The FR-1 Challenge[1]

Originally posted in the CircuitMaker blog.

Brought to you by Bantam Tools and Altium

We’re very excited to announce another awesome design competition, open the the whole CircuitMaker, Upverter and Altium design community.


Competition Details:

Imagine all the cool projects you could do with a Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Mill. This amazingly high quality prototyping CNC mill is ridiculously accurate – with a resolution that allows accurate milling down to 6 mil trace and space. What’s more, you’ll notice if you have been following my own Sausage Factory project that this mill is not just great for PCB prototyping, but also brass, aluminum, acrylic, wood, craft foam and a host of other materials that can nicely top off your designs.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be working on a few more blogs and articles showing how to do things like milling an aluminum front panel, or prototyping accurate microwave / RF PCB components. Just to whet your appetite!

The best news is that Bantam Tools have partnered with us to GIVE AWAY one of these to one of our users! And there’s more chances to get awesome runner-up prizes as well. Read on for details.

Grand Prize

Grand Prize: A brand-new Bantam Tools Desktop PCB milling machine valued at $3199 USD. We will ship it worldwide and cover all shipping, taxes and all other costs associated with you having this machine on your desk totally free of any charge for you.

First Runner-Up

One person will be selected for this prize, 50% off a Bantam Tools Desktop PCB mill in the Bantam Tools Online Store. (Valued at up to $1600).

Second Runner-Up

Five (5) people will be selected as second runners-up to the Grand Prize. Each of the five will receive $500 worth of Concierge component credits

Third Runner-Up

Ten (10) people will be selected as third runners-up to the Grand Prize. Each of the ten will be given coupons for PCB manufacturing services from one of our manufacturing partners: PCB:NG, OSH Park, OSH Stencils, CircuitHub, Seeed Fusion, PCBWay. The winner will choose which of these to issue credits for.

Project submission requirements

Only open source projects created in  Altium CircuitMaker,  CircuitStudio,  Upverter and Designer/Nexus can participate. There is no requirement for the design to be a brand-new project, it can be one you started earlier but needed to finish. Designs that are imported from other PCB design software are not allowed. Designs that are recreations of existing open source projects are not allowed either. Be creative, make something new and share it with others!

To “submit” your design, you must:

  • Create a project page for it with complete documentation about the project at:
  • If your project was created and shared on Upverter or done using CircuitStudio or Altium Designer, you must create the project write-up (documentation explaining what it does, why you created it etc.) and include links to the original source files. Using Upverter you can even embed the design in an iframe if you wish. The write-up can be on your own blog site or Instructables, Hackaday, Hackster or Github in this case.
  • Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with the hashtag #FR1Challenge

That’s it! Make something, write about it, catch us on social. We’ll automatically enter you with the email address on file with your login.

Judging Criteria

Each design will be judged based on 4 simple criteria, sames as last time. Each criteria has certain weight allocated as explained below.

Idea 20%

Collaboration 5%

Sharing 50%

Delivery 25%


The community has its own voice. 20% of the pie.

Members of the community can cast votes and express their opinion about the design idea behind the project. As a community member you can follow particular design, comment on it, fork it, share it on facebook or Instagramtweet about it so people can come and visit your project page and we can see number of views. Remember to use the hashtag #FR1Challenge! We will look at all those metrics for each project and will compare them to other designs. The more people engage with your project, the more we think this is a good idea!


Let’s make together! 5% of the pie.

Open Source Hardware design is not only about being locked in a garage and making things on your own. It’s also about collaborating with others and solving problems and making stuff together! Create a team and work on the design together. To gain points in this category you will have to demonstrate that your team was using collaboration features in CircuitMaker, Upverter etc., with comments showing how you approached design issues and how you collaborated to solve them. Also you can use the project page to engage with others or the CircuitMaker forums if you need help with something. For example, if your project involves a microcontroller, invite a friend to work on software. Do you need enclosure? Invite a friend to work with the step output for designing the enclosure. Maybe you have a friend that can do a 3D model for some component that you use in your project? He/she’s your team member as well. Just keep in mind that there’s a single machine for the prize that will go to the project owner or team. Maybe you should win it for your school 🙂


Show how you made this project and explain how it works. 50% of the pie.

The project write-up. It’s that simple. As you go with your design, document your progress with photos, videos, and explanation of problems you are going through and the solutions you came up with. Share the knowledge and experience with others. Share how you make things and how things work so others can learn from you and innovate on their own! Go into details and become an educator. Explain everything, leave nothing behind! A good write-up and demo videos embedded will go a long way here. As I mentioned above, we love write-ups to be done in CircuitMaker project pages, but if you’re using Upverter, CircuitStudio, or Altium Designer, feel free to use Hackaday, Hackster, Instructables, Github or your own web page or blog for the write-up. Just make 100% certain that we have the links so we can read all about it and see the goodness!


The PCB Design project quality. 25% of the pie.

This is the PCB project in CircuitMaker, Upverter, CircuitStudio or Altium Designer. Here are guidelines on how we would like to see things done:

  1. As much as possible, components are linked to Octopart (this is mostly automatic in Upverter and CircuitMaker).
  2. Components are real and easy to get via standard online suppliers. Since we may build the top 3 designs, we need to be able to source those components online. Hence they need to be linked to Octopart correctly so we can use the Octopart BOM tool.
  3. All components have 3D bodies so we can look at it in 3D view. We may want to 3D print them or do enclosure designs.
  4. Schematics are easy to read. Group components based on functionality. Make it dead easy to understand what is going on there. Leave notes, important calculations etc.
  5. Project compiles / passes design rule checks, with Design Rules enabled.
  6. Project is released and public (you are free to use any open source hardware license).
  7. PCB document includes an outline layer with proper board outline. Everything else has to go onto their own dedicated layers – yes 3D bodies as well.
  8. PCB document includes the keep-out layer.
  9. All designators and artwork on the silkscreen (Top Overlay) are easy to read, meaningful and not overlapping with pads.

Basically, follow good design practices. If you’re not sure, and you are working on something then jump on the forums and ask for help – there are plenty of knowledgeable users there and we will also jump in and help as much as we are able.

Altium staff and their family members are not allowed to participate in this competition.


[1]Why “FR1 Challenge”? Because the Bantam Tools mill ships with a bunch of FR-1 pre-clad PCB sheets! What is FR-1? FR-1 stands for “Flame Retardant 1” and is the original mass-produced PCB material made with copper foil,  paper sheets and phenolic resin. It is practically interchangeable with FR-4 which is now the most common PCB material, but has no glass fibers and therefore much safer for milling when making prototypes.

Bantam Tools, the BantamTools Desktop PCB Mill and their associated logos are all trademarks or registered trademarks of OMC2 LLC.

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