Cut testing, Pictures of the fiducial registration mode.

  The double sided PCB’s are helped out by the camera, you basically find two drill holes, align the camera to one, find the drill hole that matches on the gerber , centre the cursor on that , right click and it moves the Gerber’s to match, second hole does the rotation.


Drill Test, trying different depths with the V90 bit, the software has a couple of extra modes to help get rid of the bits that come loose if different drill paths are too close, one is an extra isolation remove. This one I haven’t tried yet, it cuts away a little extra isolation to help with potential shorts, the second mode is rubout, you define a rectangle in the mech layer, or in PhCNC and the software calculates which areas to remove leaving just the tracks, this is heavy on the drill bit usage and takes a lot longer, you end up changing tools maybe 3 or 4 times. The good thing is you can try out nearly everything the machine can do with the demo version of PhCNC (Except camera), it does a cut simulation too.



Not deep enough, These next images are after the double sided cut , checking alignment, the blue areas are the drill path, the black is the copper left, as you can see they match up pretty good.









Find and align the first drill hole. I just did a rough guess watching where on the PCB the camera was and then used X<> Y<> to find it, make sure you focus the camera first


Then just match up the red circles as close as possible.

NinjaBadge take #3 drilled, and realisation, AccurateCNC


So this came out pretty good, there are still a few traces connected that ought not to be, the drills are slightly off to the right, and didn’t realise it was a double sided board!  whoops ( single sided pcb material)

A360_Test 008


But I’m happy with the progress. This is a fairly complex board with some small traces and it had some DRV’s so its not unexpected that it failed in some parts, and i did run it through twice.


Changing the drill bits isn’t that hard, and I still dislike imperial, the software shows things in inches, and not mil’s or cm and not mm’s, the drill bits are marked in mils, so just shift it left so not a big deal, its just annoying switching back and forth, I didn’t realise AccurateCNC offered a metric version, wish I’d realised beforehand, though its just really the micrometer.

The Z axis/depth setting for the bit seems to be sticking a little bit, so I have to watch that when I’m setting a depth.


For drilling depth, I kept a piece of PCB that is the same as the one mounted, and just measured the depth from that.


It’d be nice if the Z went up during the tool change, but i think its like that since it’d be really slow to change the tool out. Other things I’ve noticed as just small things


1. Camera chase mode, be nice if it automatically switched on the video feed if its not on.

2. DRC/DRV, if there any it warns you with a popup box, especially about the forced isolation mode being off, I’ve missed it a few times and the board will likely not cut properly. Probably a good reason, but I don’t see it yet.

3. USB camera doesn’t work well if there are two cameras on the same hub ,even on 2.0, haven’t tried it on a separate bus yet. Really not that big a deal, remote monitoring the CNC. Likely nothing to do with the PhCNC.

3. Resizable video window, it gets in the way, you can make go away altogether, but I’d like it smaller sometimes.

4. Video viewable in CAM mode, i use mplayerc.exe for this (Media Player Classic), you just have to keep switching and it doesn’t do the light/autofocus.

5. Ability to record/remember each of the previously captured camera locations, that way you can build a larger area or refer back to it when you’re elsewhere with the camera, so a bitmap layer.


I also noticed that when I did the thumbtacks for the mounted PCB boundary to lay the cut in CAM mode, when flipped to CNC mode, the image mirrors horizontally but its no longer inside the thumbtacks, not sure why yet.

AccurateCNC 560 / 360 Testing the Tool Test

So i struggled with the depth setting, and AccurateCNC software recognised this would be a problem. So far its the best use I’ve found for the camera, noting that I have yet to try the fiducial setup yet and i will be since i cut a PCB last night, and forgot to save the project* , I’d intended to leave it for the morning to do the drilling, and windows update rebooted my machine for me , whoops turn that off that feature on the CNC PC !


*It’d be nice to have an autosave/autoreload for just such things, it does happen. This is where Chris emails me and says ‘It’s in the manual read it’, which I did last night!


The tool test is easy to do, put the software in CNC mode, then the follow camera mode, right click on the board where you want it to cut the test, and select ‘tool test’. The software asks you to confirm, then performs a tool change, then returns to the spot where the camera was and cuts the test, finally the camera returns to inspect the cut.


The manual has excellent details on how to do this, their cut looks better than mine.


Here are the results :- (Click for larger)


I’d say this is too shallow, there is a tiny bit of copper bridging on the top left.



Too deep, removed too much material



Looks better, i did only just it by one division each time, at half a division it’d be even better.



This is the one from the manual



I setup Webcam XP with an auto focus HP webcam so I could check on the machines progress via t’internet. Works on the Jesus phone too.





I did some more tool tests









Day two with the AccurateCNC 560 H


Once I’d figured out the bit was wrong, the results got a lot better… This board is not routed correctly and had a bunch of warnings but you learn from mistakes right 😉




this is how i interpret the manual on how to do the Z home depth setup. MSPaint ( well Cosmigo promotion) FTW.




