FR4 KICKSTARTER UPDATE #9: Getting close to shipping!

Alright, we have got a lot of good information for you guys for this update!

This week we got our final prototype of the FR4 boards and we are really happy with it.  We will be submitting the production order next Monday.  With a 3 week turn, we will be getting them back in mid-November.  

We have already ordered the Swap Drives and will get the pick and place fired up for those as soon as we get them back from production.  The three stepper drivers now has a low power mode we are really proud of. For stepper motors to maintain position, they must remain powered and fully powered motors get very warm when not in motion. This feature drops motor power to a fraction of normal operating power, keeping motors cool when not in use.

 We have also begun the process of bagging and labeling the thousands of fasteners that will be shipping out with your machines.  If any of you have tackled a project like this, you know that this is no small task!  

We also wanted to let you know that we have started a Google Group forum for the FR4 Machine Kit.  We have found this to be a great place for people to share what they're working on(or what you plan to work on) and to leverage the knowledge across our group of users.  As a small company, we aren't always able to get to questions in the off hours or on weekends and so it's also a great place to get troubleshooting help.

We wanted to update you guys also on all of the different elements that you may want shipped with your machines.  We hope to send out the survey to get your addresses in the next couple of weeks and these are a few of the options you have before your machine ships:

  • The FR4 Will come with a 1/16" flat end mill (P/N T062F) to everyone who ordered a machine with the spindle assembly. We will also have 3 more options for FR4 end mills available on the web page, a 1/16" Ball end mill and a 1/32" flat and ball end mill.  These should be up sometime next week on the FR4 store.
  • We are working hard on the custom plexi glass cover for the machine lid. We expect to have a prototype of this within the next two weeks so user can order before machines ship.
  • The FR4 laser attachment has been making progress but is not ready for orders. We expect to have a firm ship date before sending out surveys but we are aiming for December. People who want to wait for this attachment and have the unit ship with a machine will be able to let us know by the time we send out the survey.  This option should mostly effect people outside the US where shipping is prohibitively expensive.
  • The USB microscope is product of the Adafruit web store and can be purchased from them at any time. We will sell a 3D printed attachment for mounting the microscope to the FR4 on the web page. We will also have the design of the microscope mount available for download so users can print their own if they like.
  • If you don't own a nice soldering iron, we highly recommend you purchase one. A standard $20 iron without heat control WILL NOT WORK! We only sold 6 soldering irons during the Kickstarter, which means either you all have a nice iron or you think your $20 one will work, you will be disappointed. They are available for purchase on Amazon. Note that this model is 110V so if your voltage is different, you may want to source one locally.
  • Many of you have purchased Arduinos, but if you did not, please know that one is needed to use the machine.  There are soldering pads for the BeagleBone Black and the Raspberry Pi, but we have not developed those platforms further.

As always, thanks for backing us!  The next update should be after we have sent out the first round of surveys.

FR4 KICKSTARTER UPDATE #8: Parts Arriving and Final Prototypes

We've pushed what should be the final prototype of the circuit board to OSH Park and we hope to get the boards back next week to do one last check before placing our order.

A lot of the components have begun coming in the door.  We are excited to start assembling kits!

In the coming weeks we will finish up the assembly manual, begin bagging small components like fasteners, prototype the plexiglass window, and continue working on the laser head.  We do not know for sure whether the laser head will be ready to ship with kits in November, but we would like to at least have the design finalized before machines ship so backers would have the option to hold their shipment for the laser head with a firm date.

FR4 Kickstarter Update #7: Assembly Manual Progress

We got all of the components in for the latest prototype and we have been working really hard the last couple of weeks to get them assembled, document the assembly process, and do the final verification we need before making the bulk component orders.

 All machines now include a lid.  We are working on a plexiglass add-on and hope to have it available to order before the first machines ship, or you can make your own.

 The card edge connectors are now vertical which allows for better cooling.  We also added 3 additional slots for additional card edge connectors in case you want to develop something else with your machine shield.  We updated the layout of the power switch and power plug and moved all of the connectors, adaptors, switches, etc to the back.

 We got our pick and place machine programmed and ready to produce Swap Drives.

 Next, we will be sending a few kits out to some helpers to test our packaging and assembly manual.  We will get feedback before making a final revision to the boards and ordering the bulk of the components.  For those of you who have asked about getting a purple machine, we have decided that we will not be offering a second color option for the Kickstarter machines.  On top of pricing issues, this would add a level of complexity to the process and we think our time would be better spent for you developing other areas of the machine shield.

FR4 Kickstarter Update #6: Rev C Components are in!

