White Paper: Electronics & Computers

Say Goodbye to Stencils

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Using stencils is how assembly manufacturers traditionally transfer solder paste onto the surface of printed circuit boards. Simply put, PCB assemblers use customer-provided stencil files to laser-cut metal stencils. This can be done in-house or outsourced. Once a stencil is received, it is placed on top of the board and a thin layer of solder is laid over the top using a squeegee. Once the stencil is removed from the board, solder remains only where the stencil had openings.

While this method has been acceptable for many years, recent trends in the electronics industry have required some assembly manufacturers to seek a faster, more reliable solution.

The first jet printer to accommodate solder paste was introduced in 2006. As the technology has improved in speed and reliability, the advantages of an automated system for applying solder over the traditional manual method have become clear. Jet paste printing, or stencil-free printing, uses single dots of solder to place the exact right amount of solder in the exact right location for each component on a board. Also known as “jetting,” the solder is dispersed from a nozzle while it moves above the PCB. Jet printers can achieve dot rate speeds of up to 1 million dots per hour.

While jet paste printers may not be feasible for the home hobbyist, yet, make sure your assembly partner has top-notch technology to ensure excellent results on your next build.

Check out this deep dive into Advanced Assembly’s jet paste printers.

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