New maker toy

New maker toy arrived today. I had kickstarted the FR4 from PocketNC, which is a simple small CNC milling machine (I already have a 1000mm X-Carve). What makes this so cool is not that it is just another micro-mill, since the OtherMill is likely a way better CNC. What I bought it for was that it is a really novel construction technique.

Anyone who has ever made a 3D printer or CNC mill from a kit knows it is painful as there is wiring and there is a frame, and connecting that whole mess together in a way that doesn’t pinch wires, has all the different drivers hooked to the right wires (who hasn’t flipped a y-axis motor?) etc. Well they decided to make the whole thing out of extra-thick structural PCB. instead of gluing or screwing the frame together, you solder the tabs in place, since that is actually the “wiring” of the device. The case and wiring are all one thing.

@Dan, can you laser cut PCB? (obviously prior to putting copper on) These are milled since you can see the dog-bones in the tabs. And if anyone is feeling generous in the forums, yes I would love one of the PocketNC 5-axis CNC machines for my birthday!


So cool…seems like…surgery? :slight_smile:


That looks like a headache of a puzzle. You need to show it after assembly.


What an interesting idea…embedding the wiring into the case. (And yes, getting the wiring crammed in requires a lot of luck.) :slight_smile:


I hear you on the PocketNC. by the time I convinced myself to back their kickstarter on it they were sold out.

And a big second on the let us live vicariously through you and see the completed build at least.

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I just ran a successful test of isolation milling a PCB with my X-Carve last night… or this morning… it was like 3AM by the time I got it working. But anyway, it was exciting. Eagle BRD file direct to Chilipeppr. It’s a very clean cut but a bit fat, so the next step is to try it over and over with slightly tweaked parameters.


I sort of felt that was like taking a framing hammer to put in a thumb tack. However, your pic really impresses with the accuracy… Have to try it.


The PCB mills go down to 0.1mm, so it’s a pretty microscopic hammer. :slight_smile:

Chilipeppr probes a grid of points on the board to adjust the gcode for minute variations in height, otherwise the thickness of the cut would be all over the place.


Yeah, I just think of it, since it’s the size of a table in my shop as a “thing for big things”.

Sounds like a probe like on my 3D printer (which does a 9-point match). How does CP do the mesh? Do you keep moving a probe block?

I’m waiting on mine! Did you get yours through Kickstarter or off their website?

I’ll look forward to seeing how yours comes together.

And no, you can’t laser FR4. Besides the resins creating potentially toxic fumes, the copper would diffuse the heat too quickly to make a cut.

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No, it does the probing automatically. Since the board is copper, you connect the wire directly to it and the whole thing is it’s own “probe block”.

I’m using FR1, which is a paper substrate, I think, rather than fiberglass. Less wear on the bits, less fiberglass in the air. Though I’m not so sure about all the copper dust…

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Kickstarter. $350 as loaded…

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Copper isn’t laser compatible; I don’t know about the FR4 substrate.

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I paid a bit more post-kickstarter. It’s still a hell of a deal considering that the next nearest 3 axis mill is selling for more than $2k (that I can find). That pocketNC 5 axis though…

Have you been able to start assembly?

Just started last night before bed, and since I am home today due to the Nor’easter hope to finish… This was last night’s progress… Oh, and given the staggering amount of soldering (since that’s the glue) definitely want a flux-fume filter…


Looks awesome. I’ll admit that I’ve got some trepidation when it comes to a major soldering project like this. It’s been years since I touched an iron and I was never what you might call a master. Got any tips?


So soldering the frame is easy. They are big pieces (although it is smaller than I thought from the pics, but this is more a fun toy, since I have an X-carve) and easy to solder. I have a nice LED ring work lamp with magnifier which made lots of things easier. The biggest tip for the frame is masking tape. I masking taped each joint tightly before soldering and everything worked perfectly. Also you will need to file down each dogbone for the joints (there is an included file for just this purpose) and you don’t need to do much, just square it up, but every one had to be done.

Now the components on the other hands are a PITA! Although ironically it was not the SMD components that caused a problem (other than my 50-year-old-eyes) [note black ones are resistors and beige ones are capacitors], but the hall-effects-sensors. I have no idea why they felt they had to make the holes through the boards for them exactly the size of the leads, but they did, and it is hard (particularly on the one on the back) to get it through…


Soldering is one place where the adage “a poor workman blames his tools” does not hold true. Using a good quality temperature-controlled soldering iron, the right tip, the right solder, and some accessories (light, magnifier, fume extractor, clamps/helping hands) makes easy work of most projects.


So…fume extractor is necessary? Or can you just use a fan to blow the smoke away from your face?


I mean, it’s not necessary but sure makes it way nicer. Flux fumes aren’t great for you, and are an airway irritant. A fan is better than nothing (although you have to be careful not to overcool the soldering iron). Also I was somewhat worried about setting off the smoke detector, since this is way more soldering than I ever do for an electronics project.

Yeah, I use a Hako 888 soldering station with an appropriate Hako tip, along with the FA-400 extractor (in the pic) and brand-name solder. I also used a flux-marker rather than their syringe of flux, as it is way more precise…