Just a quick update to let you guys know that we got the Rev C boards in and we are getting ready for another round of assembly and testing!  We've got some more components rolling in and will be working on writing the assembly manual in the next couple of weeks before sending out some test kits to see how it goes.  You'll notice we did a set of purple panels for our friends at OSH Park.  Stay tuned!

FR4 Kickstarter Update #5: Revision C

We haven't had a chance to update since we closed out our Kickstarter campaign and successfully met our goal.  Thanks to all of our backers, we are so excited to have to opportunity to continue this project  and get this machine out into the world!

We have added a store on our website where you can find FR4 preorders, as well as relevant accessories for the FR4.  As we continue to develop accessories, this is where you will be able to find them available for purchase.  For small items like our Pocket NC Vise or the Arduino, if you leave us your backer number at checkout we will refund you the shipping cost and ship it with your machine.

The last couple of weeks, we have been working really hard to push a revision of the machine.  This is the revision we will use to write and test the assembly manual.  We will have 6 full circuit boards made so that we will have extras to test the manual and make revisions so that by the time you backers get it, it will be a better process.

In order to make sure that the fit of everything was correct before ordering panels,  we laser cut the design into a piece of wood the same thickness of the boards and performed a fit check.  We found a couple of minor changes, and are good to go to order from OSH Park soon!

Here's some of the improvements you can look forward to from this revision of the FR4:

- moved from 0.063in thick paneling to 0.093in for increased rigidity

-added cooling pads to stepper motors to improve performance

-added a lift door and an option for an enclosure(we will have plexiglass available on the store soon)

-added 3 spots for additional card edge connectors

- added LED work piece lighting

- new work envelope (5in x 2.75in x 2in)

FR4 Kickstarter Update #4

We've had several requests to make a detailed part in machinable wax, so here it is!  We thought it would be a good opportunity to show the machine's ability to do fine detail.  We were really impressed with the results, hope you guys are too!  Design credit for the bitcoin goes to Jaxon on Grabcad

We are currently working on designing the next revision of the FR4 prototype.  We are changing the thickness of the circuit board from 0.062"  to 0.093", adding some LED lights for viewing your piece, moving the electronics to the back of the machine from the side, and adding pre-assembly test pieces for practicing soldering.  We are really excited for the improvements for this next round.  We plan to create the assembly manual and then have a few folks help review it before pulling the trigger on the Kickstarter rewards.  

A few of you have asked about ordering one of our custom vises that you see in our videos.  The table of the FR4 will have a hole pattern to match the vise.  They are available at our Pocket NC store.  At checkout, you will have the option to enter your Kickstarter backer number so that we will know you want it shipped with your FR4 and we will refund your shipping fee.

FR4 Machine Shield Kickstarter Update #3

Hi everyone!  We are really excited that we met our goal, so thanks to all of our current backers.

We originally designed and built the machine for cutting wax and plastics, but just for fun we recently decided to see what would happen if we attempted to cut some aluminum and harder plastic on it, and we were blown away!  The machine held it's own, and the feed rates, depths of cut, and final tolerances are on par with hobby mills that sell for thousands of dollars.  See the video below showing the cutting as well as measuring the finished tolerances.

We also wanted to post an update for our Canadian backers out there.  We agree that the shipping cost for you isn't reasonable, and we're sorry we didn't catch that before the campaign.  Unfortunately, we can't change it through Kickstarter and so what we will do is refund part of your shipping expense($40) after the campaign is complete.  Hope this helps increase your tinker funds a little!

We spent a good portion of the past week moving into a new shop which has slowed our FR4 testing a bit, but we are going to work hard to get some content out demonstrating the machines ability to work a detail piece in wax before the close of the campaign, so stay tuned!

FR4 Machine Shield Kickstarter Update #2

Did you know that we have our very own pick and place machine here at Pocket NC?  A few months back, we purchased it from SparkFun Electronics to help with our production.  What this means for you Kickstarter backers, is that we have not only the ability to produce our Swap Drives in house which lowers the risk of late deliveries by suppliers, but it also makes it much easier for us to iterate on our prototypes to get you the best kit possible.


We have also been brainstorming all of the ways that we can make the FR4 kit easier and more enjoyable to assemble.  For example,  we have switched from surface mount components to through hole components for the card edge connectors and hall sensors which will make them much easier to solder.  See the photo below with the new components on the left and the old components on the right.  As soon as we see that the project is viable,  we will be ordering another round of components which incorporates these design changes.  We plan to use some of these prototypes to write the assembly manual, and then send the rest off to some select people to follow the manual and give us feedback before making final changes for the Kickstarter kits.


