What Is Photo Chemical Etching

What Is Photo Chemical Etching

Photo chemical etching, is also know as Photo chemical machining (PCM) and photo chemical milling or photo etching, is a chemical milling process used to fabricate sheet metal components with high precision demand, using a photo resist and etchants to corrosively dissolve selected areas.

How Photo Chemical Etching Works

We start with drawing. Customers can send CAD files and our artwork engineers will convert it into film after checking all the details, maybe make some necessary changes. This is a fast process, can be finished in one or two hours, and also very easy to make any modification.

While making films, the other preparing can be proceeded, cutting metal into appropriate size, cleaning will ensure the photo resist sticking on the metal surface firmly. Then, clean metal sheet with photo resist is placed between on two pieces of film for the next process named exposure.

Exposure is using UV light to make light-sensitive resist on shaded area soft and the transparent area harden. Exposing only takes a few seconds. And then come to developing, resist will be washed away on shaded area and the others keep resist-coated.

With all these steps finished, the prepared metal sheet will be put into etching machine. The etchant sprays on the metal from up and bottom side, which we call both-side etching. Each side etches half of thickness, the cut out holes will be done. So far, you can see all the details made by chemical etching. The last step, photo resist is stripped, the metal surface are clean and shinny.

What Metal Can Be Etched

Photo chemical etching can be used on virtually any commercially available metal or alloy, of any hardness. We can etch materials with a thickness of 0.03mm to 1.0mm. Metals include aluminum, brass, copper, nickel, silver, steel, stainless steel, zinc and titanium.

Chemical Etching Application

There are a variety of industries involved in the photo etching field, automotive, medical, aerospace, military, energy, electronics and decoration & gifts. Etching fabrication provides many thin metal parts for these industries in a cost-effective way. We are good at etching parts for consumer electronics industry, offering copper vapor chamber, shims, mesh, grills and more.

What benefits?

Etching can offer economical alternatives to laser cutting, metal stamping, punching, electric discharge machining, and water jet cutting or other traditional manufacturing for thin gauge precision parts.

The tooling is not expensive and quick, which is very helpful for prototyping and allows changes in mass production. Comparing to the price, customers usually focus more on the metal properties.

The biggest advantage of photo chemical machining process is that it doesn’t cause unnecessary damage to the material as it only impacts the exposed areas of the metal, so it is stress-free, burr-free and stain-free. Tight tolerance is achievable through etching.