Elektor PCB prototyper - first PCB made!

The electronics enthusiast's product design cycle

Postby hexafou » Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:00 am

Hi,
dou you speak frenche ? ( cause i am )
i have de big problem whith my pcb proyotyper.
engin out,
What is te issue for you?
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Postby hacklordsniper » Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:00 am

Hello hexafour, repair of your machine is in picture.

After assembling the machine with new parts i did few more modifications so the machine has a better flavor for me. Its mainly focused on slight modifications on the exhaust system connectors (to allow hose connection at 90 angle).

From then i have milled and engraved PCB, aluminium, wood, lexan, plastics. The machine works like a charm and I dont regret buying it. As all of us electronics engineers are geeks and nerds in soul i got a beautiful chance to learn alot about CNC machines and adopt this one to my needs.

But i could do nothing without manufacturer standing next to me and supporting me. Collinbus people responded any of my annoying questions and did all their best to help me.

In future if need evolves for a small universal machine like PCB BOX or some large system i will surely get it at Collinbus, no exceptions!

If i can help somebody any other way with their machine i will be glad to do it anytime.
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Postby paporas » Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:00 am

Hi hacklordsniper,

So, supposing the machine now ships with all new parts, it should work. Any software problems encountered?

You said that you did a few modifications on the machine (focused on slight modifications on the exhaust system connectors (to allow hose connection at 90 angle)). I would not like to interfere with the machine myself, unless absolutely necessary. Are any of those modifications necessary?

Thanks
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Postby hacklordsniper » Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:00 am

paporasHi hacklordsniper,

So, supposing the machine now ships with all new parts, it should work. Any software problems encountered?

You said that you did a few modifications on the machine (focused on slight modifications on the exhaust system connectors (to allow hose connection at 90 angle)). I would not like to interfere with the machine myself, unless absolutely necessary. Are any of those modifications necessary?

Thanks


Yes it ships with all modifications, pay me a beer for discovering the flaws . Also discovered most of the software problems and Collinbus can correct software problem in most 24 hours since it is in house development.

None of the modifications are necessary but the exhaust modification is practical. IF you dont do this the machine will need to be 30-40 cm from wall distanced to allow connection. This was more than my bench can give so i modified this to allow only ~8 cm distance from wall
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Postby enigmauk » Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:00 am

Hi All

does anyone know the connection details for the green plug around the back of the PC Prototyper?. I have tried without success to get an anwer from Colinbus on this. I want to interface a auto switch for the vaccum but dont know the pinout.

Pete
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Postby eminence2001 » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:00 am

My experiences with the PCBBOX (same as the PCB Prototyper)... First the bad stuff. Took 16 weeks to arrive when I was promised 6. Maybe someone forgot to press the "1" key. When it arrived, I plugged it in, loaded up my PCB design, pressed "Start" and... nothing! My PC just wouldn't communicate with the machine.

Now the good stuff. One email later and Version 1.41 of the software was in my Inbox. Result! Perfect comms. Milled my first PCB (see pic - I'm building a Formant synth from scratch including the PCBs). Broke my first 0.7mm drill by not pulling the head cover down completely before swinging it away. Won't do that again!

Found a bug in the software. I was milling a double Eurocard. This is too large for the PCBBOX table (why didn't they make it just that teensy bit bigger?) so I had to do it in 2 halves. No problem I thought. Just mill the bottom half plus 3 of the 4 board edges then the top half and the other 3 edges, both U-sections forming a rectangle. Unfortunately, when selecting individual tracks to be milled, the software forgot that it has to send the drill head round at a sensible speed and sent it shooting round the PCB outline at breakneck speed. Broken 2mm router. I thought at first it was something stupid I'd done, so I did it again... and broke my other 2mm router.

One email later and I had Version 1,42 in my Inbox. Bug fixed. Double Eurocard milled. Not quite perfect as it isn't possible to align the 2 halves, as position is based on pixel increments rather than sensible fractions of a millimetre. I've emailed Colinbus and am waiting for Version 1.4.3 which will cure this oversight (I wish!).

