Thursday, September 21, 2017

A New Toy

One of the first things I found when I started building projects that rely on parts from the Far-East is that it is better to have more than one project going at any time.  Still waiting on a couple of parts for the new 3D printer that I forgot to order when I started the project. And also some J310 Fets for the Simpleceiver project. I thought I had some, but when I checked they were the wrong type.  I have managed to get the Arduino VFO-BFO board working with a modified version of Pete's sketch.
Checking an e-mail add from the local MicroCenter store that I usually buy my 3D filament from, I noticed a small CNC engraver on sale for under $200.  It looked like it would be the right size PCB mill drill for the size boards I usually do.  I mostly do toner transfer with great success, but there is always the problem of drilling holes.  I have gone to SMD or 'Muppet' style construction for most of my projects to reduce the number of holes that have to be drilled.  This looked like it might solve that problem, so when I went up to pick up some 3D filament I also picked up one of the engravers.
Size is just about perfect, less than a foot square and high, just the right size to fit in front of my small 3D printer. 
It came  assembled except for putting the motor in the holder and installing a cutter. There was no software with it, but the included documentation gave a link to a program that would send g-code, and manually control the printer.  After playing with this for a while, I went looking at a way to convert pcb files to g-code.  I use the free version of Eagle for most of my boards, so I did a search on Eagle to g-code conversion.  I turned up several YouTube videos on a add-in to Eagle that did that from within the Eagle GUI.  I tried a simple board layout as a test, and looking at the output with the CNC control program everything looked like it would work well.  Tried routing that on a scrap piece of PCB material.  Most of it came out fine, but there is one area where it did not go all the way through the copper layer.  A little more looking around I found an additional software piece that will probe the material, and generate a surface map to auto level the engraving surface.  I just need to make up a simple cable with a couple alligator clips that connect to the CNC controller board and give that a try.  If that works out I might be able to switch from etching boards to routing them, and drilling without having to get out my small drill press. 


  1. I like the idea of routing a board instead of etching. I just have to take tine and search for an appropriate machine that dosnt cost an arm and leg.

  2. Peter
    This is also called the CNC1610. If you look on eBay you can find them for under $200. Milling area is 16 x 10 cm which is large enough for most of what I do. The controller board also has provisions for a laser head. Some of the ones on eBay include the laser head.

  3. DuWayne,

    You might look into using LinuxCNC but you would have to use Abacom's SprintLayout6.0 and the 3rd party freebee called SL2M3 which can take the output from the generation of the 274-X files and the drill files and create the needed G code to do the isolation and the drilling. It works really well and SprintLayout is inexpensive (about 49 Euro) is the easiest PCB software I have ever used (and I have the scars of most of them).
    You will need an old desktop with a parallel port to run the free LinuxCNC (you can run it from a live CD but it is best to set it up). It will not run reliably on a laptop because of interrupts you can't mask. It needs real time operation.
    LinuxCNC is here: (don't be scarred it's not that hard)
    (You can also use Mach3 for windows instead of LinuxCNC but you will have to pay for that.

    SL2M3 is here:

    SprintLayout is here:

    SprintLayout6.0 has some really cool features. You can as one example import the 274-X gerber and drill files as created by other CAD programs (like Eagle) and turn them into editable SprintLayout files or just import and create the files to send to SL2M3 to engrave (isolate) (1 or two sided) and drill your PCB's.
    It works really well and I made many boards until I lucked onto a LPKF machine recently.

    One more nice thing about Sprint. There is no difficult to use license scheme. Install it on as many PC's as you own as long as only one is used at a time you are good to go. Try it I think you will like it (especially since Eagle has been bought by AutoDesk and is now on a expensive draconian subcription system)

    Capon Bridge WV USA

  4. DuWayne, Iam wondering if tis is the same machine offered by Wal-Mart??

    That link does not look good now.. but I just tried and it took me to the same site... photo looked the same, not much info that I could find. I will do a search using the number you gave above.

  5. Looking at the pictures and description it appears to be the same thing.