Photo Etching Services
Photo etching is a precision manufacturing process for thin metal parts with simple or complex designs. In 2022, photo etching is the most popular industry term for the subtractive method, also known as chemical etching. The process is a multi-step operation using photo-sensitive material to transfer part images onto metal sheets before a chemical etchant dissolves the unwanted sections, leaving only the desired part dimensions.
Other terms for photo etching are metal etching, photo chemical etching, photochemical machining, and chemical milling.
The benefits of photo etching for thin metal parts are precision edges with low tolerances. The chemical metal etching process leaves a smooth even surface that is free of burrs, pits and stress deformations. Other attractive features of the etching process are speed and low-cost for parts with intricate features and complex designs.
The photo etching process achieves high precision with a variety of metals for all types of industry part designs and requirements.
How Can Photo Etching Lower Costs?
A comparison to other manufacturing processes
Compared to other processes, chemical etching is more cost-effective for parts with complex designs or numerous features. Parts with many small apertures such as slots and holes can be etched simultaneously.
For instance, components such as filters, screens, sieves, and lead frames will not require additional time or cost to etch than step lids, washers, or shims.
Photo Etching Advantages
Engineers, buyers, and manufacturers find that the benefits of photo etching for certain part requirements can result in cost and time savings compared to other machining processes. Watch the video to find out how!
Tooling is easy to modify and can be produced within hours.
Quick turnaround on short runs. Compound tooling combines more than one prototype with the same material.
Intact Metal Properties
Hardness, grain structure, and ductility remain unaltered
Manufactured quickly and cost-efficiently whether small, medium, or larger volume production runs.
Photo Etching Capabilities
Since the metal etching process is controlled by speed, the etching depth and tolerances can be regulated by the amount of time the metal remains in the etchant depending on the metal thickness. This control allows us to achieve the lowest tolerance possible. For more specific tolerance information, see our photo etching capabilities page.
Chemical etching capabilities include half-etching of the metal which is perfect for logos, serial numbers, or decorative designs. Half-etch score lines on parts such as EMI and RFI board shielding make it easier to manually form parts made from thinner metals eliminating the physical stress from machine forming.
Both sides of the metal can be etched with designs. An example of this capability is the fluidic channel design used to carry liquid or gases on fuel-cell plates, heat exchanger plates, or bipolar plates.
We can etch metal with a thickness range from .001" to .060". (results may vary based on sheet size, metal thickness, and production volumes)
Common Photo Etching Applications
Since 1993, we have manufactured a large variety of photo etched parts for many different industries. Therefore, we are familiar with your design challenges, material selection and how to achieve the closest tolerances with precision.
What type of metals can be photo etched?
Our metal etching capabilities accommodate many types of metal alloys required for all types of thin industrial components. We have a variety of photo etching metals in stock. Some of the more common metals are listed below. Click on a metal name to find out its properties and common chemical etching applications.
Photo etching, also known as chemical etching, photo chemical etching, and photochemical machining, is a high-precision, fast turnaround manufacturing process for the production of thin metal parts. In the process, a chemical etchant simultaneously dissolves the unwanted metal areas of parts, leaving only the desired dimensions.
Some of the benefits of chemical etching are low-cost digital tooling, and photo etched parts that are stress and burr-free without altered metal properties. Photo etching is ideal for parts with complex designs as it is more cost-effective than other manufacturing processes.
The photochemical machining process can produce many types of industrial components that belong to electrical/electronic and mechanical systems in the electronic, R/F microwave, automobile, aerospace, medical, and military industries. Some common parts include shims, contacts, connectors, EMI/RFI shielding, lead frames, flat springs, encoder disks, screen, sieves, meshes, fuel cell plates.