Clive Ashmore

Six areas to consider for optimal print quality and consistency.

In the stencil printing process, the squeegee blade often fails to get the recognition it deserves. Yet the squeegee is the item that does all the work and is the unsung hero. Consider a squeegee running in high volume on a 300mm board may put in between five and 10 miles per day of grueling aperture filling, and it becomes clear close attention to squeegee attributes may result in higher-quality results. With that said, here are my top squeegee awareness tips.

Material. In the early days of SMT, squeegee blades were predominately made from polyurethane (rubber), as the very first surface-mount printing processes used mesh screens. As the industry transitioned to metal-etched stencils and then laser-cut, stainless steel squeegees became standard. However, there are applications – such as heavily stepped stencils (say a 75µm step down on a 150µm-thick stencil) – where the compliance of a polyurethane squeegee is beneficial. The vast majority of squeegee blades today, though, are stainless steel. And not just any stainless steel; to be sure, a tremendous amount of IP and proprietary alloy formulation is in today’s sprung steel compounds used to manufacture high-quality blades. They keep a good sharp edge and provide excellent consistency for the pressure and force applied, which delivers the aperture filling necessary for a repeatable process.

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