FR4 Hall Sensors old(right, surface mount) new(left, through hole mount)

FR4 Hall Sensors old(right, surface mount) new(left, through hole mount)

FR4 Card Edge Connectors old(right, surface mount) and new(left, through hole mount)

FR4 Card Edge Connectors old(right, surface mount) and new(left, through hole mount)

International Preorders are here!

We are excited to announce that we have opened up preorders for our machine to be shipped outside of the United States.  Now that we have completed the upgrade of our spindle design we will be putting it through safety testing in preparation for beginning international shipping in November.  You can get in line by preordering a machine here if you live in one of the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,  Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Note that there may be some slight changes to the machine as we go through the certification process.  We'll be sure and keep you updated if there are any changes.  Also, note that the cost of the machine and shipping does not include duties or VAT so plan accordingly.



April 2016 Update: Announcing New Spindle Design and Backorder Status

We are very excited to release something we've been working hard on for quite a while now, our new spindle design!  We will now be offering an ER11 compatible spindle with individual tool holders. Features of the new design include:

  • 1.5 inches more tool clearance
  • 14 more tooling shank options
  • collets are over $60 cheaper
  • better tool clamping force
  • accepts tool shank up to 5/16" 
  • 3mm allen tool change
  • ideal for multi tool parts
  • increased rigidity
  • eliminates the need for shaft collars to set tool length


We are also transitioning from taking preorders for our machines to a 12 week backorder.  We hope to make good progress in the coming months to decrease this lead time even further.  You can now order a Pocket NC with the new spindle design on our store.  

Matt made the trip to SparkFun in Colorado to pick up our new-to-us pick and place machine.  He had a great time there, learned a lot, and was received well by a company that we really admire.  The machine is now at our shop and cranking out boards. Pictures below of the machine, Matt, Robert, and Nathan.  Robert gave up a good portion of his weekend to help get us trained on the machine and get it loaded up.  Thanks SparkFun!


Next up for Pocket NC will be proceeding with our new spindle design to safety certifications so we can finally get some machines to those of you who have been waiting for so long outside of the United States.  International preorders will be coming soon!  After being away for a couple of years, we will also be attending the Bay Area Maker Faire in May.  If you're around, stop by to see our machines and you may even catch a glimpse of what's coming next at Pocket NC!

March 2016 Update 2: Kickstarter Shipments Complete!

We are excited to announce that we have completed the production of all of our Kickstarter machines and the last few will ship out today!  A big thanks to all of our backers who put your faith in us and for your continued feedback on our product.  We are very excited to be moving forward and will now begin the production of the preorder machines.  We will soon move out of the preorder stage and into a backorder status.

Your support through our Kickstarter campaign enabled us to do so much to grow our company.  We have hired employees, moved into an industrial shop, and purchased a pick and place machine to aid our production.  We are looking forward to continuing to improve our current product as well as develop some new product lines.

March 2016 Update - Pick and Place

We have been working hard over the past couple of months to assemble and ship the remaining machines from our Kickstarter campaign.  We have already shipped over half of the Batch 3 orders and are on track to ship the remainder by the end of the month without a problem.  After that, we will begin shipping the preorder machines.

Our exciting news this update is that we have purchased a pick and place machine for building our own electronic boards from SparkFun Electronics.  Their operations outgrew the capacity of the machine and so it is a great fit for us to get started.  We will use it to place components on our custom capes, but it will also be an essential piece of equipment for the next product line we will be releasing.  Stay tuned over the next few months for more information!

January 2016 Update

Things are moving along nicely here at Pocket NC!  We have almost finished shipping the January orders from Batch 2 of the Kickstarter campaign and we are ready to forge ahead assembling Batch 3.  

For those of you who missed out on a machine during the Kickstarter campaign, you will be excited to know that we have officially opened up preorders for our machines to be delivered next summer!  We also launched a referral program for our preorders to reward you for telling your friends about our machine.  

This past month we have been working on creating a three part series to show our users the process to machine a wooden impeller from start to finish.  We chose wood because we will be shipping it with each machine so that you can walk through the process for your first part, and wood will be a forgiving material in case a mistake is made.  The first video showed how to arrange the geometry in Fusion 360.  The second video showed how to generate the toolpaths in Fusion 360.  The third video below shows how to machine the part on your Pocket NC!

New Training Series - Impeller Part 2

Per the request of some of our first users, we are creating a training series to teach Pocket NC users how to mill a wooden impeller from start to finish.  Last week we showed you how to create the geometry you would need in Fusion 360.

This weeks video gets to the really good stuff, how to generate your tool paths in Fusion 360 for the Pocket NC.  Once you've completed this tutorial, you will have the Gcode file read to get cutting!

