Metal Etching Process

Metal etched components with pinpoint accuracy.

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What is Metal Etching?

Metal etching is a subtractive sheet metal machining process. Also referred to as photochemical machining or chemical etching, It employs chemical etchants to produce intricate and highly accurate precision components from virtually any type of metal.

What is the metal etching process?

The chemical etching process

Metal etching involves UV printing a component design onto photoresist-laminated sheet metal. The non-printed photoresist areas are removed, exposing the metal. Subsequently, the exposed metal is etched away, resulting in intricately shaped and precise components.

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Metal etching benefits

Through harnessing the advantages of metal etching technology, we can provide a remarkably cost-effective method to profile, shape and enhance parts for precision products and applications. This process offers unparalleled accuracy, speed and distinctive properties that go beyond the capabilities of traditional sheet metalworking techniques.

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Unlimited complexity at a fixed price

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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 metals

Metal etching can be applied to virtually any metal, regardless of its hardness or temper. Annually, we process over 100 tonnes of sheet metal, covering more than 2,000 metal types – surpassing any other chemical etching supplier. This not only offers purchasing advantages to our customers but also ensures a wide variety of metals readily available in our stock.

Typical Etched Components

With our metal etching service, we cater to both one-off prototypes and high-volume production requirements. This versatility enables us to accommodate a wide range of specialist component applications.

Metal etching FAQs

What sizes of components can metal etching produce?

Metal etching is compatible with sheet metals ranging from 0.010 mm to 2.5 mm in thickness and up to 600 mm x 1500 mm in size. However, note that thicker parts may require longer etching times, making metals above 2.5 mm often uneconomical for processing.

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How accurate is metal etching?

Metal etching achieves excellent accuracy with standard minimum etching tolerances at ±10% of the metal thickness, down to a minimum of ±0.020 mm.

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What level of detail can metal etching achieve?

The minimum standard etched opening achievable is 0.1 mm, while for depth-etched features like microfluidic channels, it is 0.020 mm. Through further development, metal etching can achieve even finer features.

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

Metal etching provides the flexibility to produce components without any minimum or maximum quantity limitations, owing to the cost-effective digital tooling used. As a leading global sheet metal etching company, Precision Micro caters to diverse customer needs, delivering component quantities ranging from single units to millions.

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How much does metal etching cost?

Cost considerations in metal etching are influenced by material thickness and component size. Components are priced by the sheet, so maximising parts per sheet lowers unit prices. However, thicker sheets may require more etching time, affecting the overall component cost.

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How long does metal etching take?

Metal etching lead times are measured in days, not weeks or months, setting it apart from traditional metal machining technologies. Depending on quantities and capacity, standard components with no additional post-processing can be delivered in under two working weeks, while urgent demands can be met even faster.

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Chemical Etching Whitepaper

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