I am an EE professor at an University and I was asked to provide a solution (machine) for PCB prototyping. Specs are milling down to about 8 mil (0.2032 mm) trace thickness, 8 mil trace clearance, 8 mil drilling/hole size, just 2 layers, material is standard FR-4 PCB. Vias and holes can be fulfilled with conductive epoxy if needed, although metal plating is of course a better choice. Finishing is not a concern, really.
Students and professors will use this solution. A dedicated technician will account for the operation, no students will lay hands unless authorized and accompanied. Before you say board houses are a no brainer, I am in South America and pcb houses are not that cheap or common as in USA or Europe. Also, it is a chance for students to get in touch with the full process.
Chemicals are absolutely off list. I also put aside all of those desktop lpkf, t tech, etc machines. All reviews I've seen show they are impractical, lousy software, parts break easily, double side is still a pain, etc.
Our budget, although not really set, is actually interesting: I'd say we are around USD 12k top. Demand is not high, there is no need for large output, just small volumes, but I can't account for a solution at this price range that brings us problems: it has to work fine and up to specs!
Given the budget, I am also considering a different approach: a full CNC milling machine, capable of mechanical works and capable of working on steel and wood - given the right drill bits and tools. PCB prototyping needs are fulfilled (?), and the investment is not restricted to that purpose.
Advice on the approach?