what is chemical etching?

Chemical etching (also known as photo-chemical machining (PCM), acid etching, etching aluminium, photochemical etching and chemical milling) is as precise as it is quick and economical.

Complicated, multi-level, multi-feature, high-precision parts can be produced without the need for expensive tooling or machinery. Rapid prototypes can be produced from your drawings in a matter of days, with production then quickly scaled to industrial levels.

chemical etching process


precision

How small do you need to go?

Since the biggest design challenges often involve the smallest and most precise part of your product, it’s important to know the precision of a manufacturing method. With chemical etching, you can go as small as 25 μm, making it one of the most high-precision manufacturing processes. Photo chemical etching is especially suitable when round holes, sharp edges and straight or profiled edges are desired.

quality

Quality: Aesthetics matter too

With chemical etching, you can create ultra-smooth burr- and stress-free parts with a high cosmetic finish, which is important for many applications. Chemical etching is especially suitable when round holes, sharp edges and straight or profiled edges are desired.

Challenge us to develop a prototype for you and we can prove it to you.

lead time

Lead time: Rapid prototyping
If you need prototypes — and you need them fast — then chemical etching is the way to go. With this subtractive manufacturing method, prototypes can be produced from drawings in a matter of days. Moreover, it allows you to move from prototyping to industrial-scale production almost instantly.

chemical
etching and
tolerance

If tight tolerances are a strict requirement for your product, Chemical Etching can be a good option, compared to traditional manufacturing processes. Tolerance typically seen on chemically etched features is only around +/- 10% of the parts’ thickness.

We deal with thicknesses of 25 µm to 2mm. Generally 10% of material thickness with a minimum tolerance of 12μm is possible.

Feature size and tolerance are subject to:

  • metal type
  • metal thickness
  • sheet size
  • nature of pattern to be etched

materials

If the metal you require is not listed here, we can discuss your specification.

  • Range of austenitic, ferritic and martensitic 
stainless steels
  • mild steel, carbon steel, tool steel, spring steel
  • Aluminium, including aircraft /aerospace grades
  • Brass, phosphor bronze, beryllium copper, 
nickel silver
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel alloys: Inconels, mu-metal, alloy 42 
(Nilo 42), Invar, Kovar
  • Copper: Including C110 and C101

the chemical etching process

Chemical etching (or acid etching, photo etching or etching aluminium) is a precise process that employs certain chemicals (etchants) that corrode and dissolve unwanted materials.

In order to achieve the desired pattern or design, a photo-resist is used as an outline so that the chemicals don’t dissolve away the entire material. This is an extremely accurate process which is why chemical etching is used in many cases instead of traditional machining as the results contain no burrs, rough edges or misshapen parts.

etching aluminium

Aluminium has long been used in many varying industries thanks to its properties; low density, high thermal conductivity, non-toxic and resistance to corrosion to name just a few. So it stands to reason that we’d also want to employ aluminium in our etching process.

The above goes for etching stainless steel too: an industry-standard 
metal that again has fantastic properties to make its use in diverse fields a necessity. Stainless steel is, in fact, so versatile that even after the chemical etching process, it doesn’t need finishing.

This also translates to a quicker overall production time. Chemical etching (also known as photo chemical etching and photo chemical machining PCM) reduces the production period anyway thanks to digital tooling which allows for this time to be reduced from weeks and months (like laser or machine tooling) to days.

view the chemical etching video

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