In my last post I wrote about creating a BlinkM module on a breadboard and wanted to create a more finished project based on that design. I looked into etching a PCB and after much research decided to use the magazine laser toner transfer process followed by the Hydrochloric Acid (H2O2/HCl) etchant. I bought all the supplies and had nothing but trouble with it. Then I remembered a Hack-a-Day post from last year with a video of a CNC milling a PCB. This seemed like such a cool solution to my problem and also opens the door to more projects so I started to research CNCs.
I quickly found that many of the CNCs out there are pricey, require specialized software and are not upgradable or configurable. Then I found Shapeoko; it started as a kickstarter project back in July of 2011 to create an open source, affordable, CNC with a standard design. I have to say the original design out of wood wasn’t that exciting but what it’s turned into is simply amazing. In its current state it utilizes MakerSlides (another Kickstarter project), standard NEMA 17 stepper motors and is entirely open source. It is available for purchase from Inventables in several kit forms.
While researching my purchase I came across this How to build a CNC for $500 post on Reddit that was well researched, had lots of good tips and basically became the blueprint for my order. In my research I also found that if you would like to mill PCBs, the stability and accuracy of a Dual Drive Upgrade Kit was required so I purchased that as well. Here is my BOM for the project (please note that I’m reusing a Dremel for my spindle but there are many affordable options out there):
|Four Steppers from Sparkfun||67.8||11.62||79.42|
|Shapeoko Mechanical Kit||225||25.14||298.99|
|Shapeoko Dual Drive Kit (w/o stepper and cable)||39.85|
|FR1 PCB Blank||9|
|Power Supply from Amazon||23.35||3.98||27.33|
|EndMill for PCB||3.99||0||3.99|
|Metric Allen Wrench Set||6.35||0||6.35|
Another big selling point for Shapeoko is the community that has built up around it. They have an active forum and a detailed wiki. Many makers have brought their own ideas for improvements and expansions to Shapeoko and these upgrades are well-documented on the wiki showing parts needed and assembly instructions. Some of the more exiting upgrades and modifications are to replace the spindle with a laser cutter or a 3d printer extruder.
My parts just started coming in this week so expect to see more articles around this topic and hopefully a few freshly milled PCBs.