What is Photo Etching ?
A chemical etching process for precision thin metal parts with simple to complex designs and low tolerances.
Photo etching is also is known as metal etching, photo chemical etching, chemical etching, chemical milling, and photochemical machining.
Photo etching is ideal for a variety of industrial components that require precision, low tolerances, and free from burrs and metal deformations. The subtractive process of dissolving metal with a chemical etchant leaves a smooth even metal surface that does not alter metal properties or part function. Parts with numerous small features such as slots and holes can be etched simultaneously. For instance, components such as filters, screens, and sieves will not require additional time or cost to etch. This benefit makes photo etching a great alternative to other machining methods.
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. This control allows us to achieve the lowest tolerance possible. For more specific tolerance information, see our Techincal Guidelines page.
Photo etching benefits include etching on both sides 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. Another application of half-etching is the fluidic channel design used to carry liquid and gases on fuel-cell plates.
The photo etching advantages are numerous and cost-effective for many industrial applications from prototypes to full production and should be considered in the Design For Manufacturing process.
THE Alternative to Laser and Stamping
Here are some of the advantages photo etching has over other methods for many applications:
Learn More About Photo Etching Advantages >
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.
Stress and Burr-Free
Eliminate costly deburring methods. There is no tooling wear and no metal stress in the finished photo etched part.
Intact Metal Properties
Hardness, grain structure, and ductility remain unaltered
Manufactured quickly and cost-efficiently with large volume production runs.
What is the Photo Etching Process?
We produce an AutoCAD photo tool on mylar film with your part's exact specifications and dimensions.
We thoroughly clean the metal you have chosen for your part and its intended application of any residual oils and oxides.
We apply a photoresist coating to make the metal surface sensitive to light during exposure. The laminated metal is placed between two identical copies of the photo tool. The surface is exposed to a UV light source that will harden the photoresist on the metal part design that is to remain throughout the etching process.
The sheets move through a developing machine where an alkaline solution washes away the top and bottom film on each sheet of metal.
We process the metal surface with a chemical etchant that dissolves the bare metal and leaves the desired design and dimensions.
The etched sheets or dropout pieces are placed in a tank full of sodium hydroxide-based solution to remove the remaining photoresist film.
The parts’ surface and dimensions are thoroughly measured using a comprehensive approach consisting of several handheld and electronic machines before carefully packaged and shipped.
Photo Etched Parts
Since 1993, we have manufactured a large variety of photo-etched components for many different industries. Therefore, we are familiar with your design challenges, material selection and how to achieve the closest tolerances with precision.
Our photo chemical etching capabilities accommodate many types of metal alloys necessary for industry-specific functionality. We have a variety of metals in stock including stainless steel, cold-rolled steel, alloy 42, beryllium copper, brass, nickel silver, nickel, Kovar, copper, and phosphorous bronze, and more.