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Polyimide (Kapton) PCB Solder Paste Stencil

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Picture of Polyimide (Kapton) PCB Solder Paste Stencil
Creating a solder paste stencil for a toaster reflow oven or hot plate is simple when you have access to a laser cutter.  I used the Laser Cutter at my local TechShop to create this and other PCB stencils.

This Instructable assumes you have created a PCB and are able to generate the Gerber Files for it.  Specific directions will be given for EAGLE, but other PCB software can be used.  The board used in this example is an Arduino RTC Shield based on the DS3231.  Follow the link for the EAGLE design files if you want to follow along.

Hardware you'll need:
- Polyimide (Kapton) Film (such as McMaster's #2271K2).  
- Material for a Stencil (Hardboard, Wood, or Acrylic)

Equipment you'll need:
- Laser Cutter
- Camera to show off your cool looking stencil

Software you'll need:
- PCB Software (e.g. EAGLE)
- ViewMate GERBER Viewer
- CutePDF
- Vector Drawing Program (InkScape or Adobe)
 
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Step 1: Create Stencil Specific GERBER File

Picture of Create Stencil Specific GERBER File
If you're doing a stencil for both sides, you're going to have to create two stencils.  These instructions show how to generate a GERBER file for both the top and bottom.  If you only need one side, you can stop at #5.

If you are using EAGLE, I have created a CAM job file and included manual instructions.  If you are using another PCB software, generate a GERBER file with the dimension layer and cream layer.

Easy method:
Download this Cam Job (for EAGLE):  Stencil_Cam_Job.cam

In EAGLE, Open the CAM
1.  Open the CAM Processor.
File -> Cam Processor

2.  Open the job
File -> Open -> Job
[Note if you don't see "Job" then click on the "CAM Processor" Window and go back to File -> Open -> Job.]
Select the file/job "stencil_cam_job.cam".

3.  Click Process Job

The files will be the same directory as your .brd file.


Manual Eagle Instructions:
In EAGLE, Open the CAM
1.  Open the CAM Processor.
File -> Cam Processor

2.  Name the Section "Top"

3.  Select only 20-Dimension and 31-tCream

4.  Select GERBER_RS274X as the Device

5.  Name the file something descriptive like "top_cream"

If you only need to do the Top (or only the Bottom) layer, skip to #12.
6.  Click Add

7.  Go to the Newly created Tab

8.  Change the name of Section to "Bottom"

9.  Select only 20-Dimension and 32-bCream
 
10.  Make sure Device is "GERBER_RS274X"

11.  Name the file something description like "bottom_cream"

12.  Click Process Job

EAGLE will now generate two new GERBER Files
snowluck23456 months ago
What thickness polyimide did you use?
cmiyc (author)  snowluck23456 months ago
It's McMaster's #2271K2: 0.002"
billbillbill8 months ago
Thank you very much!
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