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June 2014 • SMT Magazine 87 sizes. Eighty percent of the frames that we fab- ricate fall into either the 29" x 29" (736 mm x 736 mm) or 23" x 23" (584.2 mm x 584.2 mm) size. The predominance of these standard sizes drives many stencil manufacturers to keep little or limited stock in other frame sizes. However, having additional sizes available offers options for those who can't use one of those two sizes. Purchasing from a company that can offer a se- lection of frames helps out considerably with lead time and cost when a non-standard format is required. Space Saver Frames While both standard and non-standard- sized frames that are purchased are usually tubular, there are also space saver frame op- tions available. Space saver frames were de- signed to reduce the storage volume required for the stencil, yet they still provide the same functionality as a full size frame. The ben- efit of space saver options is that usually they are a simple plug-and-play option that helps save storage space as the number of re- tained stencils grows for many end-users. Space saver options include frames that are thinner than standard tubular frames as well as frameless systems that require adaptor frames for use in printers. These space saver frames are available to replace the normal 29" x 29" x 1.5" thick frames used in most printing sys- tems today with a frame that is .5" (12.7 mm) thick. While some printing systems will accept these thinner frames with no modification, for those systems that must use a 1.5" thick frame, a master frame with 2 locating pins that cor- respond to alignment holes in the space saver frame can be procured. This single master frame adapter is used with any space saver frame of the same size and allows for thickness compen- sation when specific printers will not handle the thinner frame. The benefit is that you will be able to store three times as many frames in the same area as you now store one conven- tional frame. The system is also available for 23" x 23" outside diameter frames. Once again, the space saver frame is .5%", but the smaller format frame replaces the standard 1" thick frame most common for this size. The 23" sys- tem also can use a master frame to compensate the thickness. This cumulative space savings can be substantial, particularly if you are run- ning a high mix of parts on your machine. It either allows a larger quantity of frames to be stored directly in the workspace or minimizes the space required so that processing areas can be compressed on the manufacturing floor. Frameless Stencils Another space savings option is the frame- less stencil. Frameless stencils assist even more with space saving and, in many cases, they also help save money on the overall cost of procur- ing stencils. The additional savings for this type of frame system comes from a coupling of the lower cost for stencil manufacturing as well as cost savings for the shipping due to the reduced weight and volume of the stencil. The term "frameless" relates to the product as shipped, since a frame is still employed when the stencil is used to print an image. However, the stencil doesn't have to be delivered with the frame at- tached to it. Instead of the frame being inte- grated with the stencil foil by the fabricator, the stencil is attached to the frame and tensioned by the user. While the frameless system has tangible benefits, it will typically require some capital equipment investment. One type of space saving stencil is the Vec- torGuard frameless stencil tensioning system. It delivers an end product capable of meeting all the diverse manufacturing requirements of a standard framed stencil. Relative to space sav- ings and storage efficiency, this frameless sten- cil's protective cassettes reduce storage space by up to 75% when compared to conventional stencils, so the storage density in your facility is even greater than can be accomplished with other space saver frames. The VectorGuard accepts a wide range of stencil foils and is available in the two predomi- nate frame dimensions as well as several other popular sizes. Stencil foils between .003" and .010" are all acceptable for use. Mounting the stencil in the frame and tensioning it can be accomplished with minimal training and takes very little time to complete. With VectorGuard frames, the stencil is not shipped as a foil. In- stead, the fabricator adheres molded plastic alignment corners and interlocking aluminum SeLeCTIng A STenCIL FRAMe continues CoLuMn

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