Using a router for PCB's

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by ssutton, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. ssutton

    Thread Starter New Member

    Sep 12, 2011
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    I have traditionally built circuit board prototypes using point to point wiring on a perf board. Then after the prototype I would create a CAD design using express PCB and have them make the production board. However, I recently completed a CNC router that has enough resolution to drill and route boards for me. Now, I have never used a router to make a PCB and I am looking for the lowest cost/lowest learning curve software and methods to leverage my CNC machine to make PCB's.

    1. Would it make better sense to use a ink resist method to create the traces and then the router to drill the board? If so, what software would support this?

    2. Would it be better to have the router cut relief traces from a copper clad board and then drill the holes? What software would support this?

    3. What about Eagle software, having never used it I went to several websites and could not find a price?

    Thanks
    Scott
     
  2. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
    22,182
    1,728
    You could do that; the chemical etch would likely leave a nicer finish than if the entire board were machined.

    For CNC software, check out what people are using over on CNCzone.com
    Check out CNCzone.com

    Look here: http://www.cadsoftusa.com/shop/pricing/

    Whether you decide to chemically etch or use your CNC to create the traces, I'll suggest using whatever copper pour feature your selected PCB software has to minimize the amount of copper that must be removed. Otherwise, you're unnecessarily using lots more chemical or taking lots more machining time than you would otherwise have to.
     
  3. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
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    In CNC there is more than one software needed to do anything. Some are available as free ware some are costly.

    The first needed is 'CAD' a computer drawing program.

    The next is 'CAM' a machining program that puts your drawing into a numeric/digital language.

    The next is a 'post processor' that takes your 'CAM' information and converts it to something that the machine understands. Some times 'CAM' and 'post processing' are combined in one software.

    Then is the 'machine language' this is what makes the machine move to do the actual work and make your part.

    Like Wookie said, CNC Zone, is the place to start.
     
  4. Robin Mitchell

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 25, 2009
    734
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    Use the toner transfer method.Look it up on google
     
  5. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
    2,675
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    with a proper setup, you can mill out the PCB's and drill the thru holes for components, you can have the CNC software to pause so you can change tooling for drilling after milling the traces...... see here on what I use for my CNC, the first page near the bottom has a list of all the software I use to design and mill my own PCB's >> http://www.morse-code.com/id18.htm....... and also, you do not have to mill all of the copper off of the copper clad boards, what you can do is leave most of the copper on the board and use it as a ground plane, like I did here >> [​IMG]
     
  6. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
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    BMorses' board shows what I meant by "copper pour" areas. Using the copper pour area as a "ground plane" is highly advantageous over using a single trace for a ground.
     
  7. ssutton

    Thread Starter New Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    16
    0
    Ok, The "copper pour" method looks intriguing to me. I have a cam software package that can accept a DXF file and convert that to G Code for milling. I need to know of a PCB software that could output a DXF file with the copper pour method.

    My CAM package allows me to auto-stop for tool changes so I could route the trace lines and then stop and re-tool for the drilling process.

    Thanks for all the responses.

    Scott
     
  8. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
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    Eagle Lite is what I use to design and output all the milling and drilling files I need for my CNC machine, I use the polygon tool to create the copper "pours" on whatever side of the PCB I need it on, then I use the PCB-GCode.ulp (this is a user library for eagle, there are hundreds of other ones for all sorts of functions you may need to design PCB's, etc.) to output my top and bottom milling files in nc format, and the drilling file which contains all the different hole sizes and locations for the PCB.....
     
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