Cutting Through the Confusion: EMI Shielding Manufacturing Methods

Cutting Through the Confusion: EMI Shielding Manufacturing Methods

In today's world of advanced technology, electromagnetic interference (EMI) poses a serious threat to electronic devices, and it's imperative to take necessary precautions to avoid potential damage. Engineers must be vigilant in creating the best EMI shielding for electronics part designs, which includes choosing the right metal thickness and manufacturing process. However, this task has become even more challenging with the increasing cost of metals and the emergence of innovative products that require smaller or more complex features. There are several sheet metal fabrication methods for EMI shielding manufacturing that involves cutting, bending, and shaping metal sheets to produce all types of EMI/RFI shielding components.

This blog post will compare the sheet metal fabrication processes for producing various EMI shielding components, including the best methods for different metal thicknesses, production volumes, and intricate features.

High Profile EMI Shielding Manufacturing

High Profile EMI Shielding Enclosure in a power device
EMI shielding enclosure for a power device

A higher profile shielding is an EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) shielding component with  greater height and thicknesses than low profile shields. This type of shielding is typically used in applications where higher levels of EMI shielding performance are required, or more space is available to accommodate the larger size of the shielding component.

The metal thickness range of a higher profile shielding can vary depending on the specific design and requirements of the application. For example, a traditional EMI shield made from a metal sheet may have a thickness of 0.5mm to 3mm, depending on the application. However, higher-profile shields are generally made from thicker materials than low-profile shields, with metal thicknesses ranging from tens of microns to millimeters.

The industries that use higher profile shielding in their electronic products include:

Telecommunications: Telecommunications equipment, such as base stations and cell towers, often require higher profile RFI shielding to protect against interference from other electronics nearby.

Aerospace and Defense: The aerospace and defense industries often require high-performance EMI shielding solutions to protect critical electronic systems from interference caused by other equipment or external sources.

Automotive: In the automotive industry, higher profile EMI shielding is used in electronic systems such as engine management, safety, and infotainment systems to protect against interference from other vehicle components or external sources.

Industrial Equipment: Industrial equipment such as heavy machinery, robots, and control systems often require higher profile shielding to protect against EMI caused by other equipment in the facility.

Medical Equipment: EMI shielding enclosures for medical devices equipment such as MRI and diagnostic require high-performance EMI shielding materials to ensure accuracy and reliability.

In all these industries, higher-profile EMI shielding is essential for ensuring electronic systems' proper functioning and reliability in the presence of electromagnetic interference.

By using higher profile shielding, manufacturers can achieve higher levels of shielding performance and protect critical electronic systems from interference caused by other equipment or external sources.

The thickness of the metal used for EMI shielding is an important consideration, as it can influence the effectiveness of the shielding. Thicker metals provide better protection but can be more expensive and challenging to manufacture.

When selecting the thickness of the metal, it is vital to consider the frequency range requirements of the shielding. Thinner metals may be sufficient for lower frequency ranges, while thicker metals may be necessary for higher frequency ranges.


Low Profile EMI Shielding Manufacturing

Low Profile EMI Shielding in a laptop
Low profile shielding in a laptop

A low-profile shield is an EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) shielding component with a lower height or thickness. Low-profile metal shields have thinner cross-sections than standard shielding components. This shield type is often used in electronic devices with limited space.

Low-profile shields are designed to provide effective EMI shielding while minimizing the impact on the device's size, weight, and functionality. Engineers develop them for various applications, including mobile phones, tablets, laptops, wearables, and medical devices. In addition to their small size, low-profile shields offer other benefits such as ease of installation, low cost, and the ability to customize the shape and size to fit the device's specific needs.

Overall, low-profile shields are a common component in modern electronic devices, helping to ensure they function correctly in environments with high levels of electromagnetic interference. They are a testament to the ingenuity of engineers and designers who always look for ways to make devices smaller, lighter, and more efficient without sacrificing performance.

Low-profile shielding is used in a variety of industries that manufacture electronic components. The primary industries that use low-profile shielding in their electronics components include:

Consumer electronics: Low-profile EMI shielding is commonly used in consumer electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and wearables. These devices often require compact shielding solutions that do not add excessive weight or thickness.

Medical devices: Medical devices such as implantable devices, diagnostic equipment, and monitoring systems often require low-profile EMI shielding to protect against interference from external sources.

