Beginner help please: PCB Mill

  • Hi all,

    I'm new here so please forgive me if I miss anything necessary. After a pretty big life challenge, I'm now back to my tinkering but have unfortunately had an extended break from anything 'maker' related. I have a very old RepRapPro 3D printer that needs to be dismantled due to the bearings ceasing (etc) from lack of use over the years. I would like to re-purpose this, specifically as a PCB mill (which I'll re-build from scratch). If possible, I'd like to use the control board as it seems wasteful to replace it. It's an old Duet board, non-wifi, v0.6 ( - scroll down).

    The mechanical side of things I'm completely ok with, but the software side is just completely overwhelming me. There seem to be hundreds of different options for CNC which then differ again for PCB milling and few seem to use the board I have.

    I would be most appreciative if someone could please point me in the right direction in terms of what software to use, how to configure the board, how to connect the board to the computer and get it to talk to software, etc, and from there, hopefully, I can run with it and learn. Basically, I have the board and have no idea what to do with it next (after connecting the x-y-z motors that is - I can follow the wiring diagram easily enough 😉 ) Hopefully, throughout this process, I can learn enough to pass on my knowledge to others in time.

    Thanks in advance for any help you may offer!


  • That board is old enough that is processor is from a different family. That means firmware development stopped some time ago. You can still run it, just be aware it will never have new features and/or bug fixes. Specifically, is the last software release that will load, it is the "reprapfirmware.bin" found here:

    The "getting started" guides still apply to that board, the procedures are more or less identical to a Duet 2.

    Start with that, and ask questions as you go.

    Specifically for CNC PCB milling, I personally would consider a more CNC oriented controller, such as a Planet-CNC (commercial, closed, works very well), TinyG (older, open, no longer being developed, but works well, particularly with Chilipeppr user interface, which can directly open Eagle .brd files), or similar.

    I know that is kind of sacrilege on the Duet forum. They make THE BEST 3D printer controllers in the world, light years ahead of everybody else. And their boards do CNC mode. At the same time, CNC is not their strongest suite, and an older board like a 0.6 running 1.2.x... well, I'd consider something else.

    AND... the board/controller may be the least important part of CNC PCB success. Really good mechanics are going to make a big difference. So is the design software, and the "CAM" software (toolpathing from the gerbers). The controller 'only' needs to execute g-code.

    Anyway, I'm rambling. The upper section should help you get started.

  • administrators

    @Danal said in Beginner help please: PCB Mill:

    You can still run it, just be aware it will never have new features and/or bug fixes.

    Not necessarily true, because if/when we do a 2.05.2 bugfix release for Duet 2, I will do a 1.26.2 for older Duets as well. But RRF 2.x/1.x won't be getting any new features.

    PCB milling isn't a complex task, so I think a Duet 0.6 would be up to the job if Nema 17 motors with rated current of no more than 2A are adequate for the mechanics.

  • Fantastic news about the 1.26.2!! I am always amazed at your level of support, you guys are just the best.

    And, I was sort of speaking contrary to myself if I look at "consider a more CNC oriented controller" vs. "the board/controller may be the least important part of CNC PCB success... The controller 'only' needs to execute g-code.". Particularly that last phrase... a Duet 0.6 is going to do an excellent job of its core function, move things around with g-code.

    So I don't really know what I was on about. Particularly since OP stated (or at least strongly implied) that re-using this board was a primary goal of the rebuild.

    In short, @projectdigital : Your 0.6 board should do find for PCB milling. Keep us posted!

  • @Danal Hahaha I read your post, very gratefully - making a lot of sense, but then did think twice when reading your last comment about the board being the least important part. Really appreciate the feedback though.

    @dc42 - it's so nice to see your name again! I actually ordered your IR board for my old RRP printer. Man it made a difference! Speaking of which, I actually still have it and given that I'm building a CNC I'm not certain it would be used. If not, and if you have a use for it - or someone else does, I'm happy to donate it?? Not sure if it would be appropriate for bed levelling a PCB? Initial thought was to do it manually using a conductive probe but auto would be great... Small steps for now though.

    I'm going to design the mechanics and see if I can at least interface with the board. Will keep everyone updated here as to progress.

    Thanks again, so much!

Log in to reply