Mill Panel PCB - PCB Milling

by Ivan Hamilton 4/28/2009 11:47:00 AM

My new mill panel needs both rewiring and new components to allow the PC to switch the spindle on & off. This includes 3 new relays (1 x 240V for "on" latching, and 2 x 12V relays for FWD+REV). Whilst I could just wire them up, it would result in an unstructured mess. I really wanted a nice PCB to mount them.

I had previously fallen in love with the idea of milling PCBs. With etching PCBs, after all the messy chemicals and issues with brokens tracks, etc... you still had to (manually) drill them anyway. I wanted to CNC drill the boards, and being able to isolation route them as well would make PCB creation a single "tool" process.

For about $20 AUD on eBay I bought 5 x 60˚ V-Shaped Carbide Engraving Bits. At a depth of 0.25mm these 60˚ V bits create a Ø0.29mm path at the surface. All you need is some software to create the milling G-code from the PCB's Gerber definition.

I tried a demo of CopperCAM (others have mentioned CircuitCAM, and also exporting as DXF to vector tools for manual manipulation).

After exporting the Gerber & drill files from my PCB software, I imported them into CopperCAM. CopperCAM produces the final G-code, with tool-change commands for swapping thru different engraving, milling and drilling bits. This G-code was then run in Mach3 (blank PCB was held down with double sided tape).

Milled PCB

Unfortunately my mill is designed for heavy work and 1250 RPM is the spindle's top speed. So I used a very slow feed speed of 60mm/min (~0.05mm/rev). I may be able to go faster (maybe 120mm/min) but not much more. I do plan to find a way to mount a high speed rotary tool to my mill to allow for such needs. The slots are a bit sloppy, but I did those under manual control with the V bit as I don't have a small enough endmill - yet.

I'll solder it up today, and look to mount it in the mill's control box. Once again... I'm very happy with the result of my latest mill experiment.

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CNC | Electronics

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Name of author Ivan Hamilton
"My inner nerd can beat up your inner nerd."

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