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Chemical Etching

Photo Etching is flexible,
highly accurate and cost
effective at any volume.

The photo etching process is known by many names,
including chemical etching, acid etching and photo
chemical machining (PCM).

Photo chemical etching, a precise and versatile manufacturing process, offers a plethora of benefits and features that make it a preferred method for creating intricate metal components across various industries. This process boasts numerous advantages and can manufacture a wide array of metal components with exceptional precision and detail.

Features of Chemical Etching:

  1. Precision and Accuracy: Chemical etching allows for the creation of highly precise and accurate components with tight tolerances. It achieves fine details and intricate patterns with consistency across production batches.
  2. Material Versatility: This method is compatible with various metals, including stainless steel, copper, brass, nickel, and alloys like nickel silver. Such versatility permits manufacturers to select the ideal material for specific applications while benefiting from the precision of the etching process.
  3. Complex Geometries: Chemical etching excels at producing components with intricate and complex shapes, enabling the creation of designs that might be challenging or impossible to achieve through conventional machining methods.
  4. Scalability: The process is adaptable for both small-scale prototyping and large-scale production runs without significant alterations in setup or tooling. This scalability makes it cost-effective for diverse batch sizes.
  5. Minimal Material Stress: Unlike some traditional machining methods, chemical etching induces minimal stress on the metal, preserving its structural integrity. This characteristic is particularly advantageous for materials prone to distortion or hardening during machining.
  6. Cost-Efficient Tooling: Chemical etching eliminates the need for expensive tooling, such as molds or dies, reducing initial setup costs. Digital modifications to designs can be made without altering physical tools, making it more cost-effective for design iterations

    Utilising flat sheet metal to manufacture high quality and accurate parts and components for a variety of businesses and industries, Qualitetch offers the very best service possible in the marketplace.

As well as providing businesses with their components within a short timescale, the method of production allows for high levels of accuracy, minimal margins for error, and is also cost-effective in both high and low volume orders. Depending on your choice of material and thickness of the metals used, the level of accuracy we are able to achieve can be assured from within +-0.010mm tolerances.

Benefits of Chemical Etching:

  1. High Precision and Consistency: Chemical etching ensures consistent and precise results across production batches. The process's repeatability is crucial for industries demanding uniformity in mass production, such as electronics and aerospace.
  2. Intricate Designs and Fine Detailing: It excels in producing intricate and fine details on metal surfaces, critical for applications in electronics, where tiny, precise components are necessary.
  3. Complex Part Manufacturing: Chemical etching enables the creation of intricate components with varying depths, thicknesses, and surface finishes. This capability is essential in producing components for medical devices, automotive parts, and microelectronics.
  4. Customisation and Prototyping: It facilitates rapid prototyping and customization. Design alterations can be swiftly implemented without significant cost implications, facilitating faster product development cycles.
  5. Material Integrity Preservation: Chemical etching maintains the properties of the base material without introducing heat-affected zones or altering the material's structure, ensuring the final product retains its original characteristics.
  6. Time and Cost Efficiency: The process is generally faster than traditional machining methods, reducing lead times for production. Moreover, its ability to create intricate designs without extensive tooling lowers overall production costs.
  7. Environmental Friendliness: Chemical etching is relatively environmentally friendly. The chemicals used can be recycled, and the process generates minimal waste compared to traditional machining methods.

Metal Components Manufactured via Chemical Etching:

The chemical etching process is adept at manufacturing a diverse range of metal components, including:

  1. Electronic Components: Such as connector contacts, lead frames, shielding, and various microelectronic parts requiring precise patterns and high conductivity.
  2. Medical Devices: Components for surgical instruments, implantable devices, and diagnostic equipment, where intricate and biocompatible parts are essential.
  3. Aerospace Parts: Critical components like heat exchangers, shims, and fuel cell plates, requiring lightweight materials and complex designs.
  4. Automotive Parts: Precision parts like gaskets, meshes, sensors, and electrical contacts, where durability and accuracy are paramount.
  5. Decorative and Functional Items: From jewelry and decorative elements to precise mechanical components used in various industries.

