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.
17 thoughts on “Cameo Cutter Makes SMD Stencils”
Why? Whats the difference from any of the other posts? (especially when the quality of doing it this way is worse?) The best approach is the huge tutorial/post on the dangerous prototypes forums! Using a Gerber2Graphtec little tool/app, which does much better cuts.
>The board he’s using doesn’t have any extreme fine-pitched parts
Sounds like he’s just using it as a proof-of-concept.
To be honest, I have the exact same cutter and it’s been shelved since I got the 3D printer due to lack of application. Now I might pull it down and make some stencils for some boards
Gerber2Graphtec modifies the cut order so that small rectangular cutouts are more reliably done; this gets more important the more complex your stencil is. It really sucks making a larger stencil only to have it mess up on a small section and ruin the whole thing. But if you want a quick paste stencil and don’t have any really small pads to deal with, DXF -> Import to cutter is super easy and definitely gets you usable results. It’s a great alternate use of a not-expensive tool.
Can you link the tutorial in question, please?
Full topic is here: http://dangerousprototypes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=68&t=5341
Is Cameo software/firmware locked down like Cricut?
not as bad a Cricut. It comes with a free software that allows you to import some file types, and a paid software that supports more file types. It works with some other 3rd party software, but have not been able to use it as just a plotter in any CAD software.
no… it is not.
depending on the ‘suite’ (version of software) you use.. you can import/use different native file types. (.svn..etc)
You can also import .jpg (raster/bitmap) image and trace them to get your cut lines.
the standard version of the software is really crippled: the only vector format it can import is .dxf, it does not support layers and when plotting multiple vinyl stickers for example you have to lay them on the workspace one by one. the full version will map out the positions for multiple prints by itself.
my work flow is importing either a scan of a pcb or some export of kicad/eagle into inkscape, then save to dxf which works in silhouette studio (the cameo/portrait software)
i found the original knives ( 10+ EUR/piece!!!) to perform worse then the blades with 12 refills from ali for 8 EUR but YMMV.
The key to succes will be the fine tuning of the settings, lowest speed and thickest thickness setting works fine. no overcut and no double cut.
oh and regarding these mats with sticky glue on them: just buy a can of adhesive spray instead of buying a new mat. these plotters are basically made for skrapbookers that will pay for all the extras.
It’s probably worth looking into brothers offerings aswell. silhouette is the most popular but i’m not sure if it’s best. I’m using silhouette portrait and so far standard mylar stencils with TQFP and 0805 worked more than 300 applications with a single sheet. I use credit cards as squeegee though. Cutting fine pitch smd stencils in 100µm mylar certainly is much easier then trying to cut vinyl stickers with that resolution…
silhouette studio it’s really slow on virtualbox XP/Win7 virtual machines and afaik you need an internet connection for the paid version. works fine on old XP computers though:-)
There’s some very nice things that can be done with paper.
IMO these relatively cheap 2D vinyl/paper cutters are NOT getting enough attention in the 3D-printer obsessed “Maker” space, especially for PCB etch-resist stencils (not so much solder-mask). Think “squeegee” or spray-on resist maybe. Please prove me wrong, .Post links to examples where these things are being used with some success in relatively simple single-sided PCB prototype work-flow. Thanks… Drone :-)
They’re tricky for PCB etch resist b/c it’s a lot more difficult to transfer the vinyl sheet to the circuit board when it’s not connected, like a stencil. Stencil is, IMO, the ideal application.
If your circuit has 100-1000 nets that aren’t electrically connected, that’s a lot of fine X-acto knife work. If you could cut directly on the copper, though…
Hi Elliot, I see what you’re saying. In my post I forgot the problem with how stencils are not transferable with contiguous traces without cutting afterwards (that’s why letter stencils look the way they do; all parts must be mechanically connected). Thanks David
Paste looks very dry. For starters, you shouldn’t leave the jar sitting there without the lid. Also, the angle of the squeegee should be such that you wipe the stencil clean as you go.
How about some Cricut hacks?
I was doing this for a while. Turns out that Chinese board houses make stencils for like $20. It wasn’t worth my time since I was doing it at work and it took me more than about 20 minutes to do. Even with Altium being able to spit out ready to go .dxf files from CAMtastic.
The only time I’d break out my cameo now is if I made a mistake on a stencil, but not the rest of the board, and I wasn’t doing fine pitch stuff. I’ve actually gotten away with some reasonably fine pitch though. With a bit of tidying up with a knife I have successfully these: https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/vishay-siliconix/SIA459EDJ-T1-GE3/SIA459EDJ-T1-GE3CT-ND/4494410
But yeah, I just order my stencils at the same time I order boards now.
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