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IndustryArena Forum > Other Machines > PCB milling > Advice wanted (mil for PCB)
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Advice wanted (mil for PCB)

    I'm a total newbie to cnc milling.

    People I heard weren't to enthusiastic about these machines for PCB prototyping.
    There are many problems with the machines for this purpose according to them.

    I'm an electronics hobbyist that hasn't much time for him hobby but when I start I want to have something at the end of the day :-)
    My guess was that an milling machine would do a much better job than the chemical way of making PCB's.

    I found out that zero backlash is very important, the power of the spindle and so on.
    In my simple brains it's very simple: buy a machine, unbox it and start making the perfect PCB's from PCB design software.
    But things are different in the real world.

    What do I need to know to get as close as possible to my ideal way of making a PCB from scratch.
    It seems that a PCB design can be exported from Eagle PCB software to (Mach3?) software to be milled in the machine.

    What could be my expectations after buying a machine and start cutting?
    What width of PCB traces I can expect from a cheap machine?
    Is the price of the machine an indication for what quality of PCB I can expect?

    Where can I read more about this?
    Is there an Ebay seller that has a descent machine for a reasonable price?
    All info is welcome!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Re: Advice wanted (mil for PCB)

    I want to renew this question:

    are there in the meanwhile (cheap) machines that can mill PCB's in a decent way without days and days of setup?

    I found this one: Mini CNC Router Engraver 3020 800W Milling Machine 3 axis 4 axis USB port card | A type CNC milling machine

    Any good?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2017

    Re: Advice wanted (mil for PCB)

    First off, I'm not knocking you, I am just curious.

    I often wonder what the motivation is behind building a PCB router when, in my opinion, it is almost certainly easier and cheaper to use a service to fabricate PCB's. Unless you put a whole lot of money into your machine you will never be able to achieve the quality and feature sizes that a service like Express PCB or others can produce.

    Reasons to use a service:
    When you design a circuit, often there is no through hole component for one to use.
    With the features of a surface mount device being so small you couldn't possibly be able to mill the traces with a home built router.
    A complex PCB almost always requires a burried power and ground plane.
    Surface mount boards are easy. You can use a toaster oven to reflow the solder better than you could ever solder even a through hole board.
    How do you make a plated through hole in a home shop?
    Silk screens and solder masks?

    Oh, I see, you are in Belgium. There has to be a PCB service there also.

    I would recommend that you get someone else to produce your PC board and you can spend your time on writing the software for it. Your satisfaction level will be so much better when you hook up your ICE and program a board that you assembled that has a CPU, and lots of I/O, all SMD parts and is super small.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2019

    Re: Advice wanted (mil for PCB)

    Hi, if you would like to start using a CNC Router for prototype PCBs, I have found a cheap, but good machine, the "CNC 1610" here is the link to the machine: https://amzn.to/2TjDNOL as I have made very clean and as small as 0.6mm traces. I have made a two part video on YouTube, on the "process of making a PCB from scratch" using this machine as well as applying UV solder mask on it. Check out my video and my channel for part two for the UV solder mask.

    Here is the link to my the video: https://bit.ly/2G9fo9l
    In the video's description I put the parts and programs I used as well.
    Give it a like and subscribe to see more and tutorials later!

    Also, check out some pictures of the custom PCB with and without UV solder mask using this machine. It's in the video as well.
    In the picture, the traces are 0.6mm.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Re: Advice wanted (mil for PCB)


    I often wonder what the motivation is behind building a PCB router when, in my opinion, it is almost certainly easier and cheaper to use a service to fabricate PCB's
    I disagree. When you design a circuit board and have a service make it for you pay for all the photomasks and so on. That's not cheap. If you have 50 boards made it
    certainly is cheaper in the long run.

    What happens if you are still experimenting with your circuit design? The circuit is too complicated to breadboard and not really finalized and tested......that's where isolation
    routing comes into it own. You can design a circuit and have it milled and ready within hours....if it proves that one of more components need changing say you can do
    so and make another board....all without a trip to your PCB service provider and associated bill.

    I regularly make surface mount boards, my machine (home made) can handle 0.2mm trace widths, 0603 resistors/caps and 0.5mm lead pitch ICs. As I hand solder
    I find that the machine exceeds my ability to place and solder parts.

    One area where etched circuit boards hold a distinct advantage is through holes. I use PCB rvivets (small diameter copper rivets with a hole bored through it)
    and they are not bad.....but still not as good as plated though holes.

    At one time I was using REALLY THICK COPPER board, 12oz or 0.42mm!! Very few services can handle copper that thick, most can etch upto 4oz max and have to plate
    up to get thicker conductors. I use 0.5mm diameter endmills and can isolation route boards very nicely. The only commercial services that can handle copper boards like
    that wanted $1000 USD/sq foot.

    While I agree there are advantages to etching boards including things like multilayer boards with ground planes, solder resists, silk screens and so on......so also does
    PCB routing.


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