This project's funding goal was not reached on January 31, 2012.
About this project
MezzoMill is the hardware and software that allow you to go from EAGLE CAD designs to real-world circuits with as little effort as possible. It is a circuit milling solution that, using blank copper boards and two endmills, is able to carve away material until your circuit is realized.
While working on various projects I was struck with how difficult it was to go from a design in EAGLE to a finished project in the real world. I quickly became annoyed with breadboards and perfboards. I tried processes with chemicals and found the results to be inconsistent and unreliable (not to mention the inherent danger in the method itself). I even tried paying a fortune and waiting for weeks to receive my boards from a factory. I found myself focusing more on the tedious process of circuit creation than the project for which I needed the board.
MezzoMill makes circuits so that you can make projects. Whether you are a beginner just learning to create circuits, or an expert juggling a ton of projects, MezzoMill will make you successful without chemicals or hassles.
MezzoMill Tech Specs:
Carves designs in boards up to 2" by 3".
Supports circuits with both surface-mount and through-hole components.
Two endmill operation: one for milling (1/64") and one for drilling (1/32").
- The machine itself is approximately a 33cm (13") cube.
- Employs an innovative capacitive homing technology.
- All axes have a resolution of 0.005mm ( 0.0002").
- Precision-milled aluminum circuit platform.
- 3 axes of motion powered by Nema 17 motors.
- Spindle that accepts 1/8" endmills.
- An Arduino for the brains.
- Power supply that supports 110v or 220v power.
- 3 stepper drivers: Allegro A4988 or similar.
- Custom circuit board that ties it all together.
- Capacitive plates that attach to the axes in order to give the machine absolute positioning.
MezzoMillQ - A custom software application that allows you to take many designs and queue them up to print. This application controls the machine as well as queues up the circuits.
EAGLE DRC (Design Rules Check)- A software plug-in that gives feedback regarding aspects of your circuit design that cannot be printed. This plug-in provides feedback during the early stages of designing, thus allowing you to make informed decisions about how to alter your design to make it printable.
EAGLE ULP (User Language Program)- A software plug-in that converts the EAGLE design file to files that you can import into MezzoMillQ.
What you need:
- A Mac, Windows, or Linux machine with a USB port.
Information is also included at http://mezzomill.com
What makes MezzoMill unique:
- Making the user successful is priority one.
- Ease of use.
- Safety: The MezzoMillQ program tells you when it is safe to interact with the machine.
- Portability: MezzoMill is small and light.
- Startup and breakdown costs are minimal.
- Zero CNC knowledge is required.
- Uses modern USB port.
- Upgradability: The software can be upgraded to support double-sided boards. The hardware can be upgraded to support 4"x6" single and double sided boards.
- Doesn't require a dedicated machine or a special OS.
- Designed and produced in the USA.
MezzoMill is different because of its ability to carve board after board without stopping. There is no lengthy setup or cleanup process. You are able to keep producing with no barriers in your way. MezzoMill is ready in an instant and is done when you are done. It's even ready the minute it arrives at your door!
Ease of use:
- MezzoMill detects when power to the machine is on so that MezzoMillQ always knows the state of the machine.
- MezzoMill performs a smart endmill height calibration so that you are less likely to break an endmill.
- For each circuit board printed, there is a maximum of two endmill changes.
- MezzoMill incorporates several other design decisions that help minimize human interaction with the machine so that you can focus on other tasks.
MezzoMill is everything you need to carve circuits at home.
When to use MezzoMill and when to use a PCB production house:
The analogy of an inkjet printer versus a print-shop comes to mind. For day-to-day tasks, most people are happy with the constraints of an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper. You use your inkjet printer when you want to print something quickly so that you can then make iterative changes. But once you need to roll something out for production or you need custom page size constraints, then you go to a print shop.
1. Capacitive Homing
-What is capacitive homing?
Capacitive homing is a technology I created that uses two plates to allow MezzoMill to maintain consistent absolute positioning. Absolute positioning enables MezzoMill to know where the copper board is and therefore where exactly to carve the circuits.
-How does capacitive homing work?
It actually works similarly to how you are introduced to the concept of capacitance. As you vary the distance between two plates, you vary their capacitance. When the machine is first connected, the capacitance is measured and then the axis is moved a distance based on the capacitance. This process continues until the plates touch.
-Why is this useful?
Capacitive sensing requires no moving parts, is able to give a sense of distance, and it has a very definitive connection response. This allows for very quick, accurate, and consistent homing. Also, because the process has no moving parts, it never wears out.
