Editor's Note: A solder mask is a thin layer of polymer applied to the copper traces of a printed circuit board (PCB) for protection against oxidation and to prevent solder bridges from forming between closely spaced solder pads. Community member, physician, and technologist Craig F. Feied has developed a great technique for applying solder masks to boards milled on his Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine, which he has documented and shared here.
Adafruit's super-talented Collin Cunningham shared a great how-to for making custom pins using copper PCBs as the base material—double-sided, copper-clad FR-4 boards, to be exact. Collin used not just any mill, but our reliable little PCB mill to make the project. We got a sneak peek at these neat pins in our recent roundup of community builds.
With the wealth of materials our Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine can handle with ease, the potential of what you can make is endless, but the area where our small-but-mighty mill shines the brightest is in milling PCBs. After all, PCB is our mill's middle name. We put professional precision and reliability directly on your desktop, so the rate at which you prototype is only limited by your imagination, not the return rate of the board house you use. To boot, we've got you covered with a full library of support guides, detailing all aspects of milling PCBs. Here we offer an overview of our PCB-specific guides.
Even if you’ve only done just a few projects on the Othermill or Othermill Pro, you know the importance of using the correct feeds and speeds for your design and material type. This is a topic we’ve previously covered in detail in our Speeds and Feeds Guide and Materials Guides, but with the recent addition of SVG milling in Otherplan, we've made it possible to mill designs without creating G-code or thinking about speeds and feeds ahead of time.
Using SVG files is an easy way to mill simple shapes without using traditional CAD and CAM software. When you use SVG files, you can create your design using clipart, screenshots of images, hand drawings, or your graphic design software of choice, such as Illustrator or Inkscape.
This guide shows you the basics of converting an STL file to a STEP file. STL files are a 3D mesh format mostly used by 3D printers, but in the world of engineering CAD and CAM, most software requires solid models. The most universal solid model format is STEP (.stp, .step). Ideally you'd begin with a solid model and avoid STLs entirely, but maybe you found the perfect object on Thingiverse or you used a 3D scanner, and there’s no reasonable way to begin with a solid model. Or maybe you're already doing solid modeling, but you need to incorporate an STL model into it. This guide shows you a file conversion process that has worked well for me.
Prototyping circuit boards is an important part of product development. Ordering prototypes from a PCB manufacturer is either very slow or very expensive (and still kind of slow). To speed up the process, many people etch boards themselves, which is much faster than ordering them but requires toxic chemicals.
It’s hard to manufacture stuff repeatably. Unlike the software universe, where you can make exact copies, the physical universe isn’t uniform and nothing is created exactly the same way twice. Everything manufactured from physical materials falls on a spectrum, and it’s up to you to decide what part of the spectrum you’re willing to accept.
It’s no secret that the Othermill is a phenomenal tool when it comes to milling custom circuit boards. Hobbyist, students, and professionals alike have shared stories of how the Othermill has significantly improved their workflow and allowed them to rapidly prototype like never before (read a few in the story links below).
We love hearing that, almost as much as we love supporting our users and helping making their experience as simple and fun as possible. To that end, we’ve been working hard to increase the support guides we have available. Here is a list of resources that we hope you enjoy and find useful as you mill PCBs on your trusty Othermill.
What’s an .svg file? Scalable Vector Graphics (.svg) is a common image file format. Unlike raster image files (like .jpg, .gif, and .png) that store images in grids of colored pixels, .svg files store image information as lines and shapes. As such, they can be scaled to any size and still look perfectly sharp, unlike a .jpg, which may look fuzzy and pixelated when scaled up.
More importantly, because .svg files store shapes instead of pixels, Otherplan can turn the shapes into toolpaths, which you can then cut on the Othermill.