AWESOME PCB Machine

I thought this was really awesome and wanted to share.

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Wow that is cool! :smile: It’s easy to imagine how much that would speed up the process of going from from breadboarding to low volume PCB production.

Like Spark, Voltera is a HAXLR8R graduate–we know those guys! :blush: They recently won the hardware startup battleground at TechCrunch, which is awesome too!

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I imagine the problem with this device will be the same problem I had with PCB’s I’ve made with the Othermill CNC machine - the lack of plated-through holes and vias makes a double-sided board pretty much useless.

@pra Can’t ya just use a short peice of wire or metal to bridge the gap between the top and bottom? That’s how I have always imagined you would have to do it on these.

I think the Othermill looks pretty sweet. I’d probably have bought it already if I didn’t already have one of these.

I’m looking forward to trying to make some PCB’s on the CNC once I teach myself EagleCad in the no so distant future.

I see the Voltera’s minimum trace width is .8mm and that is not small enough for the most of the chips I’m using so Voltera can’t be complete solution for what I’m trying to do.

@Pra whats the smallest trace width that you were able to cut on the Othermill? Post some pictures if you can, I would love to see them.

I gave my successful PCB to one of my grandkids, so if he still has it I might get a photo of it on Thursday. I did a lot of beta testing for Other Machine and the other mill. Their software can take an Eagle .brd file and process it. In the early days there was a lot of issues trying to flip the PCB for the other side and getting it aligned properly but they sorted all that out, so in the end it worked quite well.

The major limitation on trace size is the distance between traces. It has to be 1.5 x the mill diameter, so if you are using a 1/64 end mill, then you have to have 24 mil (.61 mm) between traces. I think the minimum recommended trace width is 10 mils ((.254 mm).

As far as vias and thru-holes are concerned my interest was in seeing whether it could produce PCBs useful to me, not whether it could produce a PCB. Even my simplest DS design has a least 30 vias, and invariably a number of male headers as well. I use Eagle auto router, and really don’t want to manually hand place and route traces. Cutting, placing, soldering and trimming wires into 30+ vias would be painful. The headers are the killer. You can’t get to solder the top pads without removing the plastic, and if you do, you will never get it back on successfully. The other problem is a 1/64 end mill is fragile. Invariably you will break one every 1.5 DS PCBs or so. That PCB is then a lost cause, so it takes at least two attempts (and 4 plus hours) for a successful board. When you add up the cost of an end mill ($20??), PCB material ($2-$5) and 4+ hours sweating by the machine praying for the mill not to break… Compare that to 2 x 3 x 2 PCBs ValuProto from Sunstone for $75 and a 1 week turnaround and its just not worth it.

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I agree. I’ve used OshPark to have 3 different boards produced and the cost was minimal and the turn around time was 2 weeks each time. The boards they produce are all Grade A+.

That said I still want to make some PCB’s on the CNC one day for some reason. Maybe because I haven’t tried it and threw in the wrench from frustration yet :smile:


That wasn’t a successful PCB. It’s a simple 4 voltage power adapter, and produced while we were having the DS flip alignment problems.

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Making boards which are capable of being made without through-holes is actually an interesting design constraint I’ve dealt with many times. Most of the time I’ll make smart use of resistors and other items which can be soldered on both the bottom and the top. PCBs like the one you posted aren’t useless, they just require more work to get working. and it’s a prototype anyway so it’s not that big of a deal (in my opinion!)