Jun 13

Kapton Stencil Review

I wanted to post up a review of the Kapton stencils I ordered and the company that produced them. Finding a cheap stencil for prototypes was not a trivial matter. I tried the acid etching and didn't have much luck. Finally, I ran across this place that laser cuts Kapton stencils and I was very impressed with their work. I hope this review helps some people out that were in the same boat as me. This was a good low cost stencil solution with great customer support and a great product. I actually only got two Kapton pieces. In the video I said I got four which is incorrect, but what I meant to say is I submitted four designs. One stencil was for the entire PCB and the other stencil contained four additional footprints that I really wanted to get if it didn't cost any more.

Some background:
I was planning on building up my MSP430F USB dev boad prototypes on my own to save some money because my initial look at how much it costs to have boards populated at quantities of 2-5 was really high. I tried the acid etching and toner transfer, but the process takes some work, money, time and effort to get right. I honestly think you will save more money just ordering a stencil from this place. Anyways, that didn't work for me and I didn't want to invest any more resources in getting the process right. It became one of those situations where I was losing sight of the actual board development and spending a lot of my time and cash trying to get this etching process correct.

I decided to give up on this and look for a better solution and finally, I ran across ohararp.com. This place has a laser cutter that can cut Kapton foil very accurately. Kapton foil is an insulator and used a lot in tape form, but the strength and durability of the material makes it a good low quantity stencil. They cut a 100 pin LQFP MSP430F5xxx footprint no problem. The accuracy of my stencils were outstanding and had no problems holding up to 15+ uses. I've got some screen shots below you can check out to get an idea of what you will get when you place an order. The PCB stencil has solder paste on it, but you still get a good idea.

Some of the PCB Stencil pics:

This is the second Kapton Sheet. I threw four useful footprints on here because it was covered under the order whether I used the rest of the material or not. I was mistaken in the video though, I received two Kapton sheets and this is the second one.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Below is a link to their website.

Stencil Site