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Matt Venn's Vinyl-Cut SMT Solder Stencil Guide

Gareth Halfacree

While through-hole technology (THT) - larger-size components with legs that literally poke through holes in the circuit board - is the norm for electronics beginners, surface-mount technology (SMT) has a number of advantages. The components are typically cheaper, take up less room, and traces only take up one layer of the board. The idea of soldering teeny-tiny devices can put some off, though, but the lovely Matt Venn has handily demonstrated how easy it can be. Using a £30 vinyl cutter, Matt created his own stencils through which he could spread solder paste accurately and quickly onto his PCBs. Combined with a reflow oven - or even a modified toaster - the stencil creates a professional-looking finish in a fraction of the time of hand-soldering. Based on a tutorial from Sparkfun, Matt has written up a full guide to his method on the Bristol Hackspace wiki.

I was so happy when it worked out because it reduces the time to build dramatically! Also, the boards look so much neater and professional because as the solder melts in the oven, it pulls the components into place.

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