PCB milling - looking to buy nomad advice


(Brian Peterson) #1

First I am looking to buy the nomad (was thinking S3 but now leaning towards nomad. I looked through the forum and saw very little about PCB milling. It either works so good that no one needs to post, or no one is really using it for that. My concern is FR4 is dangerous stuff to breathe in (let alone copper dust) but really want this ability.

Another big concern is holding the PCB flat enough. anyone offer tips, suggestions, etc? for this?

Also anyone have a list or a location where I can find “must have” upgrades like cameras, lighting, dust boots or anything else I am missing?


(Josh) #2

I haven’t really found a need for a dust boot with the nomad. I’ve been putting off on a better seal of the enclosure. I’ve seen others cut a hole in the side with a vacuum hose for dust collection. That paired with an air blower might be a pretty great solution.

For holding the PCB flat, I think stock wasteboards are likely pretty great. If you wanted to get a bit fancier you could CNC a pocket for the PCB to sit in and clamp above that. I’d think doublesided tape would likely be good enough? I’ve not done PCB work on the machine yet. I have a buddy who is interested in me doing it for him on my Nomad, but he hasn’t pulled the trigger on the kit yet.
I’d think with how little you are actually cutting, you dont need to have crazy work holding solutions in place. Milling out a pocket on the mdf to hold the PCB and then put a clamp or 2 on top of it would likely be enough?
Lighting has only been an issue for me now as I’ve moved the machine into an area of the room that doesn’t have great overhead lighting. I got a cabinet LED set for the shapeoko and may use that on the Nomad as well. In the meantime I have an LED flashlight that’s plenty bright that was a Christmas present.

I had the same issue a bit when I first got the Nomad. There aren’t as many posts about it, but I can tell you that it’s handled quite a lot that I’ve thrown at it, and support has been fantastic when I had issues with the machine.

I dont know how many wasteboards come with the machine (I got mine used), but picking up extra if you dont have a good way to cut MDF from the big box store is a pretty worthwhile investment. I think the store has a 4 pack?


(Neil Ferreri) #3

Use FR1. Not nearly as dangerous.

Milling a pocket for the PCB is a good idea. For really precise work with fine traces, I’d suggest a program that can autolevel your gcode, like bCNC.


(Phil Gorsuch) #4

Possibly the most interesting PCB milling setup on the Nomad. If I was doing alot of FR4 the pool setup would probably be the direction I would go. Note the flatness issue cropped as well, but probably because of the clamping methodology.

Food for thought anyways:


(Brian Peterson) #5

I saw that one and it’s interesting, but being new to the work of CNC I am not sure I could machine that bath. I like that idea. It was actually that video that made me question the flatness piece. CLAD tends to not be perfectly flat.


(Phil Gorsuch) #6

Agreed flatness is something to look out for, but it also applies to things like thin metallic sheets and engraving. It can be overcome by proper work holding followed by verifying PCB flatness before milling.

I think if Shariar had used his multmeter technique to check Z zero on each corner and the centre of his PCB he would have found that his 2 clamp, dowel pin clamping method was causing the PCB to bow before actually doing the milling. Double sided tape (oil resistant needless to say) or more even clamping might have provided a better result.


(Chris) #7

We use a nomad for pcb prototyping - its great and works well for smd and double sided boards
The boards stay flat on surfaced mdf with double sided tape and set z height to the center of the pcb
For routing we use 135 or 185um diameter tapered stub bits and drill vias down to 200um


(Scott Shwarts) #8

Chris, what software combination do you use for milling PCBs? We use Eagle for layout and used to use PCB-gCode plug-in but it doesn’t seem to work well with latest Eagles.


(Neil Ferreri) #9

I’d love to see C3D put more resources into carbide copper…I had high hopes, but development seems to have stalled.


(Scott Shwarts) #10

Me too. I think they did just enough to have a checkbox when compared to (now Bantam Tools) but not far enough to be usable as a solution.


(Chris) #11

We use Flatcam to process the gerbers and drill files from both Altium and Kicad. Flatcam works well after some persistence and learning how it works.