Photo Engraving

A reliable source for Metal Etching information and leading Metal Etching Companies

It is still a chemical process and utilizes the same masking and etching technique, with one significant difference: instead of using masking material and cutting out the area to be etched, a photoresist is applied and developed through a patterned exposure to light. Read More…

Photo Engraving Photo engraving, often called photo etching or photochemical milling, is a process very similar to regular chemical etching or chemical milling.

Leading Manufacturers

Maple Grove, MN  |  763-425-4755

Great Lakes Engineering is a trend setting manufacturer of surface mount stencils, precision laser cut parts, and photo chemical etched parts. We work with a wide range of materials, including Stainless Steel, Copper, Brass, Titanium, Nitinol, Nickel, Kovar and many others. We do not work with glass, plastics, or aluminum. Our specialty is working with very thin materials ranging from .001” to .030” thick. We can offer a wide range of capabilities and materials to meet your needs.

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Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. $$$

El Monte, CA  |  626-443-7121

VACCO is the industry leader of Photo Chemical Etching of metal & polyimide components and devices. We specialize in Stainless steel, Titanium, and Copper, but work with a variety of different materials. We over 60 years of experience in Chem Etching, and we also offer Micro Laser Cutting & Welding, and Diffusion & Adhesive Bonding services along with an extensive range of value-added services. Whether your application is large or small, VACCO can assist you from prototype to production.

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VACCO Industries, Inc. $$$

Elkhart, IN  |  574-293-3342

The Micro Etch Technologies process offers many technical & financial advantages in manufacturing so many flat metal components. Try this precision etching, non-mechanical process for competitively priced, burr & stress free sheet metal products, up to 62 mil (.062”) thick. Our photo-chemical machining process is also known as photo-fabrication, photo etching, chemical milling & acid etching.

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Micro Etch Technologies $$$

Roseville, MI  |  800-345-0568

Microphoto has been an industry leader in photochemical machining for more than a quarter century. We have used the chemical milling process on such items as connectors, electronic parts, fasteners, gaskets, shims, signs, springs, stampings, surgical blades and many other products.

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Microphoto, Inc. $$$

San Jose, CA  |  408-214-0454

Since 1967, Elcon has been known for our advanced photochemical machining process. By tightly controlling every aspect of this process, We are capable of precisely etching 3D surfaces, and producing parts with extremely dif?cult requirements. For more information on what we can do for you get in touch with Elcon today!

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Elcon Precision LLC $$$
placeholder image Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. VACCO Industries, Inc. Micro Etch Technologies Microphoto, Inc. Elcon Precision LLC

The result is the same; the undeveloped areas of the photoresist protect the metal's surface from being etched, while the developed areas are washed away and exposed to etching agents.

Photo etching and engraving is often used not only on metals, but on glass as well; this technique allows photos or complex images to be engraved rather inexpensively into decorative items.

Like chemical milling and etching, the first step to photo engraving is to clean the metal surface. Next a thin layer of photoresist is laid on the area to be etched. This photoresist protects the metal surface not being engraved but also breaks down under targeted ultraviolet light exposure over the metal surfaces which are to be engraved. The developing process, as with photography, can be reversed; positive or negative working photoresists may be used.

After the photoresist has been applied, the metal is exposed to a precise light pattern. Negative and positive working photoresists achieve different types of images and desired results.

If the photoresist is negative working, the exposed portion will protect the metal while the unexposed portion will dissolve away when chemicals are applied. If the photoresist is positive working, the metal portion exposed to light will dissolve under chemicals while the rest remains.

After the metal has been exposed to a light pattern, a specific chemical will be applied in varying strength and force, again, depending on the desired depth of cut, sideways etch, etc. After the acid has achieved its desired etch, both the ferric chloride and the remaining photoresist are stripped.

The metal is polished, any irregularities in the cut are burnished, and the etching is finished. The benefits of using photo engraving as opposed to regular chemical milling or manual engraving are substantial.

Chemical milling requires parts of the masking to be cut and removed, whereas with photo engraving, the surface merely needs to be exposed to a pattern of light and the photoresist rinsed.

Photo etching allows for much more complex patterns and images to be laid and this is often the only way to etch photos or intricate designs. Photo etching is achieved more quickly and cost-effectively than regular chemical milling.

Photo Engraving Informational Video