$30 High-Speed PCB Drill Press

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Introduction: $30 High-Speed PCB Drill Press

Want super clean holes in your latest PCB? Want your PCB drill-bit's to last much longer? Tired of using your dremel as the drill press it clearly isn't? For around $30, you can build this simple PCB drill-press.

Step 1: Planning / Materials

This started when we (me and some fellow modders / hackers) realized we wanted a simple high-quality PCB drill dress, but didn't want to pay $400+ for something that would only run at around 20,000 rpm. We also did not want to use the standard dremel drill-press for drilling PCB's as they tend to break bits fairly fast, and PCB drill bits can be expensive.

The solution that we arrived at was to use a Harbor-Freight Pneumatic 1/8" Micro Die Grinder, and attach it in-plane with a precision linear slide rail. The Micro Die Grinder runs at 56,000 RPM and has the 1/8" collet that I needed for the PCB drill-bits.

The keep the die-grinder in-plane with the rail, we decided to mount the linear rail to a self-centering drill-press jig.

The parts list:
1.5" Square Steel Tubing - Scrap from Around the Shop
56K RPM Micro Die-Grinder Drill - Harbor Freight - $10.00
- http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=47869
Self Centering Drill Press Jig - Harbor Freight - $6.00
- http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=92046
THK Linear Slide Rail - $10.00
- Ebay, Search for "THK Slide" or "Linear Slide"
MDF for deck - Scrap from Around the Shop
MISC. Screws - Scrap from Around the Shop
Springs - Home Depot / Lowes - $5.00

Step 2: Build the Drill Mount and Attach It to the Slide

Start by cutting down the Auto-Centering Drill Press Jig. We cut it down to a couple of inches high. This allowed it to provide a good amount of support for the drill, but still be short enough to clear the twist-on/off valve on the drill.

We removed the excess sides of the self-centering drill press jig, and sanded all the rough edges smooth. The THK rail mounts vertically along the center. We used the measurement between the holes to drill through the drill mount.

The holes are easily centered along the mount by drilling in the V in the center of the mount with a small bit, followed by a larger bit and finally using a tap and die set to tap out the threads from the back of the mount.

This is the most critical step of the process, the Drill-Mount MUST be in-plane and square with the Linear Slide.

We then attached the other side of the rail to a small section of angle-iron. We did this by drilling out four holes that I had previously marked. Get these as close as you can to square with the Linear Rail.

If your angle iron isn't square (ours wasn't), then use a square and a sander to square it up.

This piece of angle-iron will be used to mount our Linear Rail / Drill Mount to the Frame.

Step 3: Build the Frame

At this step of the process we are going to build the frame.

I won't go into exact dimensions, however you do want the drill to be forward enough from the back plate to allow for whatever size boards you would like to drill. It will also need to be high enough to accommodate the drill and have enough room to move at least 1/2" above the board to just below the boards surface.

We will also be attaching 3/4" MDF for the deck, so don't forget to allow for that in your vertical measurements.

After you cut the pieces you need (you can see how we did it below), you will need to weld them together. If you don't know how to weld see if you can get a friend to weld it for you. Failing that you can take it to a metal-shop and they should be able to do it for fairly cheap.

Step 4: Mount the Deck, Slide, and Drill

Almost done, now we just need to mount the deck, slide, drill, and return springs to the frame.

We started by cutting the Deck out of some MDF we had around the shop. We cut a notch out of it to fit around the back of the frame. We mounted the drill to the drill-mount/slide with some zip-ties that we had around the shop, and then attached the slide to the small piece of angle-iron that was welded to the frame.

We drilled and tapped a couple of holes near the middle of the upper arm and also in the drill mount and ran the springs between them. This provided the auto-return for the drill.

We also tapped and drilled to holes into the base of the frame to attach the deck to. The screws in the deck are counter-sunk (see finished pictures on next step) so that the PCB's can slide around the top of the deck easily.

End-caps were installed to keep everything looking neat.

Step 5: Finishing Thoughts

We ended up attaching a spring to the slide and the back of the upper arm. We did this to remove any excess slack in the linear rail that might appear over time.

The only changes we may make is to add a handle to lower the drill. Currently you simply press down on the top of the drill which works great for now.

Our holes came out perfect, and there was absolutely NO noticeable wobble or tilt in the drill. Just straight, clean holes every time.

