Monday, October 5, 2009

Mill: starting yet another project...

Every once in a while I get the chance to re-evaluate my vision and the direction my research is going. Every time I get the chance to do so I identify a gaping hole in my current tool set. For the last six months I have had a working 3d printer at my disposal. However, when I started working on my first robotics project I found that it wasn't enough. I am missing an easy and accurate way to fabricate PCBs. Of course I could purchase the chemicals required to etch, but I have a small apartment and I haven't seen much precision out of people who have gone down this route. Since I started building a RepRap I have been aware of CNCs capable of milling PCBs and have even given this a try on my Darwin. I quickly found out that milling on a Darwin isn't the best idea.

Thus, a new project is formed. I don't have a lot of time or motivation these days and so I wanted to be smart about getting a cheap solution up and running with minimal time / resources. I decided to go with a time tested design called the Rockcliff. It's not an open source design, but the plans only cost $20. They are well worth it! Here is an animation of the design I went with:

It is mostly made out of 3/4 inch MDF and 5/8 inch steel rod, which cost $60. You will also need some bearings, motor couplings, stepper motors, and driver boards costing upwards of $400. However, considering I have a 3d printer I was able to print the bearings and couplings. Here is video of what the printed bearings look like:

CNC parts printed on a RepStrap from gavilan on Vimeo.

I am also borrowing the driver boards from my printer while I mill another set.

In total, I think this CNC will cost me around $240. Not bad for 0.003mm precision.

Here is a picture of the mill as it stands.

More to come on my goes at milling PCBs on this Rockcliff.


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