David Clift-Reaves has created MezzoMill, a PCB router which can provide custom single-sided PCBs in short order. He’s currently running a kickstarter to get the project into production. He writes:
The conversation that I had hoped that MezzoMill would help to shine a light on is the need for individuals, hackerspaces, and schools to have small-scale electronics manufacturing facilities. I believe that there are 3 key technologies that are necessary to a modern electronics fab. First is the ability to print circuits. Second is the ability to place modern components on the circuit. Finally, the third is the ability to do reflowing.
Like the iBooks Author program, I feel that these disruptive technologies have the ability to empower people and transform an industry. Clearly all of the technologies already exist for creating these machines. People hack together various versions of them all the time. There needs to be work done towards mass producing them and a guiding vision for making all of them work together seamlessly.
I designed the MezzoMill to simplify the problem of printing circuits. It turns the experience of printing circuits from EAGLE to one like from your word processor to your inkjet. It makes the process safe and repeatable while reducing the user interaction with the process as much as possible. It is the only solution in its price range that provides this user experience to individuals.
Very cool! I see hacks all the time where people have put together PCB routers using gantry dremels and the like, but the focus here is on self-contained, user-friendly repeatability and flexibility. That’s something which a lot of home builds lack — not intentionally, mind you, but they are built by users for themselves and require less generalization. I think a general machine designed for a wider user base is the next logical step.
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Hmmm… Interesting results on the video. The KickStarter effort doesn’t have enough take-up to-date (TOO expensive and the tout is tied to Eagle – yech!) Physical routing PCB’s, especially FR4 etc. produces hazardous inhalable by-products. That’s not addressed here (yet). Nice effort though. The videos are instructive in and of themselves.
He should really give some credit to Dave Carr and his Mantis Mill as this looks to be a direct copy of Dave’s design. I’m all for making money from open source but at least give the designer some credit.
Interesting project, and great to see a user-friendly. For my DIY (ghetto) approach it seem somewhat expensive, considering that mid-2010 there was a final project at MIT that resulted in a working setup for less than $100:
I haven’t had the chance to study the MIT project in detail, but it seems like the MezzoMill could be done on a lower budget. Since the project asks for $99 for two endmills, it gives me personally an impression that they ask for financial support for at project they want to sell as a retail product, and not the type of Open Source Software/Hardware project that we have come to expect from the KickStarter in the field of DIY electronics. Why not include early access to beta-versions of plans for the MezzoMill in the lower pledges?
I like this project, but I’d love to see it grow more open. Maybe funding and time will do the trick?
I think it’s a matter of time before there is a fully documented, easy-to-use project describing how to make and use a PCB mill for only a few hundred dollars.
Drone is right about the hazardous by-products, this would really worry me. There’s an additional problem: FR4 is loaded with fiberglass, which makes it extremely abrasive. This means that the precision obtained with one tool will drop very quickly, as the bit wears, and it might lead to big costs for all these carbide mills…
The usual chemical etching method is tedious if you want to make just one board, but still, the proposed alternative seems to have too much drawbacks to be a valid replacement.