tricky
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