So, what are my overall impressions of this machine? Solidly built. Milling/drilling/routing is very accurate. If you lose one of the 3mm registering pins (I did when trying to pull it out) you are ****ed! But they did send me a few spares by return of post. Masking tape is insufficient to hold the board rigidly in place. You really need those pins as the sideways forces when milling are quite large and will result in mis-shapen holes being milled.

It's quite noisy - even noisier when the vac is plugged in as well! The port at the back is not well thought out. It needs to have a right-angled adaptor as most vac hoses stick out too far when plugged in and I have to operate the machine at an angle because it fouls the back wall when the hose is connected.

Am I glad I bought it? Yes! it's always a steep learning curve with a new piece of kit. When you start, you make mistakes, break tools and fray tempers, but eventually you get the hang of it and can produce some fine PCBs. These moaning whingers who have posted all of this negative stuff need to shut up or take up stamp collecting.

If I come across anything else of interest, I'll keep you informed.
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Postby thijsbeckers » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:00 am

Thank you Marek, for your nice and honest review!

Cheers!
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Postby eminence2001 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:00 am

Having mastered PCB milling, I decided to have a go at milling some front panels. I decided to use black/white 1.6mm engraving laminate and created the artwork using Sprint. Yes I know it's for PCB design, but you don't need that much complexity to design a front panel. Lines, arcs and letters and drill holes. That's it. Anyway, my first couple of attempts weren't bad, but I wasn't happy with the header on the panel, so I decided to scan in the original artwork and laboriously recreate the letters. You can see for yourself, the results are pretty impressive! The joy of having all of your holes EXACTLY aligned and EXACTLY the right size for your switches, sockets, LEDs and pots! No more triangular off-centre potentiometer holes, and what's more, the outside dimensions of the panels are so accurate, I milled six 71mm panels to go in a 19 inch rack, and they fit to within a hair's width!

Interestingly, the original dimensions of the front panels are wrong. They were designed to fit into a custom 6U + 3U rack and the top row of panels butted up with the bottom row, so the panels were about 4.5mm longer than they should be, and the mounting holes didn't match those in a standard 19 inch rack. So, I redimensioned them and now everything fits nicely. I've also made one or two slight mods. For example, unless you are a moron, it's obvious that one end of a pot is slow and the other is fast, so I've not bothered with that legend.

So far, my Formant is looking good. PCBs are in the process of being designed and the front panels are coming along nicely. I will also be designing a backplane, as the suggested method of wiring up the edge connectors is just sloppy!

More progress reports when there's any more progress...
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Postby eminence2001 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:00 am

Forgot to add - the PCBBOX/Prototyper works in a slightly different way to most milling machines in that the milling depth is controlled by a micrometer which takes its reference from the surface of the material being milled. This means that the milling head rubs over the surface of the material and leaves scratch marks. These are very shallow and can be polished out of a PCB. However, if you are milling a shiny front panel, scratches are not wanted! Nor can they be polished out. The solution? Well I tried a number of methods. Firstly removing the protective film from the laminate. Total disaster! Then keeping the protective film on and drilling through it. Sort of worked, but where the film was cut through, the milling head would snag the film as it moved across the surface and lift it up, creating uneven clumps of plastic. This caused the milling depth to vary noticeably. So that didn't work either. I tried sellotape over the top. It lifted too. In the end, I used a plain sheet of A4 paper and adjusted the milling depth to take the thickness of the paper into account. Worked perfectly! So there's a useful tip for anyone wanting to mill a shiny front panel from laminate.
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Postby thijsbeckers » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:00 am

Wow! Very nicely done! I pointed some colleagues to your Formant frontpanels. They'll love them

And very nice tips for working on front panels!

Keep up the good work.

Cheers.
Thijs
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