If you have general questions related to Fusion 360 after watching these videos, be sure to check out their Learning Page as you may be able to find some answers there.  

New Training Series - Impeller Part 1

After sending out our first batch of machines,  we realized the most helpful tool to get our new users up and running with our machine would be a start to finish tutorial to mill a first part including how to generate the toolpaths in Fusion 360.  

We chose a wooden impeller as the first part.  While the impeller is the typical part used to show off continuous 5 axis machining, like almost all parts it is possible to do with indexed toolpaths instead.  We will do it using multiple orientations of the A and B axes.  Even though a metal impeller would be a lot cooler for a first part, we want to stress to our users to start out with a softer material while you are still getting to know your Pocket NC.

From now on, we will be shipping our machines with the material to cut the impeller.  For those of you in the first batch who already have your machines, we will send out the material to you soon.  

We will break the process up into 3 parts.  The first part(shown below)  details how to get the geometry all set up in Fusion 360.  You will need to download the file for the table and vise geometry  as well as the file for the impeller geometry.  Part 2 will show how to create your toolpaths in Fusion 360 and Part 3 will show how to cut the part on the machine.  Stay tuned!

Oh ship! December 2015 Update

Great news!  Yesterday we shipped the 19 machines in our first batch ON TIME!  We are really excited to finally get machines out to our users.  A special thanks to those who were brave enough to be in our first group and trust us with your hard-earned money to get you a quality machine.  We can't wait to see all the awesome things that the users within our community will make.  All the machines in the first batch should be in your hands by this time next week.  If you're in that first batch and you didn't see the email with your tracking info in it, let us know and we can make sure you get it.

With the first batch under our belt, we are onward and upward to bigger and better things.  We are excited to continue assembling to get the second and third batches out on time as well using the knowledge we have gained so far to improve our processes.  We are hiring machinists and assemblers to get to work ramping up our production to begin meeting the demand. 

Part of meeting the demand means that we will finally be opening up preorders for machines to be shipped after our Kickstarter campaign orders are fulfilled.  We plan to open those up Friday, December 11 at 10am Mountain Time.  This run will have 140 machines available with delivery goals between May and August of 2016.  The machines will cost 4000USD.  The increase in price will help us greatly to be able to ramp up our production rates. 

Shipping for this preorder batch will still be only within the United States.  We are sorry that we aren't able to open it up internationally yet, but we are still working towards getting our safety certifications.  We know its been a very long wait for those of you outside of the States waiting on our machine and we really appreciate your patience!

November 2015 Update

We've had another big month at Pocket NC.  The biggest news is that we are all moved in to our new shop and getting back to business.  We are getting really close to being ready to ship the first batch of machines.  This means that we've been working hard on aligning the machines to make sure they meet the specifications.  The video below gives a little insight to the process.

We've even got a few machines boxed up and ready to go!  If you're in the first batch of deliveries, be sure to check your email for the Kickstarter survey to let us know where you would like your machine shipped!

We've been lucky to have some extra help this week from our good friend Gary.  He has been influential on this project in many ways and it's great to have him visiting from Minnesota!

We also have another addition to the team, Ruby Louise.  She is spending her days at the shop and office with us. While undoubtedly the cutest member of our team, she still has a ways to go on her assembly skills!

October 2015 Update

We are continuing to make good progress towards our first deliveries in December.  This past month we have been putting our heads down to continue that work.  We are still on track to get the machines out on time.

One slight set back we had was that as we were checking the squareness of the individual parts, between two bearing surfaces we measured a flatness of 0.003".  Between those surface it should measure close to zero in order to achieve the final assembled machine squareness.  One can picture that if a part is off by 0.003" and is assembled with a second part, that assembly is already off by 0.003" in addition to what the second part was off by.  For that reason, it's important for us to closely watch all the tolerances on the individual parts. Getting this tolerance back where we wanted it required some disassembly of the machines and remachining(see picture below).  We are now set moving forward to include this process in the original machining steps.

We have recovered from that setback, and the following pictures show the current state of assembly for the first batch of machines.

Over the past five years Pocket NC has followed us from a one bedroom apartment to a 10' x 12' shed to Matt's parents' basement to our garage and now we are finally making the move to a commercial shop space!  We are very excited for this as it will allow us to begin hiring more employees and really ramp up our production.  We will be moving throughout the next month as well as getting ready to launch preorders.  If you want to be notified when that happens, leave us your email address in the box on our homepage.  Also, if you are in the first batch of machines going out, be sure and keep an eye on your email for a Kickstarter survey to pick up your shipping address!