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When creating small PCBs, it is often convenient to panelize them for higher volume production. In my package of gerber files, I include all the layers for one image, and then include a PDF detailing the dimensions of the panel.

This has worked great for ordering PCBs from multiple fabricators, but when we presented the PCBs and gerbers to the assembly house, we were asked to provide fully panelized paste layers so they can order the solder paste stencils.

I worked at an electronic assembly house for 8 years, and we always panelized the paste layer for the customer. Is there an industry standard expectation for this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're sending one up files, the board house should be able to provide you with the files they used for fabrication. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Mar 24 '15 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe... But that's not really the issue. I would rather not have to curate a panelized and unpanelized set of gerber files, even though it's not really that hard to make them myself. \$\endgroup\$ – TimH Mar 24 '15 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're sending a single-PCB/unpanelized package to your PCB fab and they're doing the panelization for you, then it would be safest to get the panelized version back from them to send to your assemblers. Can you ever be exactly sure how the PCB fab organised and spaced the panel? \$\endgroup\$ – brhans Mar 24 '15 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @brhans I include a PDF detailing the dimensions of the panel, and so far the PCB fabs have made it according to my specifications. \$\endgroup\$ – TimH Mar 24 '15 at 21:05
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I do not know what the industry standard is, but we order our paste stencils from the same manufacturer who makes our bare PC boards.

We allow the PCB manufacturer to have some leeway in how the boards are panelized. Because it is them who decides on the board spacing in the panel, it simply made sense to have them manufacture the paste stencils as well. The fact that they give us an awesome price for the stencils when ordered at the same time as the PCBs doesn't hurt either.

We then take the final specifications (array arrangement and spacing) from the manufacturer to generate the PnP files. For our little bitty machine (prototyping), the PnP file has one copy of the PnP information plus array arrangement and spacing for the remaining boards in the panel.

I'm guessing that our CM does things similarly - we send them our PnP file as generated by our CAD software plus the same array arrangement and spacing information.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Where do you order/recommend ordering PCBs + Stencils from? \$\endgroup\$ – Adam B Oct 4 '17 at 8:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AdamB: It is off-topic to ask for product/vendor recommendations here. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Nov 26 '18 at 16:22

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