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KiCNC

A CNCd PCB

Just another pcb2gcode GUI


We've recently started using a desktop CNC machine to prototype PCBs. It became quickly clear that there is an opportunity to improve the workflow in this area. There are some great pieces of software available, but some of them are becoming a bit dated.


pcb2gcode


pcb2gcode

is a command-line application that turns gerber files into files a CNC machine can work with. There are a lot of options. There is an official GUI for it, and it works great, but it is 4 years old at this point and a good deal behind the latest version of pcb2gode (2 years since last update).


KiCNC


To fill the help things along, we made KiCNC. A GUI for pcb2gcode with just a few features that make it work best with KiCAD, although it will take gerbers from anywhere, not just KiCAD.
Some features:

  • supports most pcb2gcode options
  • working configuration by default
  • can work with the mask and paste layers
  • one-click to create all the files
  • saves the project for re-use


Possible Workflows


Using our CNC machine, we do something like this using only drillbits:

  1. Design the board in KiCAD
  2. Use pcb2gcode to generate several G-Code files
  3. Mill the top/bottom layer
  4. Drill the holes
  5. Cut out the board
  6. Create a stencil using the paste layer gerber

We use this process, using an applied soldermask to blank PCBs and a laser module:
  1. Design the board in KiCAD
  2. Use pcb2gcode to generate several G-Code files
  3. Laser ablate the top/bottom layer, removing the soldermask
  4. Etch away the exposed copper, isolating the traces and pads
  5. Laser ablate the mask layer, exposing the pads and annular rings
  6. Drill the holes
  7. Cut out the board
  8. Create a stencil using the paste layer gerber
This process leaves a board with soldermask applied already.

Using the laser workflow, we can create boards with traces 0.3mm and QFN ICs without much trouble. Once familiar, it takes around 15 minutes.


Install


At the moment, this is a Windows-only application. With some tinkering it can pretty easily work under *nix and MacOS. There is a release on GitHub

to compile yourself, or you can just download the install file.