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Offline jomac

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PCB Milling advice and help
« on: October 02, 2013, 10:58:54 PM »
Im very new to the site, so apologies if ive posted in the wrong place. My small business has forced me down a route where i have to seriously look at milling my own PCB's.

Not only am i new to the world of CNC machines, im pretty new to working with PCB software... :(

However, im pretty quick to learn. Most of my first PCB's will come from commercial .GRB Gerber files, and i have some experience with EAGLE PCB software.

My basic questions are, Is there a simple program for turning a Gerber file directly into a format that Mach 3 can immediately work with? (Unless Mach 3 can handle these                       .                                files directly, and ive yet to learn how)
                                 Is there a better PCB program that is simple and easier to use then EAGLE?

Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

J
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2013, 02:15:49 AM »
Have a look at pcb2gcode. http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/pcb2gcode/index.php?title=Main_Page
I use it to convert fritzing made gerber files to gcode.
It's part of the standard repo on ubuntu. Haven't had any luck compiling on OSX.

--
gallenat0r

Offline Tweakie.CNC

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2013, 07:53:00 AM »
Hi Jomac,

The standard GBR Gerber files can be processed with LazyCam to create the GCode. Perhaps worth a try ?

Tweakie.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.  Winston Churchill.

Offline Jeff_Birt

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2013, 11:50:37 AM »
As has already been mentioned PCB2GCode does a decent job of taking your Eagle board layout and generating GCode form it. Its positives are that it is free and pretty easy to use. Its downside is that it does not generate very efficient GCode, not does it let you do the isolation milling and rub out milling easily.

I have been mostly using CamBam for PCBs for the past year or more. You can download a demo of it form my website: http://www.soigeneris.com/documentation-content.aspx#CamBam and you will likely want the Excellon (drill file) plug in as well: http://www.cambam.info/ref/plugin.excellonio , I posted a modified version of the plug-in that adds the Excellon file extension that Eagle likes to use here: http://www.cambam.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=2935.0 . When using CamBam for PCB making you export your Gerbers from Eagle and import them into CamBam.  CamBam produces very efficient toolpaths but it is not free (but a darn good value if I might say.)
 
The real key to milling out good PCBs is using a good fixture to hold the board and using good bits. I like to take a piece of 1/2" cast acrylic as a fixture and fly cut it on the mill. This way I have a piece of stock whose surface is square with the spindle (you have to tram your machine first of course). Then I use carpet tape (a type of double sided tape) cut into 1/2" squares to hold the PCB stock to my fixture, it holds well but is easy to get the board back up. Don't use the typical double sided tape that is like foam in the middle. Next use good bits, take a look at: http://www.soigeneris.com/pcb_making_bits-list.aspx (my website). Look at the starter and prototyping kits as they get you what you need to get started out. I also posted an Excel file in the 'Soigeneris' section of my documentation page (first link above) that will let you calculate the width of cut vs. depth of cut for various 'V' bits.
Happy machining , Jeff Birt
 

Offline jomac

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2013, 04:44:55 PM »
Thank you all for the valuable advice guys, its REALLY appreciated 8)

Ive yet to get my hands on the machine, but my friend isnt 100% happy with it yet, still needs a tweak or two he says.

Ive downloaded some of the software, ready to have a play.

Ive had a good look around your site Jeff and found a few things of interest, do you ship to the UK?

Offline Jeff_Birt

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2013, 04:57:19 PM »
Shipping to the UK is no problem, I can ship anywhere it is legal to ship things to. The best value in international shipping is USPS Priority flat rate boxes.
Happy machining , Jeff Birt
 

Offline jomac

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2013, 05:28:01 PM »
Thanks Jeff, I quite liked the starter set you have, but when i get a little time i want to have a good browse on your site with a coffee and cig at hand ;D
Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2013, 09:35:49 AM »
Good advice Jeff and I do like your website.

Jomac,

Welcome to the world of PCB milling. It's a big learning curve but well worth the effort. I have been milling PCBs for nearly 10 years on and off both at work and as part of my hobby. I have experience with a SATCAM 7000 machine and an LPKF S95. Now I am experimenting with a Chinese (EBay) TS-3040C machine I purchased about 3 months ago and learning Mach3 at the same time. It is proving promising.

I use CopperCam (not Free I'm afraid) to convert Gerber and Excellon to GCode. It does a great job and is easy to learn. For general PCB milling info, I would recommend the Bungard Site   http://www.bungard.de/ and also the Satcam site  http://www.satcam.com.au/

Best Wishes

Wolf

Offline jomac

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2013, 09:58:45 AM »
What i like about this site is that you guys talk 'TO' me and explain things, and not like some sites, where people talk 'DOWN' to you and make you feel an idiot because you dont know things.

Im pleased to say that i will be getting my Proxxon MF70 on Saturday, this machine has been custom adapted for me and PCB's. The guy, a friend, is a highly qualified and skilled automation and CNC engineer, has said he will be spending the day with me, teaching me the basics and Mach 3 ::)

No doubt i will have some idiot questions about things i have forgotten, so bear with me ;)

Offline jomac

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Re: PCB Milling advice and help
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2013, 11:40:15 AM »
Firstly, my appologies for the late reply, other things have got in the way that had reduced my play time.. :(

Machine arrived, and boy, what fun ive had, and learned a lot too, im finding the direction i need to be going in and have done some pretty neat engraving with it so far, in fact the samples ive done for sheer amusement has lead to a serious enquiry by a small company for regular engraving work, all the same size and style 8)

One of the things i was diverted with, was using Mach 3 and the same controller board, could i make a CNC vinyl cutter that could be simply converted into a pen plotter. Never wishing to turn away from a challenge, i did, using an old dot matrix printer and a lot of shop time. For those interested, ive posted the whole build to date on my website here.... http://jomac.asia/index.php/topic,140.0.html

This is a new site and empty, but one of the main things i want to cover is CNC in general, and a place to 'show off' the latest creation and idea's so looking for keen new members if anyone is interested?

John