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When SMT Magazine editors asked their columnists to think ahead and discuss the technologies and changes that will lead the way in our field in 2014, my thoughts and predictions naturally turn to stencils.
The stencil market has certainly changed over the past few years, but the main change isn’t with products and technologies--although there have been several innovations in products and their accompanying technologies. The big change is in the customer-stencil manufacturer relationship, requirements, and expectations. As recently as a few years ago, the majority of the relationship between a stencil manufacturer and the customer was purely focused on delivering the stencil.
For many years, stencil applications were relatively standard, boards were populated with standard components, and the types of conductive materials being printed didn’t vary much. On the stencil side, there were basic laser cut stencils and high-end electroform stencils; but the wide selection of stencil types, materials used to manufacture stencils, and coatings used today didn’t exist.
What I see as more acute now is the increasing requirement for stencil manufacturers to be more focused on customer support, technical and application support, technical aptitude, and equipment and manufacturing quality capabilities. The industry is driving suppliers to offer a wider than ever variety of solutions to fit current and future applications.
Read the full column here.
Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of SMT Magazine.