Copper Chemical Etching

Chemical Etching Copper

Chemically etched copper components are used in electronic systems throughout many industries. Copper has superb electrical and thermal conductivity which will increase a component's ability to handle high voltages and currents.

We have been etching copper components for EMS and OEM companies for decades. Copper is softer than other metals, is easy to etch, and delivers precision results.  Although it is highly resistant to corrosion, finishing a copper part with a nickel flash underplate and/or adding a silver plate overlay will further increase its corrosion-resistance.  Also, adding a tin plate overlay on the etched component will increase high-temperature tolerance and improve solderability.

Copper alloys, such as phosphorus bronze, beryllium copper, brass, and nickel silver,  have most of the functional properties of copper, but the additional elements can increase strength, conductivity, and corrosion resistance.

The following list of copper and copper alloy properties will help you choose the right metal for your project.  With our copper etching experience, we can help you choose the most functional and cost-effective type for your applications.


Chemical Etching Advantages

Copper Properties


Ductile - Easy to bend if a secondary forming operation is required

Conductivity - Excellent heat and electrical conductivity

Corrosion-resistant - Even more so with nickel and silver underplate

Non-magnetic -  Helps in the protection of EMI emissions

Solderable - Can be welded without added plating

Malleable - Can be flattened or stretched

Copper Alloys

Brass Etching

Brass Etching

Copper and Zinc Alloy

  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Dense and tougher than copper
  • Machine workable
  • High electrical conductivity
  • Withstands friction better than copper

Phosphorus Bronze Etching

chemical etching phosphorus bronze

Copper Tin and Phosphorus Alloy

  • Higher-strength and fatigue compared than copper and brass
  • Better tolerance to friction than copper
  • Higher corrosion-resistance than copper
  • Good electrical conductivity-not as high as copper
  • High elasticity

Beryllium Copper Etching

Photo Etched Beryllium Copper electronic lead frame

Copper, Beryllium,Cobalt, Nickel, Iron, and Lead.

  • Lower electrical and thermal conductivity than copper
  • Harder and better fatigue strength than copper
  • Highest strength of any copper alloy (sometimes called spring copper)
  • Excellent forming abilities

Nickel Silver Etching

Photo etched EMI Shield

Copper, Nickel and Zinc Alloy

  • Good Corrosion-resistance
  • Hard
  • Good electrical and thermal conductivity-not as high as copper
  • Malleable
  • Ductile
  • Non-magnetic


Copper Chemical Etching Benefits

Because copper is a softer metal, some sheet metal fabrication processes may compromise the structure of the part. For example, punching in the stamping process can cause deformation, especially with smaller and/or numerous apertures.  Photo chemical etching excels at precision and maintaining low dimensional tolerances without the presence of burrs and deformations.

Wire EDM is suitable for conductive metals such as copper and copper alloys and works well with smaller thinner parts, although there is a possibility of thermal damage.  Laser cutting can prove challenging because copper is a poor absorber of infrared laser light.

Chemical etching proves to be the most precise and cost-effective method for smaller thinner parts that are popular in microelectronics and R/F microwave products. The simultaneous manufacturing method is fast and the acid wash leaves the surface of the parts and edges clean and smooth.

Here are the benefits of photochemical etching  copper compared to other types of metal fabrication processes:

  • Low-cost tooling - Tooling is produced quickly, and at only a fraction of the cost compared to hard conventional tooling.  Prototype modification is inexpensive.
  • Burr and Stress-Free - Parts are etched evenly and quickly without a single point of contact.
  • Metal Properties Remain Unaltered- Copper properties remain intact as there are no heat-affected zones
  • Low-Cost Complex Designs - Copper parts with small holes, slits, slots, or other intricate features costs less than other manufacturing processes when larger runs are required.

Copper Chemical Etching Applications

Copper is used most commonly in electronic systems because of its high electrical and thermal conductivity. Therefore, there are many industries such as  RF/microwave, semiconductor, electronics, automotive, aerospace, and medical equipment where you will find the need for copper parts.  Most of these parts are found on or connected to a printed circuit board, or battery systems, such as contacts, connectors, terminals, grounding springs, lead frames, and EMI shielding.  Most of these parts can be formed easily because of copper's excellent ductility.

Copper Etched Electronics and RF/Microwave Parts

  • pins
  • contacts
  • connectors
  • EMI/RFI shielding
  • step lids
  • lead frames
  • flat springs
  • busbars
  • grounding clips
  • antennas
  • RF waveguides
  • shims
  • gaskets
  • meshes
  • screens


Advanced Metal Etching
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