2. Aluminum circuit board fixture
There are grooves that provide a convenient place to attach clips for endmill height detection.The fixture keeps the board down and prevents it from bowing. It also keeps the board in a consistent location so that there is a constant offset from the machine origin. Because it has a consistent location, it provides the possibility for double sided operation. MezzoMill has mounting holes that allow for the possibility of upgrading to another aluminum board holder that uses 4"x6" boards.
3. Two endmill operation
Ease of use: Most circuit board creation strategies use a different drill for every hole size.
User interaction is minimized during circuit carving process. Having to change a drill bit for every hole leads to a significant amount of overhead for the user who has to change them out.
Only one tool is required. Both the aluminum circuit board holder bolts and the collet use the same hex key.
MezzoMill is all about integration. While it incorporates pre-existing technologies and ideas, the total is worth far more than the sum of the parts. MezzoMill was created by carefully selecting and crafting each one of the numerous parts to work together in perfect unison.
Pledge level clarification:
I wanted to clarify a couple confusion about the $99, $199, and $299 pledge levels. They do not come with a MezzoMill and are intended to help you if you currently have a CNC. Here are some pictures to clarify some of the terminology.
Projects mentioned at the beginning of the video:
In order of appearance.
1. Pololu A4988 stepper motor driver tester and calibrator.
2. Arduino keyboard/synth. I combined the CapSense library and Tone Library.
3. Nintendo controller. I reverse engineered the nintendo controller protocol, used the CapSense library to detect the button hits, and designed a board that looks similar to a controller.
4. This is actually two boards that are two separate projects that work together as a single guitar effect. The two projects are a B. Blender and a Big Muff Pi Triangle effect. They came from the excellent guitar effect site http://gaussmarkov.net/
5. The MiniPov3 by Adafruit.
MezzoMill is priced competitively compared to other pre-assembled machines such as the Makerbot. In addition, MezzoMill includes a number of features that add significant cost, but also significantly increase ease of use. These features include the large quantity of endmills, the custom software solution, the precision-milled aluminum fixture, and the fact that each machine is hand-calibrated to work properly. Additionally, shipping is included in the price. The truth is that there are no solutions in MezzoMill's price range that offer similar functionality and ease of use.
I have been perfecting MezzoMill for quite a while. It has taken many iterations to hone a system that is elegant and simple. I worked hard to bring a number of elements together to create the best out-of-box experience I could imagine. Now I need your help. There are a handful of technical hurdles and manufacturing process needs that make the Kickstarter funds pivotal in this process. I think this is a tool that people will want and I see a bright future for this technology.
I believe that by allowing individuals to create circuits at home it gives them the tools to modify the pervasive world of electronics and opens up new avenues of innovation.
Questions and FAQ:
I greatly appreciate all of the feedback and questions I have been receiving about MezzoMill. One of my hopes is that MezzoMill will spark a debate about why accessible circuit printers don't exist. Because of those questions, I would like to address some of the concerns people have expressed.
Offering a kit is something I'd really like to do someday. However, I've run into several technical problems that currently make it unfeasible to offer a kit and still enable my customers to be successful. The machine assembly is not trivial, the calibration process is in-depth, and at the current time the diagnostic utilities are not user friendly. I really want to help people and I think offering a kit would be a disservice to my customers.
I already have a small CNC but I would like to support MezzoMill. Is there anything that would make it easier for me to print circuits?
If you have a CNC, then you can probably already create circuits (albeit with a bit of a hassle). One of the MezzoMill innovations that enables ease of use is the precision-milled aluminum circuit board fixture. This fixture is available with all the mounting screws at the $199 pledge level.
No. The mechanics of the MezzoMill are something that you could refer to as a CNC machine but MezzoMill is intended to be an end-to-end solution for printing circuits. Using a normal CNC machine can allow a person to be successful creating circuits. However, CNCs require significant knowledge on the part of the user. Therefore, each and every person who wants to create circuits with the CNC will have to invest a significant portion of time getting up to speed on what the quirks are and how to work around them. Normally, CNC machines are poorly situated for quickly carving many boards in succession, as the setup and breakdown costs tend to be high. Also, I didn't want my customers to ever have to see a line of gcode, the standard language used to control CNCs. You shouldn't have to understand low-level implementation details to print things with your inkjet, so then why should you for your MezzoMill?
MezzoMill was not developed in a vacuum. It was created by standing on the shoulders of giants. Here is a list of projects that MezzoMill either modified or used for inspiration with the express permission of their creators: Mantis 9 CNC, pcb-gcode, grbl, and CapSense.
- (45 days)