The last time I looked at using an X-Carve for Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), I created a demo board with EAGLE. Since then, I have learned more about using KiCad, the open source electronics CAD suite. While not a step-by-step tutorial, here is my rough KiCad to X-Carve PCB workflow. These are just the high-level steps, the tools necessary, and the settings I’ve discovered for each—so far.
Eventually, I will make this a more detailed KiCad to X-Carve PCB tutorial, so make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed for updates.
Here’s the Basic Steps:
- KiCad: Draw Board
- KiCad: Plot Gerbers
- KiCad: Generate Drills
- pcb2gcode: Generate G-code
- Text Editor: Clean Up G-code Files
- Camotics: Simulate G-code
- ChiliPeppr: Send G-code and control X-Carve
- X-Carve: Make the boards!
A gCode viewer is essential when doing anything with a CNC. Knowing where the tools is going to run can mean the different between a failed cut and a broken bit. Or let’s say you’re trying to debug some gCode scripting, no need to wait an hour to find out you messed something up. That’s where a GCode Viewer can help.
There are several on-line options that let you upload files and see them in a 3D view. However, if your CNC is setup like mine, there isn’t a good internet connection available. Camotics, formerly the unfortunately named OpenSCAM, is a cross-platform open source gCode viewer / simulator.
Most recently I used it to debug some gCode that pcb2gcode generated from a Kicad board I am working on.
Check out more about Camotics on their site: http://camotics.org
One of the most popular materials to use with a laser cutter is acrylic. Head over to buy some acrylic from Inventables and you’ll see options for “extruded” or “cast” types. Not sure what that means? This Make Skill Builder on Acrylic gives the basics on the material. You’ll understand the differences between the two: especially important if you plan to mill or laser cut it. Additionally, there are tips for bending, shaping, and gluing acrylic.…
There are two methods to making a prototype PCB: 1) Etch Your Own or 2) Send to a Prototyping Service. While there are many prototyping service options, most cause you to wait anywhere between 24 hours and 30 days before you get your boards back.
If you need a PCB done today, etching at home is a great option. Chemical etching involves all kinds of steps with all kinds of weird chemicals. If you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re the next Walter White, then mechanical etching is a better option. Which is why I bought an X-Carve from Inventables. It’s a CNC Milling Kit you build yourself.
Keep reading for my X-Carve CNC Review and first-hand experience on etching my first PCB. Plus, lots of pictures!