From base48
Revision as of 11:41, 8 January 2018 by Rmarko (talk | contribs) (amp to gallery)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Step-by step PCB milling tutorial.

Board preparation

Required software

Make sure you have following tools installed:

  • Kicad or Eagle
  • pcb2gcode - conversion of Gerber files to G-code
  • pcb2gcodeGUI - GUI for pcb2gcode
  • Camotics - G-code simulator for verification (optional)
  • hacked_cnc - control, visualization and G-code leveling (optional, installed on linuxcnc host)

On Fedora pcb2gcode(GUI) can be installed from packages:

dnf install pcb2gcode pcb2gcodeGUI

Kicad export

Note: it's better to export gerbers and gcode to separate folder, sometimes you need to re-export stuff to correct for errors and you don't want to mix files between revisions.

To export Gerber files from Kicad

  • choose File -> Plot
  • set Plot format to Gerber (default)
  • set Exclude PCB edge from other layer
  • select layers to export - depending on your design this is either F.Cu or B.Cu and Edge.Cuts layers
  • click Plot on the bottom of the window
  • click Generate Drill file next to Plot
  • set Drill Units to Millimeters
  • set Drill Origin to Absolute
  • click Drill File button on the right side of the window

G-Code conversion

To convert Gerbers to G-code use either pcb2gcode from command line or pcb2gcodeGUI.

Make sure to set correct drill side, if your design is on F.Cu you want to drill from the front side (--dril-side=front) and vice versa.

If you don't want to switch tools for drilling choose One drill option (--onedrill=true) which merges all drill operations to one file (bit size).

Simulation / preview

You can verify if everything is correct by importing all files to Camotics G-code simulator.

Ideally your board should start at positive X, Y coordinates with lower left corner near X0/Y0.

File upload

Upload folder to LinuxCNC machine:

scp -r project/ base@linuxcnc.base48.cz:<your_nick>/


Machine preparation

  • Start linuxcnc machine (reachable at linuxcnc.base48.cz)
  • Start machine controller
  • Start cooling pump
  • Pick a V-shaped tool from the box and install it


Make sure to clamp PCB blank as good as possible as it's critical for the outcome of the leveling and milling.

  • Clamp PCB blank on top of piece of wood with at least 4 clamps
  • Make sure RED wire is touching the PCB, it has to be put under one of the clamps so it won't come loose


  • Start LinuxCNC by running base_mill shortcut on the desktop
  • Enable machine control by disabling emergency stop (F1) and enabling power (F2)
  • Position the machine with arrow keys to a starting point (bottom left corner of your future pcb)
  • Home each axis of the machine, don't forget to home A axis as well
  • Load F.Cu or B.Cu G-code file
  • Try moving machine around displayed job to make sure it can actually reach all sides of the job without collisions
  • Switch to MDI tab (F5) (all the required commands in the following section should be present in the history)
    • To get to the starting point run G0 X0 Y0
    • To home Z-axis use G38.2 Z-100 F30
    • Go back to manual tab and re-home Z axis


  • Switch to workspace 3, open terminal and find a directory with your jobs G-code files
  • Run pcb2gcode_postproc.py in that folder
  • Switch to workspace 4, find terminals with hacked_cnc directories
  • In the first terminal (~/hacked_cnc) run
./hcc server --linuxcnc
  • In the second terminal (~/hacked_cnc/hc/ui/probe/) run
  • Open postprocessed file in probe GUI e.g. proj_front_post.ngc
  • Check if there are enough probe points for the size of your board and andjust if not
  • Probing first goes to -margin which means it will start at X-3 (default margin of 3mm) if your board stars at X0, make sure there's enough free space for this move if you're tight on the space of the blank PCB - the margin has to be at least 1mm for leveling to work
  • Run Run Probe
  • When probing is done run Process
  • File is automatically saved with lvl_ prefix when processing is done
  • Now switch back to LinuxCNC window and load suffixed file


  • Start job with blue arrow button
  • Hope for the best, abort with F1 if stuff goes wrong

Adjusting milling depth

If your board is not milled deep enough

  • Stop job with F1
  • Disable safety stop by pressing F1 again
  • In MDI tab
    • Move machine to Z1 with G0 Z1
    • Set machine position to e.g. Z1.1 to add 0.1mm with G92 Z1.1


  • Load drill file (e.g. drill_post.ngc)
  • Install correct drill bit
  • To re-establish Z height again
    • Go to Manual tab (F3) and position a head outside of the milled PCB near clamp with probing wire attached so probing is possible, then few millimeters on top of the spot but don't try to make contact
    • Go to MDI tab (F5) and issue probing command G38.2 Z-100 F30
    • Go back to manual tab and re-home Z axis
  • Start drilling job


  • Load outline file (e.g. outline_post.ngc)
  • Load 3.175mm endmill
  • Go to manual tab a re-establish Z height again by positioning tool slightly over the board
  • re-home Z axis
  • Start job


  • Clean your board with sandpaper and alcohol
  • Use flux spray
  • Leave a board on a warm place for a while
  • Clean-up and power down the machine meanwhile, remove tool from tool holder
  • Take pictures
  • Solder components
  • Profit


Feel free to upload pictures of your finished PCBs and add link(s) to following gallery:

Oldstuff mov to git


 git clone https://github.com/pcb2gcode/pcb2gcode

sample make_gcode script


pcb2gcode \
--front=front-gerber-F.Cu.gtl \
--back=back-gerber-B.Cu.gbl \
--drill=drill.drl \
--outline=Edge.Cuts.gm1 \
--output-dir=gcode \
--dpi=1000 \
--metric=true \
--metricoutput=true \
--mirror-absolute=false \
--optimise=true \
--tile-x=1 --tile-y=1 \
--vectorial=false \
--zchange=20.0000 \
--zero-start=true \
--zsafe=2.0000 \
--extra-passes=3 \
--mill-feed=450 \
--mill-speed=24000 \
--offset=0.1500 \
--zwork=-0.0500 \
--drill-feed=250 \
--drill-side=back \
--drill-speed=12000 \
--milldrill=false \
--nog81=false \
--onedrill=false \
--zdrill=-3.0000 \
--bridges=0.8000 \
--bridgesnum=4 \
--cut-feed=200 \
--cut-infeed=1.0000 \
--cut-side=back \
--cut-speed=24000 \
--cutter-diameter=3.1750 \
--fill-outline=true \
--outline-width=0.2000 \
--zbridges=-0.0500 \