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Photochemical Etching

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

Parts are fabricated by precisely exposing sheet metal to high intensity light and acidic chemicals. Due to the unique features of this process, photochemical etching provides a precise and economical option for industrial metal etching. Read More…

Photochemical Etching Photochemical etching, also known as photo etching or photochemical machining, is a process used to manufacture many different kinds of sheet metal products.
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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, Titanium, Nitinol, Nickel, Kovar and many others.

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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 have over 60 years of experience in Chem Etching, and we 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. $$$

Lancaster, PA  |  800-522-9709

Photochemical machining is the process we use on aluminum (and alloys), brass, copper, inconels, kovar, metal foils (less than .001” thick), metal sheets (up to .125” thick), mild steels, molybdenum, monels, nickel, phosphor bronze, stainless (300 & 400) and others. Trust your metal etching needs to us.

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Lancaster Metals Science Corporation $$$

Newark, NY  |  315-331-7680

Our metal engraving is the best in the industry! We work with a variety of metals to come out with the finished product that you have been searching for. Our metals that we use are typically flat sheets that are coiled or blanks that are cut to size. We are committed to providing excellent customer service every time you do business with us. Get in touch with our staff today or fill out the easy form on our website to get started!

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NEWCUT, Incorporated $$$
placeholder image Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. VACCO Industries, Inc. Lancaster Metals Science Corporation NEWCUT, Incorporated

As its name suggests, photochemical etching utilizes light and chemical reactions to remove material, which means that it will require a very different procedure than mechanical etching processes. Instead of using a cutting tool, photo etching uses what is called a phototool.

Using CAD software, engineers create negative images of the sheet metal parts they wish to create. These negative images are then printed on two sheets of photographic film. The phototool is comprised of these two printed film sheets.

Once the phototool is ready, the sheet metal is thoroughly cleaned and laminated on both sides with a layer of light sensitive film called a photoresist. After lamination, the metal sheet is placed between the two halves of the phototool and exposed to high intensity UV light.

The phototool ensures that only certain parts of the metal surface are exposed to the UV light. The photoresist in these exposed areas hardens, while the hidden areas remain soluble. A developing solution washes away the soluble photoresist film, leaving sections of hardened film on the surface of the metal.

After the metal is developed, the sheet is placed on a conveyor which passes through an etching machine. The etching machine contains spray nozzles above and below the conveyor, and each sprays a heated solution of acid onto the two surfaces of the sheet metal.

As the acid comes in contact with the unprotected metal surface, it quickly corrodes away the metal. Once the sheet metal exits the machine, all that remains is the desired parts which were protected by the photoresist. Finally, the parts are rinsed, and the rest of the photoresist is removed.

The photo etching process is utilized in a diverse range of applications and industries due to the many benefits it provides. Photochemical etching has the capability to produce small and complex parts with great precision, making it ideal for use in the electronics and hardware industries.

Common products manufactured using photochemical machining include fine screens, metal gaskets, sensors, circuit components, washers, apertures, and more. Unlike mechanical etching methods, photo etching does not produce sharp edges or burrs, and it leaves the physical properties of the metal unchanged.

The process works well with practically any metal and works most effectively on metal sheets between 0.0005 and .080 inches in thickness. Another advantage to photochemical etching is its relatively lower cost. The real savings come in the form of reduced tooling costs.

Phototools are substantially less expensive than mechanical tools, and it takes significantly less time to create them. This makes photochemical machining a particularly good option for prototyping as changes can be made quickly and affordably.

In addition, since the phototool is only exposed to light, maintenance and repair costs are practically eliminated. For quick turnaround on precision etching, photochemical etching provides a reliable and economical solution.

Photochemical Etching Informational Video