It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted to create precise circuit board prototypes, you’d have to send them out to a shop to be made. That approach isn’t exactly conducive to fostering creativity, and limits engineers’ willingness to experiment. Fortunately, there’s a new technology that lets you fabricate your own circuit boards on your desktop, saving time, money, and providing the freedom to try things you might not have otherwise attempted.
Other Machine Co.’s OtherMill Pro is an impressive piece of desktop CNC equipment that not only makes quick work of creating circuit boards, but is a versatile 3-axis milling and etching machine as well. This makes it ideal for design and engineering teams who might want to prototype both circuit boards and small parts that fit within its 5.5 ” x 4.5″ x 1.35″ (140mm x 114mm x 34.3mm) working volume.
Weighing in at just 17 pounds, the OtherMill Pro easily fits just about anywhere, and is fully enclosed, keeping dust from getting out, and reducing noise made by the milling process. It’s capable of taking printed circuit boards quickly and easily, using the same .brd or Gerber files used for production boards, eliminating production surprises. The OtherMill Pro is extremely precise, etching out traces as narrow as 6 mil (0.006″), and is precise enough to reliably produce double-sided circuit boards.
When it comes to milling parts, the machine’s resolution is an impressive 0.001″. It’s also extremely fast compared to other desktop milling machines, with a maximum coverage of 100 inches per minute, and a top spindle speed of 26,000 RPM – extremely impressive for a machine at this price point. A typical PCB can be output in about 20 minutes.
The versatility of the OtherMill Pro cannot be understated. Its collet can hold any 1/8″ shaft industrial bit, and can carve through a wide variety of materials, including wood, wax, plastic, linoleum, foam, brass, or anything else as with the softness of aluminum or softer. This makes it perfect for prototyping objects using materials that aren’t possible to use in 3D printing, and the objects it can produce have a more finished appearance too. Here’s a small sampling of objects produced using parts made with the OtherMill Pro:
Using the OtherMill Pro is remarkably easy. For etching or milling projects, you can start with vector designs from Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, then load them into Autodesk Fusion 360 to prepare your job and generate a GCode file specifically for the OtherMill Pro. Other’s own OtherPlan software is responsible for actually controlling the output to the machine, which connects via a USB cable. Once your design is ready, simply place your material on the bed using strong, yet removable tape (Other recommends using Nitto double-sided tape), or clamping it in place. A simple command tells the tool to find its home location, and then it’s automatically calibrated, and you can begin rendering your object immediately.
Whether you’re an engineer, product designer, school shop teacher, or work-at-home craft artist, the OtherMill Pro looks like a great addition to your set of tools. It’s available for pre-0rder now (currently with an 8 week lead time). The base unit sells for $3,199 (USD), including a starter tool set, while a $3,999 advanced bundle includes a precision fixturing and clamping set, as well as a high-precision tool collet.