Use a Cricut cutting machine and Sure-Cuts-A-Lot software to create usable solder paste stencils for electronic prototyping purposes.
The quality and precision of the resulting stencils is good enough to prototype 0805 and TQFP (0.8mm pitch) size electronic components.
If you need PCB layout software, I recommend the free and Open Source KiCAD EDA Suite.
This Instructable is based on a tutorial I originally posted at Solder Paste Stencils.
I would not recommend buying a Cricut just to create Solder Paste Stencils. If, however, you have a friend or relative who owns one, or find a Cricut on sale or at a Garage Sale, then buying Sure-Cuts-A-Lot software will turn a Cricut into a very useful device. Functionality will then be similar to something like a low-end vinyl/craft cutter such as the Craft Robo.
Step 1: Materials and Preparation
- Cricut machine
- Sure-Cuts-A-Lot software
- Gerber Viewer software
- Transparency Film for overhead projectors which you can buy at any office supply store
- A Windows XP/Vista computer
Your Cricut must have a specific firmware version. You can update/downgrade your firmware by downloading Cricut Desgn Studio and following the directions under Help for updating firmware. Note your firmware may already be up-to-date. See the Sure-Cuts-A-Lot FAQ for more info.