This post is a bit delayed, but Oshstencils, my goto solder stencil supplier, has recently revamped their website along with adding stainless steel stencils!
I was really excited about the new stainless steel stencils option as I have never actualy used stainless steel stencils before and as far as I knew, they were more reliable and durable compared to kapton Polyamide.So of course, I went out and ordered a set of stainless steel stencils for my EdiCopter PCB board. In this post, I will be comparing stainless steel stencils to the classic Kapton polyamide ones.
The main benefit of stainless steel over Kapton polyamide is the durability. This can be seen from the rated usage cycle where stainless steel is rated for many times more usage compared to the Kapton polyamide counterpart. Another benefit for me personally is the stiffness which allow for easier storage without them folding up on me.
As in every product, there are always 2 sides to the coin. There is a issue for me where the transparent Kapton polyamide counterparts seems to be easier to align on the board as I can see the components and pads below the stencil. Since the stainless steel stencil is opaque, alignment is definitely harder. Also the stainless steel stencils are thicker making it harder to apply less solder paste and makes it harder to remove after application.
Despite the problems, the durability makes stainless steel an awesome solution for small scale manufacture especially if you are selling your boards on tindie or other online platforms.