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.
Fortunately, PCBs can also be made using a CNC mill, which is an easier and cleaner alternative to chemicals. The challenge then becomes turning your Gerber files into something that a CNC mill’s software can read. Enter FlatCAM! This program will take your Gerber and Excellon (Drill) files and turn them into G-code files, which can then be fed to a CNC mill.
We’ve made a short video to show you the process. This video was originally made for users of our new Otherplan Public Beta software for use on Windows while our software team implemented PCB support, but it can be used by anyone who has access to a CNC mill.
There are four steps to using FlatCAM:
- Import your Gerber and Excellon files.
- Create geometry from your Gerber and Excellon files.
- Create CNC toolpaths from your geometry.
- Export G-code from your CNC toolpaths.
All the different objects (imported Gerber and Excellon files, geometry objects, and CNC toolpath objects) live in the Project panel, and you access their settings by selecting them and then going to the Selected panel. Once you understand the workflow, it’s pretty straightforward. For more details, check out our FlatCAM guide.
We hope you enjoy the video!