In summary, chemical etching stands as a versatile and precise manufacturing process that offers a multitude of benefits. Its ability to produce intricate designs, maintain material integrity, and facilitate cost-effective production makes it an ideal method for manufacturing high-precision metal components used across industries like electronics, aerospace, automotive, medical, and decorative arts.

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Watch the Video Photo Chemical Etching Process | 27 mins

Photo Etching Process

The photo etching process produces metal components that are both stress-free and burr-free compared to more traditional manufacturing methods – ensuring that your end product is as both accurate and precise to your drawings.

Metal Selection

Qualitetch offer a huge range of metals for etching including: Stainless Steels, Carbon Spring Steels, Copper, Brass, Nickel Silver, Mild steel, Phosphor Bronze, Silver, Beryllium Copper, Aluminium, Nickel, Mu Metal, Alloy 42, Alloy 52 & Many Others.

Metal Cleaning Process

In order to ensure perfect parts every time, we need to clean the sheet metal to remove any impurities from the sheets surface before manufacturing your designs. This involves passing the metal sheets slowly through acid or alkaline solutions and rinsed prior to laminating, printing and developing.

Metal Cleaning

Metal cleaning involves passing the sheets slowly through conveyorised acid or alkaline solutions and rinsed clean prior to the lamination, printing and developing stages, depending on the sheet metal choice required.

Preparation - Lamination

Once cleaned the metal sheets are coated with a UV sensitive photo resist, which melts to sheet in preparation for the printing process.

Preparation - Printing

The printing process involves us taking your chosen profile design and applying it to a two sided top and bottom acetate photo film mask, that we then print your design onto the UV sensitive photo resist.

Preparation - Developing

Once the metal sheet is printed with your chosen design, we then need to develop the sheet. This process effectively washes away the fine lines of the profile we are cutting, leaving raw metal track lines ready for the etching process to work it's magic very precisely.

Photo Chemical Etching

The etching process itself is an acid, usually ferric chloride, that effectively eats it's way through the metal at a known rate to ensure precision and targeted only in the areas you wish to remove, such as the profile track lines or other holes and features such a mesh. The rest of the sheet is masked by the UV photo sensitive blue resist, to protect the metal from the etchant until the parts are complete. This can be a very useful in a manufacturing process as the design can be very complex or include tabs or half etch fold bend lines at no added cost as you simply print your design rather than needing expensive machining time. Following an on-line dimensional check, all that is then required, is for us to strip and remove the UV photo sensitive resist coating and the parts are ready for full QA Inspection.

QA Inspection

At Qualitetch we offer various levels of QA inspection depending on our customers needs, as we supply both major blue chip businesses all over the world as well as smaller local businesses and anywhere in-between, as the photo etching process is very versatile. We have various automated optical equipment to ensure you parts are accurately supplied to your drawings. We also offer levels of inspection including 100% inspection, PPAP levels, batch inspection, First article inspection (FAIR) and bespoke customer inspection as required.

Final Product

Once the parts are fully inspected and passed they are ready to be packed and sent to the customer, or for additional processes such as plating, forming, soldering, spot-welding, machining, EDM wire erosion, heat treatment or any other bespoke services required, such as assembly.

Benefits of Photo Etching

Precise Tooling

The photo-tool artwork for photo chemical etching is free of charge here at Qualitetch, as we like to invest in our customers future.

Risk-Free Design

With the ability to produce rapid prototypes with short lead times, the complexity of your design is often not an issue. We will manufacture to your required drawings and to your exacting standards.

Right First Time

The chemical etching process does not use mechanical force or heat, which means that the metals properties remain unchanged. The temper of material is also not altered and parts are completely burr-free and stress-free.

No Finishing Required

Our metal etching process leaves no rough edges or burrs, therefore no additional deburring process is often required.

A variety of Thicknesses

A huge variety of different material types and thicknesses can be photo etched, ranging from 0.0127mm through to 1.60mm thick.

Tolerances From ±0.025mm

As your components features are all etched simultaneously, the complexity achievable can be impressive with profile tolerances achievable from ±0.025mm.

Just some metals we can photo etch...

We can offer your component parts using various precision strip metals. Here are just some examples;

Ready to discuss your component design?

Please fill out our enquiry request form below and one of our Sales engineers will get straight back to you.

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