How to solder SMD components with stencil
The components I am using in my projects are very small and have a strong tendency to be even smaller I have learned a new technology of soldering SMD components - using a special stencil.
The PCB for my latest URU Card project were ordered together with the stencil from Chinese manufacturer PCBWay. The ordering process went quite smooth. I have just uploaded Gerber file to the online quote calculator and all the specifics of my PCB design was read automatically. Initially, the price looked too high but after playing with the ordering form I have found that the price is very dependent on the trace width. I have quickly rerouted the board using wider traces, uploaded the Gerber file once again and the price has dropped to a very affordable level.
The stencil was ordered together with the boards on the same page and all the sizes and shape of holes were taken from the same Gerber file automatically, just another checkbox on the ordering page.
Unfortunately, the delivery process was very long. However, it’s not a manufacturer’s fault. The delivery from China takes much more time than usual due to the current crisis.
Quality of the boards is very good. The white mask does not become yellow after heating as it happened with the board from other manufacturers. Silkscreen on the top side has small offset but it does not matter much to me. Personally I prefer without silkscreen at all.
But let’s go to the stencil. It’s made from the thin steel sheet with the holes where soldering place should be placed. The stencil is packed between two sheets of thick cardboard looking material looking like a leftover from the milling process. I am using this material as a frame for the PCB and for storage of the stencil without fear of damaging it.
The process of making a PCB with it is very simple. First, prepare the stencil to apply soldering paste exactly on the contact pads. Then apply the paste and place the components. After that just heat the board with the hot air gun or in the special oven. That’s it.
I have filmed the process and made a short tutorial:
Thank this technology in less than half an hour I have a working device and a significant part of it is the preparation of the stencil and place the components. Making a small batch of the devices with SMD components becomes an easy-peasy task, just place the components and put everything under the heat.