Aerospace and Defense: Aerospace and defense industries often require lightweight, low-profile shielding solutions for electronic systems used in aircraft, satellites, and other defense applications.

Automotive: Automotive manufacturers use low-profile EMI shielding to protect electronic systems from interference caused by other vehicle components or external sources.

In all of these industries, low-profile EMI shielding is essential for ensuring the proper operation of electronic systems in the presence of electromagnetic interference. EMI shielding manufacturers can create compact, lightweight devices using low-profile shielding without sacrificing performance or reliability.

Sheet Metal Fabrication for EMI Shielding Manufacturing

Sheet Metal Fabrication provides custom EMI shielding manufacturing solutions, and is performed using various methods, including CNC punching, laser cutting, and stamping and the chemical etching process.

CNC Punching: This process involves using a computer-controlled machine to punch holes or cut shapes into sheet metal. CNC punching can produce highly accurate and repeatable EMI shielding parts, making it suitable for mass production.

Laser cutting: A process that uses a laser beam to cut sheet metal into specific shapes and sizes. Laser cutting can produce highly precise EMI shielding parts with minimal distortion or heat damage and is cost-effective for prototyping and small to medium volumes. 

Stamping:  The stamping process uses progressive dies to form the sheet metal into shielding. Although the tooling is expensive and can take weeks to produce, it is a more cost-effective method when large quantities are required.

Chemical Etching: Using chemicals, the unwanted metal of a part dissolves and leaves a smooth surface with precision edges. It is a guaranteed burr-free option due to the absence of hard tooling or force. Additionally, logos and score lines are manufactured at no extra cost. It makes for a very cost-effective option for prototyping and small to medium volumes and where hand forming is preferred.

Laser Cutting vs. Chemical Etching for Shielding:

Suppose design engineers in the prototyping phase have determined their shields require prototyping or smaller production runs. In that case, Laser cutting and photo etching are excellent low-cost options.

Laser cutting and chemical etching are effective methods for custom EMI shielding manufacturing because they are precise and can hold low tolerances. The choice between these methods depends on several factors, including the design's complexity, the production volume, and the material selection.

Laser Cutting for EMI Shielding Manufacturing

Fiber Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is a method that uses a high-powered laser to cut through materials. Laser cutting is ideal for prototyping since the tooling is digital and has a lower set up than photo etching.

Laser cutting is also suitable for smaller or medium production runs when the design is not that complex.

However, laser cutting is more expensive than chemical etching when there are many holes for heat dissipation, score marks, logos, or numbers. Another limiting factor is there is a possibility of micro burrs along the surface and heat deformation in thinner metals.

Traditionally, lasers were known for making it challenging to cut reflective metals such as copper and aluminum. New high-tech fiber lasers can efficiently process these types of metals due to the equipment's absence of mirrors and lenses.

When it comes to higher profile shielding, laser cutting is favored over chemical etching because it can manufacture shields up to .250" thick.

Chemical Etching for EMI Shielding Manufacturing

Photochemical etching process: Metal Prep

Chemical etching is a batch processing method that uses a chemical solution to remove material from a metal surface.

The metal etching process is more cost effective for prototyping, small or medium shielding production runs for thinner metals and when the design has many features and identifying marks, such as EMI filters.

All these complex features are machined simultaneously to save time and money. Similar to Laser cutting, the tooling is digital.

This etching process is beneficial with thinner metals up to .040" as the absence of heat eliminates the possibility of metal warping or distortion. The process results in a smooth, flat surface ideal for shielding products.

Photo etching has the ability to utilize a range of different types of metals, such as copper alloys, aluminum, stainless steel, nickel/silver, making it a highly versatile process.


The selection of the manufacturing method and types of metal thickness can significantly impact the effectiveness of EMI shielding. It is important to consider the frequency range of the EMI, the environment in which the shielding will be used, and the budget for the project when contacting a custom sheet metal manufacturer.

Laser cutting and chemical etching are both effective for custom EMI shielding manufacturing in lower volumes than stamping or punching. The choice between these two methods depends on several factors, including the design's complexity, production volume, and the material thickness.

Advanced Metal Etching provides laser cutting and chemical etching services to give engineers more design options for custom shielding solutions. Our experience in custom shielding for many industries has spanned 30 years. Let us evaluate which manufacturing process is the right choice for your designs.

We also offer plating and forming options for complete parts. Upload a print and request a quote for your prototyping and production needs today.

Related Post: Metal Selection for EMI and RFI Shielding

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