Mastering the Use of Stencil Frames – Why This Tool is So Important for Soldering Professionals

Ever wonder why the rate at which electronic devices are manufactured has increased rapidly in the past two decades? The answer is surface-mount technology (SMT). This method involves the direct mounting of electrical components onto printed circuit boards’ surfaces (PCBs).

Electrical components assembled using this technique are called surface-mount devices (SMDs). The global market for SMDs is expected to be valued at over $5.42 billion by 2022. But before any SMD is produced, solder paste has to be printed onto the PCB’s component pads.

How do soldering professionals ensure that the solder paste is applied with precisions? They use SMT stencils! Stencils made of stainless steel foil ensure precise transfers of solder paste onto PCBs.

These stencils are laser-cut to match the areas where the SMDs need to be placed on the PCB. They’ve relieved soldering professionals of the difficulties involved in the manual application of solder paste. After getting a stencil frame online, soldering professionals can use it to potentially create thousands of SMDs in just a day.

Framed and Unframed SMT Stencils

Framed SMT Stencils come with permanent frames. Their mesh borders keep stencil foils stretched at all times. Thus, soldering professionals don’t have to worry about misplacing solder paste. The use of high-quality framed SMT stencils is very popular because –

  • They can be integrated with automated SMT printers. If you’re working on high-volume orders, you’ll need to use SMT printers to automate surface-mounting processes. Framed SMT stencils come pre-stretched, so the risks of alignment errors are minimal.
  • Framed stencils can be used to create double bonds between PCBs. When manufacturing products that go through intense situations (e.g., aerospace equipment), double bonds are essential. They can resist intense use with ease.
  • Accuracy in high-volume printing applications is vital. High-quality framed SMT stencils have a smooth and strong aperture design that facilitates the creation of accurate prints.
  • SMDs manufactured using framed SMT stencils offer high-levels of integrity and can withstand multiple uses.

Due to these advantages, industry professionals prefer using framed SMT stencils over unframed ones, especially when manufacturing large numbers of PCBs over short periods.

Unframed SMT stencils don’t have permanent frames and are hence cheaper and easier to store. But, they’re only good for low-volume stencil printing processes. You can use an unframed SMT stencil to create an SMD prototype. But for long production runs, using framed SMT stencils is mandatory.

Learning to Use Framed SMT Stencils – What Do You Need?

Framed SMT stencils offer good enough positional and dimensional accuracy so mastering them isn’t too difficult.

  • Firstly, you need to buy the best stencil frame online. Don’t compromise with the quality of framed SMT stencils. Buy high-quality stencils from reliable sellers.
  • Secondly, you must learn the stencil frame-related details mentioned in the latest IPC 610 Standard. All electronics industry professionals use the IPC-A-610 standard (Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies) to judge whether an electronic assembly is ‘acceptable’ or not in terms of quality.

Improper printing techniques cause 70% of all quality issues in surface assemblies. These defective PCBs end up getting disqualified or sent for rework. So, mastering the use of framed SMT stencils is essential for every soldering professional. Keep practicing soldering using high-quality framed SMT stencils, and make sure your work is in line with the provisions mentioned in the IPC-A-610 standard!

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