You never know what you might find in an arts and craft store. A relatively recent addition to crafting is automatic cutting machines like the Cricut and Cameo cutters. These are typically used to cut out shapes for scrapbooking, although they will cut or engrave almost anything thin. You can think of them as a printer with a cutting blade in place of the print head. [Mikeselectricstuff] decided to try a Cameo cutter to produce SMD stencils. The result, as you can see in the video below, is quite impressive.
If you’ve ever wanted to do SMD soldering with a reflow oven, stencils are invaluable for putting solder paste on the board where you want it quickly. The board [Mike] has contains a boat-load (over 2,000) of LEDs and dropping solder on each pad with a syringe would be very time consuming (although he did do some touch up with a syringe).
The board he’s using doesn’t have any extreme fine-pitched parts. However, he did some test patterns and decided he could get down to a finer pitch, especially with a little tweaking. However, the stencil he used didn’t need any changes. All he did was export the solder paste layer as a DXF and bring it straight into the Cameo software.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen one of these cutters pressed into stencil service. You can also get some use out of your 3D printer.
By 2016, most people have got the hang of doing SMD soldering in the garage–at least for standard packaging. Ball Grid Array or BGA, however, remains one of the more difficult packages to work with [Colin O’Flynn] has an excellent video (almost 30-minutes, including some parts that are sped up) that shows exactly how he does a board with BGA.
There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve wanted to add a graphic or design to a t-shirt some time in your life. There are certainly ways to do it but most of us don’t have silk screening equipment or a steady enough hand to have the end product look cool. Lucky for us, [UrbanThreads] has put together a stenciling tutorial for personalizing garments. The process is easy and inexpensive. The results are good, although it can be time-consuming if the pattern is intricate.
To get started, a black and white graphic is printed on a sheet of paper. The design is then taped to a sheet of the secret ingredient: freezer paper. The two sheets are then placed on a table with the freezer paper up. Since the freezer paper is semi transparent, the printed out design shows through. It’s now time to use an exacto knife and trace the design while cutting through the freezer paper. The two sheets are then removed from each other and the freezer paper is put wax-side-down on the garment and ironed into place. The wax melts and acts as a temporary adhesive to hold the stencil down. At this point, fabric paint can be sprayed or dabbed on with a brush (avoid brushing back and forth as it may lift the stencil). Once the paint is applied, the stencil is removed and the paint is allowed to dry. According to [UrbanThreads] the freezer paper doesn’t leave any wax or residue on the garment.
Ever since purchasing this house, [Ed] Always wanted a to turn his living room into a home theater, but not just any old projector and a white wall would do. He wanted the whole experience. [Ed] Started with a slightly damaged 12′ wide 4:3 roll up projector screen, he removed the damaged bottom portion and built a static frame to support the now 16:9 screen. Before he could mount the screen, he needed to drywall over a window that was inconveniently located. With the screen now in place, [Ed] framed out the elevated seating platform and steps with some 2×12 topped off with plywood. Next, the carpet that was sitting directly below the platform and steps was removed and then secured on top. Down firing LED fixtures were installed in the steps, to give them that movie theater look and feel. To provide the image, a refurbished HD projector acquired from the Bay of Electronics, was installed in the loft above the living room.
With the theater functional, [Ed] turned his attention to theater decorations. Dimmable ambiance lighting fixtures, using laser cut acrylic and CNC routed starboard (a marine-grade polymer), were made to resemble a film strip. Next a coffee table was crafted out of an equipment road case filled with movie props. Studio logos were painted on the sides with the use of laser cut stencils, and with a glass top, gives the illusion it came off the set of a hollywood movie. The addition of a rebuilt movie poster marquee, movie posters, candy stand, pop corn machine, and with the existing soda fountain and the arcade in the loft, the home theater was almost complete.
In a fitting tribute, [Ed] designed and built a marquee sign to dedicate and name the theater after his cousin Greg, one of his closest friends and avid movie watcher, who had sadly passed away. Video overview of all the hard work after the break.
Typically, you buy a single board Linux computer. [Henrik] had a better idea, build his own ARM based single board computer! How did he do it? By not being scared of ball grid array (BGA) ARM processors.
Everyone loves the Raspberry Pi and Beagle Board, but what is the fun in buying something that you can build? We have a hunch that most of our readers stay clear of BGA chips, and for good reason. Arguably, one of the most important aspects of [Henrik’s] post is that you can easily solder BGAs with cheaply available tools. OSH Park provides the inexpensive high-quality PCBs, OSH Stencils provides the inexpensive stencils, and any toaster oven allows you to solder even the most difficult of components. Not only does he go over the PCB build, he also discusses the bootloader, u-boot, and how to get Linux running.
Everything worked out very well for [Henrik]. It’s a good thing too, cause we sure wouldn’t want to debug a PCB as complicated as this one. What projects have you built that use a BGA? Let us know how it went!
When you think about the difficulties of working with surface mount components, the first thing that often comes to mind is trying to solder those tiny little parts. Instead of soldering those parts by hand, you can actually apply solder paste to the pads and place all of the components on at once. You can then heat up the entire board so all of the parts are soldered simultaneously. It sounds so much easier! The only problem is you then need a solder stencil. You somehow have to get a thin sheet of material that has a perfectly sized hole where all of your solder pads are. It’s not exactly trivial to cut them out by hand.
[Juan] recently learned a new trick to make cutting solder stencils a less painful process. He uses a laser cutter to cut Mylar sheets into stencils. [Juan] appears to be using EagleCAD and Express PCB. Both tools are available for free to hobbyists. The first step in the process is to export the top and bottom cream layers from your CAD software.
The next step is to shrink the size of the solder pads just a little bit. This is to compensate for the inevitable melting that will be caused by the heat from the laser. Without this step, the pads will likely end up a little bit too big. If your CAD software exports the files as gerbers, [Juan] explains how to re-size the pads using ViewMate. If they are exported as DXF files, he explains how to scale them using AutoCAD. The re-sized file is then exported as a PDF.
[Juan’s] trick is to actually cut two pieces of 7mil Mylar at the same time. The laser must be calibrated to cut all the way through the top sheet, but only part way into the bottom piece. The laser ends up slightly melting the edges of the little cut out squares. These then get stuck to the bottom Mylar sheet. When you are all done cutting, you can simply pull the sheets apart and end up with one perfect solder stencil and one scrap piece. [Juan] used a Full Spectrum 120W laser cutter at Dallas Makerspace. If you happen to have this same machine, he actually included all of the laser settings on his site.
LIB3 is an open source hardware start-up from upstate New York. Thus far, the team has made some interesting products such as the piLED kit. However, they have big dreams for the future. LIB3 plans to become a contract assembly house specifically targeting low volume makers. To do this they have to build their own tools. LIB3’s latest project is a solder paste dispenser for surface mount components. Traditionally solder paste is applied with stencils made of stainless steel. In more recent years laser cut kapton has become a favorite for low volume production.
Both of these systems require a stencil to be made up. LIB3 took a different approach, and modified an old CNC glue dispenser for paste. The team got their hands on an 1991 vintage X/Y glue dispensing system. X/Y systems in this era were big, heavy affairs with powerful motors. LIB3 removed all the control electronics and built their own system from scratch. New features include direct computer control, and a vision system.