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What is Photo Etching?

photo etched metal part showing the creative finish that can be achieved with chemical etching

Photo etched metal component

What is Photo Etching?

Photo etching, which is also known as chemi etching, chemical etching or photo chemical milling (PCM) is a manufacturing process which uses ferric chloride as an etching chemistry to produce intricate and highly precise precision metal components.

Metal etching offers a very fast turnaround alternate solution to other processes such as stamping, punching, water jet or laser cutting particularly for very fine feature complex metal components from 0.0127mm – 1.60mm thick in most metal types.


How does the process work?

  • The metal is cut, cleaned and then laminated with a blue UV photo-sensitive resist, which is then printed with your desired CAD artwork design profile.
  • After printing your design, the metal is then developed, which effectively washes away any unexposed photo-resist from the print process, leaving a raw metal profile track line for the etchant chemistry to etch through the metal.
  • After etching out the profile design, we simply remove the blue UV photo-sensitive resist to leave the raw metal parts either loose or tabbed into the larger fretwork sheet.
  • Click the link here to see the complete photo etching process start to finish https://youtu.be/xZANSwZ8cI0


Metal Etching Benefits include:

  • Photo etching is a completely burr free and stress-free process with no mechanical force or heat being applied to the metal parts during production.
  • Artwork is in CAD format and transferred to an acetate photo-tool, therefore any design changes are very simple amend and very fast implement and cost effective. We offer FREE photo-tool artwork at Qualitetch, once you supply a DXF of your required profile, but many of our competitors charge up to £100+ for this service.
  • Our photo etching process does not recognise the complexity of your design therefore components with many holes such as meshes can be manufactured at no additional cost than a simple shape profile.
  • Tolerances offered from +-0.025mm dependent on material type and thickness.
  • FAST lead-times with parts available within a few days.

What metals do we work with?

Stainless steels and spring & mild steels
Nickel and nickel alloys
Copper and copper alloys

If we can assist with your next metal component project then please contact our sales team today on 01354 658787 sales@qualitetch.com or www.qualitetch.com for more info.