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Complexity without cost: Channels and pipes in metal


One of the nice features of Photo Etching is the ability to surface etch and etch through the metals all at one time.

Photo Etching is therefore ideal for manufacturing heat sinks, heat exchangers and microfluidic devices, which are used to transfer fluids.

These pipes and channels can be constructed through lamination of etched sheets.

Unlike other manufacturing processes, Photo Etching produces a non-directional surface finish. This is excellent for fluid transport.

Lamination is ideally carried out with very flat sheets. CNC machining and stamping can distort the sheet material, making it difficult to produce a good uniform lamination.

In a typical photo etch machine the size of the component is only limited by the width of the conveyer, so you could produce a large component up to 750mm in width, or many thousands of small components only a few millimetres in width.

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Photo Etching and Material Properties

Automated Optical Inspection

The advantages of Photo Chemical Etching as a machining process

Video Transcript

Photo Etching is a non conventional machining process that rivals laser cutting, wire electro discharge machining (Wire EDM) and stamping, to produce components. Dependant upon the component design, photo etching can be a very economic method of manufacture.

The most economic production method depends to some extent on the thickness of the component you are manufacturing.

If we consider a simple component, such as a washer, you normally find for very large volumes you would resort to Stamping, where you can invest in hard tooling. If you only want to make one or two prototypes, then perhaps you might use Wire EDM. In between those extremes there is a battle between Photo Etching and Laser Cutting.

If we look at a 2mm thick simple component, it becomes less economic to make small quantities by Wire EDM, and Photo Chemical Machining is pushed out to a certain extent by Laser Cutting, because it takes a long time to etch through a very thick material.

Photo Etching etching really excels when you are producing very complex parts. Unlike Laser Cutting, we etch all of the features simultaneously, so the more complex the component, the more the economics favour Photo Etching as a method of production.

The tooling for Stamping can be extremely expensive, because it may entail making many tool sets. With Photo Etching, we can etch 20 or 30 tonnes of metal per week and still make very complex parts, very economically.

Photo Chemical Machining

Photo Etching (also known as chemical etching, photo chemical machining, chemical milling or PCM) is an exceptional process for manufacturing flat metal components by chemical erosion. It produces burr-free, stress-free parts with exceptionally accurate fine detail, from a wide range of metals, very economically and in a very short timeframe.

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Laser Evolved Micromachining (LEEP & LEEF)

The essence of Laser Evolved Micromachining is the ability to combine laser technology’s ultra precision with the scale economies offered by other precision manufacturing processes, namely Advanced Electroforming and Photo Etching.

The high definition and precision of these new process routes takes the Company’s manufacturing capabilities, already in the ultra high precision range, firmly into the realms of true micro manufacturing.

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Company Overview

Precision Micro is one of the largest specialist metal component manufacturers in Europe, innovating, developing and utilizing a unique combination of manufacturing processes to meet the needs of customers worldwide.

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