Stepped stencils provide practical, workable solutions in a number of different applications:
Stepped stencils can be created by a variety of manufacturing processes. Chemical milling was the traditional process for years but is now considered obsolete* due to the technological advancements in welding and micromachining
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Welding locally changes the thickness of the foil by cutting identical slugs from the base stencil foil and the same material of a different thickness. The replacement piece is then welded into place in the base stencil before laser cutting. This is a very economical process for step ups and step downs. All Datum materials are compatible with laser welding processes.
Micromachining, or micromilling, uses a very precise CNC positioning system with very small, hard cutting tools to remove steel without distortion or burrs. It is the most flexible stepping method, able to create unlimited shapes, patterns, wall profiles and cavities. It is the most economical method of creating stencils with -multiple steps, or stencils that need contact side relief for board snuggers or labels. All Datum materials are compatible with micromilling; for walls as thin as 20 µm, Datum Tension is suggested.
Welding and machining can be used in combination to smooth transition walls, create print reservoirs or accommodate thickness differentials > 50 µm (2 mils).
Chemical milling is now considered obsolete because it is a highly variable process, which contributes to the poor quality and extends lead times. Due to its technological obsolescence and the wide-scale availability of welding and micromachining, Datum no longer supports chemical milling operations.