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    user

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    78 Comments

    You say it's 30$, but in reality, you also need to get an air compressor, and a welder, etc. This could end up costing many hundreds of dollars if you have nothing but the parts for the drill press. Call back when you have one that doesn't need to be welded, and runs off of electricity.

    1 reply

    ever heard of rental? I can get an air compressor for 4 hrs for 15 bucks at mennards. if you are doing so many you need it for more than 4hrs, you should probably be sending out to have your boards made. also, If you dropped the attitude you have you might manage to make friends with someone who owns a welder. in my experience most people that own them are happy to do a project as small as that for you/with you for a 6er of beer you will probably consume with them...or just conversation

    Can someone explain to my *what/why* exactly is the problem in using the Dremel workstation as a drill press jig? Why do the drill bits keep breaking off?

    I was considering buying the Dremel workstation for making PCB holes, and wanted to know its drawbacks in this regards, before buying it.

    I want to buy $30 High-Speed PCB Drill Press.

    part numbers on HF's website have changed. drill press jig is now at

    http://www.harborfreight.com/self-centering-drill-press-jig-92046.html

    I built this and it does work GREAT for drilling PCB's. I attached the springs a bit differently, but that's the only mod I made. I have drilled over five hundred 25mil holes and haven't broken a single carbide bit. Huge improvement over the dremel drill press attachment.

    user

    Interesting project though the harborfreight links no longer work and if I look on line for a similar device it is very expensive. Still, this has given me some ideas. I will probably use 2x4s instead of steel tubing and use a rotory tool as it rotates quite fast. I saw a few advertised on Amazon as being able to rotate up to 30,000rpm which is close to what you are using and good enough for my use. As for the slide, I think I can make something out of non-threaded steel rods or a drawer slide. In any case, your project looks good.

    It is too bad Harbor Freight doesn't sell the mini press I bought off of them anymore. It was only $29.99 Plug it in and go.

    drillboard.jpg

    Do you think a piece of angle iron would work in replace of the self centering jig? I am trying to save as much money as possible

    1 reply

    You say it's 30$, but in reality, you also need to get an air compressor, and a welder, etc. This could end up costing many hundreds of dollars if you have nothing but the parts for the drill press. Call back when you have one that doesn't need to be welded, and runs off of electricity.

    To anyone who says $30 is not reasonable: It is actually because if you get Harbor Freight's coupons, the grinder is only $15 and the drill press rig will be $6. The linear rail will be about $10. That's $31 which is reasonable. I just got some stepper control stuff from one of my dad's friends so I only need to buy the two Harbor Freight items.

    Nice idea for those that really NEED 56k rpm. But I'm looking at the links you gave and eBay listings, and quickly coming to the realization that the $30 target price is NOT achievable. The grinder is actually $25 (+$8 shipping). The LOWEST price on eBay for that slide is $10, yes, but shipping is another $7. And so when I think about all the costs and efforts here, it seems a lot smarter to just buy a used bench drill press off Craiglist for $50 - $100. Of course it will only do 3000 rpm...

    2 replies

    I've got one of those drill press that do a max of 3100 RPM. I haven't broken any bits yet but the quality of the holes is not the the best. The carbide bits others have spoken of are designed specifically for PCB drilling and are supposed to be use at 35,000 RPM minimum. The pneumatic drill/grinder is a cheap solution for a high speed drill.

    However, I agree with your findings of the prices. This instructables must have been written 20 years ago when thing where cheaper.

    Yeah, prices have gone up. This was posted almost two years ago. Keep an eye out for specials though.

     Looks pretty awesome to me. I just bought a $45 dremel drill press, and ended up breaking 2 #71 drill bits. Pissed. The drill press is going back, and I will buy one of these linear slides. Nice instructable!

    I am planning on building it, and I went on you tube to see if you had a video on how to make but you didn't. I was wondering if it was ok with you if I made a video on how to build it. I aske because I didn't know if you were planning on posting a video or not. If it is O.K. with you I would like to.

    Also you could add a potentiometer to adjust the speed, and have an LCD or digit display to show the RPM, with the help of a small circuit or a microcontroller.

    2 replies

    unless it's a humongous pot you won't be able to do that, you'll need PWM to drive the speed of the motor.

    You can adjust the speed with the on/off twist switch, however I run it at full speed all the time. As it is air powered, I guess you could paint half the output shaft black or something and then use a sensor to read in the RPM. It would be neat, but not really needed IMO.