Day two , night mode

Attempt a drilling and cutting an actual working board, even though the above PCB to me looks passable, it really isn’t upto the quality that the machine can make, there are a few wiggles and zig/zags etc, but so long as the traces are clean right ? Well wrong, after fiddling with it all day and just getting more comfortable with it , i can say with great certainty that I got the machine working a lot better, the best advice i can give you the reader is, find out what a V bit actually looks like, so when you find you’re using the right bit, you aren’t looking at a bit of paper that got flipped around in the poking about. It doesn’t for instance look like the 18mil drill bit, its a short stubby affair and doesn’t at all look like it’ll cut super fine lines, when in fact it does rather well. So I’ve come to the conclusion the zigzag/wobble is from the longer 18 mil bit swashing around.


So what does the difference between a board cut with the 18 mil drill bit vs the proper V90 bit ? Funny you should ask!



I managed to get the holes all the way through on the first, and not on the second one, so I’m still learning with the depth setting, I’m just being overly cautious though, the machine has insanely fine control so you’re think that seems really far, and its like  a micron or something, three full turns and still not enough.


I also adjusted my vacuum to bleed a little, so that its generating less suction, it has helped and not getting the ghosting quite as much.


Of course you could read the owners manual, i really just glossed through bits of it, and Chris at AccurateCNC likes to remind me of that every few emails, he’s right though 😉


I setup a webcam with Webcam XP so i could watch the machine from the other room and see how its getting on, and a moth came over was very interested in what was going on, used a second webcam pointing at the machine.

The software is pretty easy to use, I actually struggled with some parts of it because I’m used to bad software, I like the way that it zooms in where the mouse is, and not just the centre for instance, nice touches.


I cut another board, that came out looking good from a quick visual, i haven’t taken it off yet since i want to drill it, and to be perfectly honest, i dislike imperial measurements intensely, so all that 0.007 8/32th’s stuff has to go away (the software shows both, its the hardware i need to legend.


Things learnt today


1. REALLY check the bit, learn that the V bit is short and stubby and the drill bits look like drill bits..

2. In the tool change area have something soft to catch bits if you drop them, not hard floor, wood, metal etc. Although this helped me find my mistake as i fumbled the 18 mil bit so it dropped out and broke, i had to go checking, and noticed there were two 18 mil bits, which gave away the legend.

3. Read the manual ( I’m probably not going too, and will keep on making mistakes but I’m having fun doing it)

4. Take a deep breath and relax, if you’re not that used to this sort of machine it can be intimidating or overwhelming. Its really not that bad at all.

5. Have a dedicated computer. I set mine up with just the various cnc tools i used and subversion.

6. Too much suction can be bad, it moves the board.

7. Be aware of the dust.

8. Convert all the drill bits and such to the measurement system you’re used too beforehand. Have a good supply of bits, i bought both kits 1 and 2, but i think maybe I might need more (just not 18mils)

9. There is a PAUSE button, and you can restart in the G code at any place, chris pointed that out to me, and that its in the manual…

7. I have to go over this blog and fix the grammar errors! But I’m beat for tonight.


Tomorrow I’ll try the fiducial registration..

Tough decisions, which PCB CNC machine to go with ?

Update: Well T-Tech have taken themselves out of the game by telling me they can’t cut my PCB without a spindle speed of 60,000 RPM and the QC7000 bed, so that takes the price well out of the range I’m comfortable with, waiting for my cut PCB from AccurateCNC to arrive hopefully tomorrow.

I’ve spent many an hour reading over posts on PCB CNC milling, trying to get a feel for the best machine for me, I’ve looked at LPKF (too expensive), T-Tech QC5000/7000 and the AccurateCNC 360.


The T-Tech at first seems like a good bet, good price point on the QC3000, but it has a very small work area and a low speed spindle, the QC5000 is suited better to my work and still has a lower speed spindle, the upgrade is around $6,000.

Joe Grand ( kingpin ) has the QC5000 so that’s a really good recommendation right there, but after talking extensively with tech support/sales from each company , it looks like I’m going with the AccurateCNC 360.




The biggest reason for me going with AccurateCNC was just simply customer support, I want this machine primarily to revise our ECU’s and make a few updates, its the most complex PCB I’m ever likely to produce on a CNC mill, anything more complex would likely be a triple or more layer board, which you can’t mill anyway. They agreed to make me that PCB once i sent over some slightly modified gerber files ( the power polygon’s were hatched which takes for ever to drill out, so i converted them to solid )


PhCNC demo loaded with my gerber.


The software has an interesting simulation mode, it’ll simulate the cutting/drilling path etc and let you watch it cut the PCB, granted its paint dry time but it is a geeky feature. The tech said if it works here, it’ll work on the machine, I’m not falling for that one so that is why he agreed to cut the rather large PCB out for me, typically they’ll cut smaller boards of a 5cm sq but I was persuasive.


So hopefully the board will come back satisfactory!