Chemical Etching Process

Complex, burr and stress-free components with pinpoint precision.

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What is Chemical Etching?

Chemical etching, also known as photochemical machining or photo etching, is a subtractive sheet metal machining process which uses chemical etchants to create complex and highly accurate precision components from almost any metal.

How does chemical etching work?

The chemical etching process works by ‘printing’ a component design onto photoresist which is laminated onto sheet metal. The areas of photoresist which have not been printed are removed, exposing the metal, which is subsequently etched away.

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Chemical etching benefits

By leveraging the benefits of photochemical etching technology, we can offer a highly cost-effective way to profile, shape and enhance parts for precision products and applications – with the accuracy, speed and unique properties that simply aren’t possible with traditional sheet metalworking techniques.

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Unlimited complexity at a fixed price

No hard tooling icon

No expensive hard tooling required

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Superfast, low-cost design iterations

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Lead-times in days, not months

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Suitable for virtually any metal

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Accuracy to ±0.025mm

Comprehensive range of materials

Chemical etching can be applied to virtually any metal, regardless of its hardness or temper. Each year we process over 100 tonnes of sheet metal, encompassing over 2,000 metal types – more than any other chemical etching supplier. This not only provides our customers with purchasing economies but also ensures ready availability of a wide variety of metals in our stock.

Typical Etched Components

Our chemical etching service is exceptionally versatile, catering to both one-off prototypes and high-volume production needs. This versatility allows us to serve a diverse range of specialist component applications.

Chemical etching FAQs

What is the maximum/minimum component size suitable for chemical etching?

Sheet metals between 0.010 mm and 2.5 mm thick, and up to 600 mm x 1500 mm in size are suitable for chemical etching.

The thicker the part the longer it takes to etch, meaning metals above 2.5 mm are often uneconomical to process.

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How accurate is chemical etching?

Photochemical etching can achieve exceptional accuracy. The standard minimum etching tolerances stand at ±10% of the metal thickness or ±0.020 mm, whichever is greater.

To push accuracy boundaries further, we strongly advise involving Precision Micro’s engineers right from the outset of your design process. This collaborative approach allows us to develop a customised manufacturing process that aligns with your specific requirements.

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What level of detail can chemical etching achieve?

The minimum standard etched opening achievable is 0.1 mm, or 0.020mm for depth-etched features such as microfluidic channels. Again, with development etching can achieve even finer features.

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What are the minimum and maximum quantities chemical etching can produce?

Chemical etching offers unrivalled flexibility, allowing the production of components without any minimum or maximum quantity limitations.

At Precision Micro, we take pride in our ability to cater to a wide range of demands, delivering component quantities that span from single units to millions. Our streamlined manufacturing processes ensure that no matter the scale, each component receives the same level of precision and quality.

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How much does chemical etching cost?

When considering cost in chemical etching, material type, thickness and component size play crucial roles. Thicker sheets often require more etching time, while ultra-thin sheets may involve additional processing steps, both contributing to higher overall component costs.

At Precision Micro, our experienced team can guide you through these considerations, ensuring the best possible outcome for your project.

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How long does chemical etching take?

Chemical etching offers lead times measured in days, not weeks or months, setting it apart from traditional metal machining technologies.

For standard components that require no additional post-processing, our typical supply time is less than two working weeks, depending on our production capacity and material availability. However, in situations where urgent demands arise, we are fully equipped to expedite the process, providing even quicker turnaround times.

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Chemical Etching Whitepaper

Learn how chemical etching can overcome the limitations of traditional sheet metal machining technologies.