What is Metal Etching?
Metal etching is a metal fabrication process for thin parts with simple or complex designs. The materials are exposed to chemicals, which remove unwanted material and leave only the required dimensions of a part design. Other terms to describe this process our, metal photo etching, photo etching, photo chemical etching, chemical etching, and photochemical machining.
Chemical etching is a great compliment to other metal fabrication processes especially with more complex designs with intricate features. The process is free from burrs and stress or heat deformation. Metal fabricators can partner with a photo etcher to meet their customer's requirements while growing their business.
Metal Etching Benefits for Manufacturers
With metal fabrication, not all processes deliver the same results. Chemical etching can complement your current processes and capabilities so you don't have to say no to customers. Etching provides some advantages over other manufacturing processes for certain types of requirements such as tolerances, quality, material/thickness, and production volume.
Digital tooling films are the best way to produce custom parts quickly and with minimum investment. They can be customized in just a few clicks, eliminating the high cost and wear of hard tooling and saving your customers time and money on small to medium runs.
With a precision that can hold tolerances as low as +/- .001", etching is an incredibly accurate process. Perfect for those RFQ's that require tighter tolerances than your processes.
When you need a quick turnaround on short runs, compound tooling is the way to go! It allows for the quick production of different prototypes that require the same material.
The use of chemicals means no hard tooling contact with the metal. Parts are stress and burr-free, eliminating the expensive deburring process, making this an ideal solution for production runs of any size!
The lack of heat and hard tooling ensures the hardness, grain structure, and ductility of the metal remain unaltered.
When you need parts with intricate or numerous features, chemical etching is the process for you. It offers quick turnaround times and lower costs for small or medium size runs compared to stamping.
Metal Etching Compared to Other Metal Fabrication Processes
When does it make sense economically for your customer to have their part photo etched instead of other processes such a stamping, laser cutting, water jet cutting, or wire EDM?
The answer is dependent on many factors such as material, material thickness, material temper, number of parts required, number of part features, complex designs, tolerances, and part applications. Below are some comparisons of the different processes to help you decide if photo etching will benefit your customers.
|FACTORS FOR CONSIDERATION||PHOTO ETCHING||LASER CUTTING||STAMPING||WIRE EDM||WATER JET CUTTING|
|SAMPLING||Low Cost||Low Cost||High Cost||Low Cost||Low Cost|
|METALS||Nearly all||Nearly all||Problems with very soft, hard or brittle metals||Hardness a consideration||Hardness a consideration|
|STRESS||No stress||Thermal stress on cutting edge||Stress at the cutting edge and close to it||Deformation, tempering, and structural changes can occur||Limited stress on cutting edge|
|BURRS||No burrs||Micro burrs||Partial burrs||Micro burrs||Micro burrs|
|DESIGN CHANGES||Quick, easy, cost-effective||Quick, easy, cost-effective||Very costly and time-consuming||Quick, easy, cost-effective||Quick, easy, cost-effective|
|TYPICAL LEAD TIMES FROM||48 hours||48 hours||Several weeks||48 hours||48 hours|
|GENERAL TOLERANCE AS A % OF METAL THICKNESS||+/- 10%||+/- 5%||+/- 10%||+/- 10%||+/- 15%|
|CAN BE SUPPLIED IN SHEETS FOR EASY INSPECTION AND HANDLING||Yes||Yes||Not easily||Yes||Yes|
Stamping vs Metal Etching
Stamping is a very common metal fabrication process for metal parts that can be produced quickly and in great quantities. It is often considered as an option to photo etching as they both can manufacture parts quickly but tooling costs and lead times differ.
As you can see from the chart, when comparing the costs for both chemical etching and stamping, there is a clear cost saving when choosing photo etching for parts with complex designs in large volumes.
Small to medium size volumes tend to be more cost-effective with the chemical etching process because the tooling is inexpensive and lead times are quicker than stamping.
Large volumes are more cost-effective with stamping in most cases. The cost per part will be lower, especially with simpler designs.
However, for complex pars, photo etching is the most economical choice. When choosing the best manufacturing process for a part, the production volume, metal thickness, and part design need to be considered.
Benefits of Partnering with a Metal Etching Manufacturer
Advanced Metal Etching has been working with other metal fabricators to provide photo chemical etching services that help fill in capability gaps. We're here for you when you want to provide your customer with an all-around solution, so they can get their parts complete and on time!
Capacity and Location
Centrally located in the United States near major industrial areas is ideal for quick delivery. Our large facility has room for growth as services expand. We have the capacity to help scale your business.
American Made Custom Manufacturers
Purchasing raw materials made in the USA, allows us to control the quality in and out of our facility. All material is RoHS and DFARS compliant.
Beginning with design and continuing with material prep, production, and inspection, we check each stage and document quality processes before the final product ships. Our employees are cross-trained in many of the operations, and a customized order tracking system aids in project and time management. Customer inquiries or modifications are easily addressed. We are ISO 9001:2015 Certified and ITAR Registered and JCP approved.
We have been in business for over 25 years, including many on our management team. Therefore, we have a broad knowledge of metal etching techniques as it applies to different product applications. We value our employees and long-standing domestic and international customers.
Same-day responses to inquiries and RFQs are the norm. Our production tracking system will ensure the minimal lead time and allow flexibility when there is a request or need for changes. In most cases, with AME PARTS NOW, we can transform raw material into prototype parts in 24 hours or less if requested.
We offer in-house post-production tin plating and partner with other plating, forming and finishing services companies to give you the option of complete turnkey parts.