PCB to CNC Tool Chain

So I thought i should write about the tools I use to take an idea for a circuit board and bring it to completion all nice and milled and sexy. I start in Sprint Layout 6. This is a windows program, but run perfectly under WINE on my Linux machine. Why Linux on the office computer, well, I dont like viruses and malware that hijacks my browser functions, and Linux fits that bill perfectly.

  • Sprint Layout 6.0
  • FlatCAM
  • CAMotics

sprintlayout

Anyway, political rant aside, i layout the board in Sprint Layout then export the Gerber and Excellion drilling files and move onto step 2 FlatCAM. With the gerber and drill files in hand, we can then load them into FlatCAM and convert them to G-Code. FlatCAM is a multi platform program written in python. It will run on Windows and Linux equally as well.

flatcam

The final step in the process is to check to see that the G-Code files we have created are any good. For this we can simulate their paths in CAMotics. For this you just load up the cutting and drilling G-Code files and hit the simulate button. Mostly I am just looking here to make sure the paths look like my circuit board.

camotics

Well there you have it, a simple work flow of how to take an idea for a board and get it to the point where you can plug the G-Code into your CNC software and start milling and drilling away to a brand new circuit board. The reasons why i chose these programs over others is that they all work on Linux, they are all rather simple and have very easy learning curves. You can pretty much learn how to use each program effectively in about 10 minutes each. And that just speeds up how quickly you can start turning out things you can use.

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