As we move further into the 21st century, technology continues to explode. Several industries, in particular, are expected to see significant advances in the coming years, thanks to new and emerging technologies such as green hydrogen fuel cell technology, automation, and telemedicine.
The energy, e-mobility, industrial manufacturing, and medical device industries are using these new technologies to satisfy growing environmental concerns as well as consumer trends. All of these industries are expected to experience continued growth and so will the quest to find quality, cost-effective components to power their systems.
With such a wide range of potential uses, its no wonder chemical metal etching is becoming more and more popular among manufacturers. This blog post will explore some industrial applications derived from these new technologies that benefit from chemical etching.
Photo chemical etching (PCE) is a metal fabrication process using digital tooling, photoresist film, UV light, and acid to dissolve portions of unwanted metal on parts. It has been used in circuit boards and other precision metal parts for many years, including EMI shielding, lead frames, screens, and electrical contacts and terminals. This technology has been renewed interest due to its potential to manufacture emerging technologies using fuel cell plates, encoder disks, and other micro components for smaller connected devices.
Chemical Metal Etching and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
One of the most exciting applications for chemical etching in 2022 is the energy industry. With global demand for energy expected to grow by more than 25% over the next two decades, it is clear that new and innovative technologies will be needed to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising technology expected to play a significant role in the energy industry with a predicted growth to reach $16.50 billion in 2025.
Fuel cells assist energy generation technology by converting chemical energy into electrical energy. This technology promotes a very efficient and environmentally friendly way to generate electricity. Hydrogen fuel cell plates can power transportation, energy grids, telecommunication networks, and commercial facilities to reduce carbon emissions. Fuel cell plates are typically made from stainless steel or titanium. While it requires unique processes, photo etching these two metals with precision is not an issue. However, these materials can be difficult and expensive to fabricate using traditional manufacturing methods.
Chemical Metal Etching Fuel Cell Plates
Chemical metal etching is a perfect solution for fabricating fuel cell plates, bi-polar plates, and heat exchanger plates, all of which have the same features.
The etching process is proficient in creating various directional flow channel patterns in the metal, making it possible to produce complex shapes that are difficult or impossible to achieve with other fabrication methods.
For example, laser cutting can cause micro burrs or thermal distortion, and stamping increases the likelihood of stress from the hard physical tooling. There is no physical stress with metal etching, and the metal properties remain unchanged.
Etching can have reduced lead times than laser cutting because all the features and openings are etched simultaneously. And compared to stamping, the etching prototyping process is quick, and modifications to the tooling are inexpensive.
E-mobility is a growing industry, and electric vehicles are increasing in popularity. The current administration introduced a 50 percent electric vehicle (EV) target for 2030, It's clear that this is a ripe market for growth!
One of the biggest challenges facing the electric vehicle industry is a reliable and efficient way to store energy. Batteries are currently the most popular way to store energy in electric vehicles, but they have several drawbacks. They are expensive, bulky, and heavy, making them difficult to transport and limiting their range. In addition, batteries are slow to charge and have a limited lifespan.
Fuel cells powered by hydrogen offer a promising alternative to batteries for electric vehicles. Fuel cells are much lighter and more compact than batteries and can be charged quickly. They can also power a vehicle much longer than just a batter alone.
The challenge for the electric vehicle industry is to find a way to make fuel cells plates that are affordable and easy to manufacture. Stamping tooling is expensive and can be costly for prototyping. Chemical machining is a more cost-effective option, from prototyping to medium-sized volumes.
Since car manufacturers are looking to reduce weight, aluminum would be a good option for fuel cell plates. Although aluminum is not easy to manufacture with some processes, it is not an issue for photo chemical etching.
Chemical Metal Etching and Automation/Sensor Technology
One of the most exciting applications for chemical metal etching in 2022 is automation and sensor technology. With the rapid growth of the internet of things, there is a growing demand for smaller and more sophisticated sensors that detect and track movement, temperature, light levels, and other parameters.
Sensors are a critical part of modern automation systems, thus the market is valued to exceed $345 billion by 2028. The most common type of sensor is an optical sensor, which uses light to detect changes in the environment. Sensors are used in various applications, including lidar systems in automotive manufacturing, medical device imaging machines, and factory automation manufacturing robots. They are also used in consumer products such as smart TVs and home appliances.
Chemical Metal Etching Encoder Disks
Light is often the mode of detection in many of these device systems. Encoder disks are made of metals such as steel and copper alloys. They are circular and varying sizes with many evenly spaced indentations or holes that allow light to pass through. The disks rotate where changes in light intensity are measured and used to calculate the position of the encoder.
The manufacture of encoder disks is critical to the proper functioning of these devices because they require extreme accuracy. In many cases, the size and complexity of sensors are limited by the available manufacturing technologies.
One of the biggest challenges facing industries in producing encoder disks is to reduce costs while maintaining performance.
Photo etching is the perfect solution for this challenge. Etching is a precision process free from burrs and mechanical stress. This type of accuracy can mean the difference between life or death in autonomous vehicles or medical imaging detection. There is no room for error in these types of systems. The cost per part is the same with chemical etching, whether a piece has one hole, slot, or hundreds.
Chemical Metal Etching and Telemedicine
The emergence of telemedicine is one of the most exciting trends in healthcare that was born out of the pandemic. Telemedicine allows patients to receive medical care from a distance, often without leaving their homes. This option can be beneficial during social distancing or for people who live in rural areas or have difficulty getting to a doctor's office.
Telemedicine systems include a wide variety of medical devices, such as heart monitors, ultrasound machines, blood pressure cuffs, and wearable devices.
These machines require sensors to measure heart rate, blood pressure, other vital signs, or other parameters. The market for telemedicine-connected devices is on track to reach a whopping $636.38 billion by 2028!
Chemical Metal Etching Micro Components
Different parts are required based on the sensing parameters needed in medical devices such as temperature, vision, touch, proximity, and pressure. Metal components in these devices need to be small and lightweight for transporting. In many cases, the small parts in these sensors have minuscule holes and other types of openings.
The etching process excels at producing tiny, lightweight components that are unaffected by hard-working tools or heat. It offers extreme precision, burr-free finishes, and a wide range of shapes and sizes that can meet the needs of any application.
The combination of photo chemical etching and telemedicine is sure to revolutionize the delivery of medical care. With the emergence of telemedicine services, chemical metal etching is poised to become an even more important manufacturing process in the years to come as medical wearables become more commonplace.
As you can see, chemical metal etching is a critical process for manufacturing fuel cell plates, encoder disks, and the micro components that are powering the newest technologically advanced devices. Metal etching is a smart option with the rising demand for greener and more efficient devices! It offers parts with extreme precision, burr-free finishes, and numerous features with a lower cost and quicker delivery than other metal fabrication processes.