PCB Layout Help

Hey - Wondering if anyone can help me with some PCB work?

I’ve got a need to make some Neo Joints - https://github.com/todbot/NeoJoints

I thought it would be easy so I ordered up the PCB kit to get started, but it’s much more complicated than I thought it would be…

I got the Eagle software and can open these Neo Joint files - but I’m struggling to lay them out multiple to a single board so I can cut them out.

I’m also struggling with machine settings and figuring out how everything should be setup.

If anyone could help me out I’d appreciate it!!

Eagle is… interesting.

First, to generate the Gcode, you will need a plugin, such as pcb-gcode. It isn’t terrible to use, but there is a bit of a learning curve.

To cut, you will need an appropriate bit. There are a number of options, but the most popular are vee-cutting bits. I use a 90 degree included angle, 1.5mm mill-drill bit with a 0.1mm point flat. Others use narrower angles, to make depth less critical. For the neopixel corners, you could likely get away with a 0.8mm (0.032") ball end mill or similar sized flat end mill. The traces are not that close. The larger tool will be useful for other things and less likely to break.

As for Eagle, you can copy sections of a layout and place as needed, but I have never found it easy. My solution would be to edit the gcode by hand (add a movement at the end, then duplicate the code that does the cutting) or use a g-code editor that has a step and repeat tool (I believe EditCNC does this, but have not used it). I believe some senders will do step and repeat it as well.

It might be easiest to start from scratch in a general purpose engraving package (harder)

Edit: reword for clarity and remove ref to carbide copper as it does not have a step-and-repeat tool that I can find. I was thinking of a different piece of software, but don’t recall what at this time.

I don’t think you need the pcb->gcode plugin? Carbide Copper will open the gerber output from eagle.

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wow - I had not even found Carbide Copper yet! This is great

The Neo Joints are BRD and SCH files - hopefully Carbide Copper can just pull those in

if not I’ll have to figure out this Gerber thing

and it looks like my starter kit came with drill bits and PCB engravers - this might not be as tricky as I thought

You’ll need to save the artwork gerbers from eagle, then import them into copper. I’m not going to say it’s all self explanatory or something, because it’s not. I also don’t know all the details. I -do- know that from eagle, you’ll want to file->cam processor… then set the device to GERBER_RS274X, and select the layers from your design that should be cut - usually “nets” “busses” “pads” and either "top or “bottom” as appropriate (Depends on if it’s one side, 2 sides, what’s where…I can’t help much from here on that one, you need to lookat what’s where in the design and “choose wisely”). Then start up copper, set up the material, then load the gerber and it should show you some previews and such and you can tweak and adjust from there. Should get you going in the right direction. If you need more help, ask here, and there is usually someone that can get you going.

Thanks for the pointers. It’s definitely trickier than I expected. And reading online there’s all kinds of talk about leveling the board - fortunately my first PCB tests are very basic - so I wont worry about this kind of stuff.

I am running into issues when I have to do tool changes - turning off my Dewalt seems to make my Shapeoko disconnect from Carbide Motion. So I can’t make cutter changes right now. will have to figure out what’s going on there…

The router disconnect issue has been addressed here a few times. @WillAdams has a bunch of pointers to resolving EMI issues.

Those are on the wiki at: https://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/Electronics#Recommendations

update - this is working - but it’s much harder than anticipated. just FYI things I’ve discovered…

1 - ZERO is crazy important. crazy. if I’m too high or too low it wrecks the board.

2 - Carbide Copper has some odd issue with the commands. once I zero it, and press run, it drags the tool across the pcb and then lifts it up. I edited the .nc file and moved the lift command to before the motion and that fixed it. otherwise I ended up with a strange mark across every board.

Running multiple of the same PCB on the same copper board is now my challenge. I was hoping Carbide Copper would have smarter tools to copy/paste like carbide create - but no such luck. So - this requires Eagle knowledge to get multiple copies onto a single board. still working on this one…

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Yes, the end mill dragging is a known bug. Manually editing the gcode is the best workaround.

Sparkfun has some great Eagle tutorials. They are a little out-of-date, but still good. They also link to an external website with a good tutorial on panelizing boards in Eagle: Panelizing PCBs

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