Using Metal Stencils

Using the correct stencil is vital when soldering your PCB (Printed Circuit Board). It may be that your PCB broke down unexpectedly or quickly and you need to repair it or your local equipment store may not have the correct stencil that you need. When this happens, you can make your own Metal Stencils from simple home items.

When considering a metal that you can use from simple home items to make Metal Stencils, consider the use of aluminum as it has a great shape memory and can be reshaped and pounded flat. An empty soda can is a great source for aluminum for your Metal Stencils. Get an empty soda can and cut out a piece of aluminum from it. Then sand both sides of the aluminum sheet until it attains a mirror-like appearance. The next step is to prepare the stencil pattern in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) or any other design software. Next, save the file in the highest resolution available and then print it on transparent film, vinyl or paper.

The next part of the process of making Metal Stencils is the toner transfer and etching. You need to use tape to fix the film over the aluminum. If you have a cook top, turn it up to average heat and in the meantime, get your iron and turn it up to maximum temperature. The next step in the process is to put the aluminum and stencil over the cook top and press it downward with your iron for an average of 60 seconds. After the 60 seconds have elapsed, throw it quickly in chilly water and remove the film. The transfer should be great and can be etched already.

The metal stencil you have made can withstand the heat generated by your rework station without fail. The stencil does present some challenges but these can be fixed by using enough soldering paste. Using solder paste on your Metal Stencils can work wonders for your PCB following the re-flow, otherwise bridges can begin to form in between pins. Creating Metal Stencils is well worth the effort considering that it can give you similar results like the one seen from laser cut stencils without you having to shell out tons of money.