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Stencil machines cut or print fonts and symbols on materials and substrates. They are used to create stencils for marking applications, or to print stencils for SMT applications. Marking equipment is used to mark or engrave products and packages with bar codes, lot codes, date stamps, graphics, labels, and other information. Surface mount technology (SMT), a method for building electronic circuits, directly connects components called surface mount devices (SMD) to the surface of a printed circuit board (PCB). Typically, SMT stencils are made of metal or plastic.  Specific types include laser-cut SMT solder paste stencils, BGA stencils, and SMT BGA rework stencils. An acronym for ball-grid array, BGA is a common integrated circuit (IC) package type for stencil machines.

Types of Stencil Machines

There are many different types of stencil machines. Choices include manual stencil cutters and electric stencil cutters, digital stencil machine and die cut stencil machines, stencil printers, stencil etching machines, and thermal stencil machines. Laser stencil machines are also available. Manual stencil cutters use a mechanical mechanism to mark crates, boxes, and other surfaces. They feature lubricated punch sharks, a numbered dial, and multiple character sizes. Electric and electronic stencil cutters provide greater cutting force for materials such as vinyl and polyethylene. Digital stencil machines or digital stencil duplicators are stencil machines that are often used in SMT applications. Die cut stencil machines use die cutting, a manufacturing processes that cuts shapes or blanks with knives. SMT stencil printers come in manual, automatic, and semi-automatic styles. With manual devices, an operator holds the frame on opposite edges and manually aligns the stencil openings with the PCB’s land patterns. Automatic SMT stencil printers are suitable for fine-pitch applications. Semi-automatic stencil machines are designed for medium-volume SMT assembly. Stencil etching machines include both electrolytic metal etching machines and depth etching machines. Several types of thermal stencil machines are also commonly available.

Specifications and Features

Stencil machines differ in terms of specifications and features. For example, stencil cutters carry specifications for maximum cutting speed, maximum cutting width, cutting force, weight and dimensions. Features include government or military fonts, shipping symbols, and international fonts. Stencil printers may include features such as a head-mounted camera, a reference camera, and a bottom vision alignment system. Product specifications for these stencil machines include X, Y, and Z axis range; underside clearance; and theta rotation.

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