A complete start to finish electronics prototyping workshop is nirvana for many of us: being able to go from design on the computer to real hardware without having to get up from your rolling chair. The falling prices of 3D printers have helped make at least part of this a reality: $200 USD is enough to get you a printer that can churn out decent looking enclosures. But there’s more to producing your own hardware than creating slick looking project boxes; at some point you’ll need to put some electronics in there.
For [Chuck Hellebuyck] at least, the last piece of the puzzle has just fallen into place. He’s recently put up a YouTube video describing how he converted his $399 Sienci Mill One into a capable PCB mill. With a 3D printer and this new PCB mill, he’s happy to say he can now go from concept to production all on the same workbench.
The Sienci Mill One is a solid enough mill in its own right but did need some modification to attain the accuracy necessary for cutting at a depth of only .9 mm. First, a block of wood was cut to the same size as the original plastic bed of the Sienci, and then the mill itself was used to drill holes through the wood block and plastic bed. The wood was attached to the bed using a nut and bolt in each corner, being sure to torque it down enough that the head of the bolt is pulled down flush with the surface of the wood.
Pulling the head of the bolts flush wasn’t just to keep the surface free of any snags, [Chuck] uses them in conjunction with a probe in the mill’s chuck as a simple way of adjusting the Z height. With a continuity meter attached between the two, he could lower the probe down until they were touching just enough to make a circuit.
Click through the break for the rest of the story!
To level off the work surface, he then commanded the mill to cut out a solid rectangle to a depth of 2 mm. This makes sure that the bottom of the rectangle is perfectly flat in relation to the bit, as well as making a convenient pocket to hold the PCB still during the milling process. As an advantage of this milling process, the PCB can be used as soon as it’s done getting cut: no acid bath required. A fact [Chuck] demonstrates by soldering his components and showing off the working circuit he just designed.
At home PCB production is easily one of the most common projects we see submitted to Hackaday, a testament to how sorely the community is in need of the perfect solution. From lasers to inkjet printing, all sorts of methods are being investigated to turn this particular piece of the dream workbench into a reality.