FlatCAM practical tutorial: introduction, installation, and import – Part 1
First, I’d like to add the description of FlatCAM on the main site:
FlatCAM is a program for preparing CNC jobs for making PCBs on a CNC router. Among other things, it can take a Gerber file generated by your favorite PCB CAD program and create G-Code for Isolation routing. (cit.)
I remember the tutorial to create a cheap and straightforward CNC, from mechanical part (3D printed) to electronic (Arduino CNC shield).
Here some work
My board to control my Inverter ABB Aurora.
So now you have an idea of what this software is, I have been using FlatCAM 8 for years, but I didn’t know that the project had been heavily resumed and updated.
So we will explain not base version 8 but the new 8 beta that Marius Stanciu now develops.
Installation of new FlatCAM 8.991 version
Now to install the latest beta version, you must go to this link
Then for windows, there is an installer on the download page.
For the other platform, you must use the installation via source code, you can follow the specified guide, the Linux target distro is Ubuntu, and a setup file for the dependencies is provided
#!/bin/sh -e # "-e" exists on first error. sudo apt-get install libpng-dev \ libfreetype6 \ libfreetype6-dev \ python3-dev \ python3-simplejson \ python3-pyqt4 \ python3-numpy \ python3-scipy \ python3-matplotlib \ libgeos-dev \ python-shapely \ python-pip \ libspatialindex-dev \ python3-tk \ python3-shapely \ python3-rtree \ python3-svg.path
The Python dependencies required are this.
- Python 2.7 32-bit
- PyQt 4
- Matplotlib 1.3.1
- Numpy 1.8
- Shapely 1.3
- GEOS (Binary package required by Shapely)
- SpatialIndex (Binary package required by RTree)
For MAC OS, after installing Python, the procedure with brew is recommended
brew install pyqt brew install geos brew install spatialindex pip install numpy pip install matplotlib pip install rtree pip install scipy pip install shapely pip install simplejson
Then start FlatCAM with python executable
New platform design
Here is the old design of FlatCAM 8.5
now FlatCAM 8.991 beta
You can see that the files in the project area are hierarchically organized, the toolbar is removed, and now you can find It inside the menu.
Essential things are the possibility of doing a dynamic border cutting (follow a profile), formalizing the standard Project file, and others.
There are new Tools like the insert of QR Code, a Tools Database, and others; now, we will create a simple PCB from a Gerber file.
Start a simple project
First, you need a Gerber; I use the simple project created some months ago on this tutorial, “Milling PCB tutorial”. I add only some upgrades to the PCB, but nothing special.
You can find the gerber on my GitHub here.
Now you must import the layer you need, for our work naturally is the bottom.
So you are going to
File --> Open --> Open Gerber... and select
- PCB_PCF8574_03_contour.gm1 (contour of your PCB)
- PCB_PCF8574_03_copperBottom.gbl (copper traces)
- PCB_PCF8574_03_silkBottom.gbo (some description that we are going to mill on PCB)
then you must import the drilling information; this type of information is stored in an Excellon file
File --> Open --> Open Excellon...
- PCB_PCF8574_03_drill.txt (drilling information)
The result is in this screen
Put it in the right direction
Now, this is the file that descript an essential part of our PCB, but these parts are the upper view’s draw, so we must reverse the visualization.
You must go on
Tool --> 2-Sided PCB.
Then, we can use an Axis Ref the box, and we can select a
PCB_PCF8574_03_contour.gm1 as Box Reference.
X or Y Mirror Axis isn’t important, but I’d like to mirror on Y in this case.
Now we will add a simple image like a Gerber element; for this purpose, I take a Ground symbol to add near the G.
It’s better if It’s a Black/White image (pay attention; It must be a well-defined image with no artifact), you can find the picture I used in the same GitHub article.
So go to
File --> Import --> Image as Object and then in the
Image to PCB the the the panel, select the image and open It; the symbol is imported randomly, so you must move It.
Select the Gerber by clicking on It , then go to Edit Move now you have an empty selection, and when you click on a specified space, the image is copied there.
The result now is
- FlatCAM practical tutorial: introduction, installation and import
- FlatCAM practical tutorial: copper traces geometry
- FlatCAM practical tutorial: clean non copper area
- FlatCAM practical tutorial: silkscreen geometry
- FlatCAM practical tutorial: contour
- FlatCAM practical tutorial: gcode and PCB milling
You can find Gerber, fritzing, images, and FlatCAM project files here.