Metal etching, also known and chemical etching or photo etching, is a subtractive metal machining process which uses etchant chemistry to produce complex, highly accurate metal components.
This etching process offers a fast, economical alternative to stamping, punching, laser and water jet cutting when machining feature dense, tight tolerance components from almost any thin gauge metal to 1.5mm thick.Download our chemical etching whitepaper
Chemical etching uses digital tooling, which means design changes can be carried out quickly. This process also means design optimisation is risk-free without financial penalty.
No mechanical force or heat is used during the metal etching process, ensuring material properties are unaltered and components are free from stresses and burrs.
As component features are machined simultaneously almost limitless part complexity is achievable, with accuracy to ±0.025mm.
The benefits of chemical etching at a glance:
The chemical etching process works by ‘printing’ a component design onto photoresist which is laminated onto metal. The areas of photoresist which have not been printed are removed, exposing the metal, which is subsequently etched away.
Click below to see a step by step guide to how each stage of the chemical etching process works.
Almost all metals can be photo etched. Precision Micro holds more than 2,000 metal types in stock, in thicknesses from 0.010mm – 1.5mm and sheet sizes to 600mm x 1500mm.
The selected material is chemically cleaned and degreased to remove debris, waxes and rolling oils.
Photo-sensitive resist is applied to the sheet in class 10,000 clean conditions using automated cut-sheet-lamination. We developed this process to improve adhesion, essential for highly repeatable, blemish-free components.
Using laser direct imaging (LDI), a technology more accurate than conventional photo-tooling, the component design is transferred to the photo-resist by exposing the sheet to ultraviolet (UV) light.
The unexposed resist is removed to expose raw metal. The remaining photo-resist, which has been hardened by UV light, will protect the component during etching.
Etch-chemistry is sprayed onto the developed sheet. The etch-time is determined by a skilled etch technician using variables including metal type, grade, thickness and size. Precision Micro’s etch technicians have a minimum of five years’ experience, the knowledge required to handle the wide range of metals we supply.
The remaining photo-resist is removed from the sheet to reveal the etched component.
The component is visually and dimensional inspected. Precision Micro guarantees repeatability levels approaching Six Sigma standard, supported by a best-in-class in-house metrology facility.
Precision Micro combines photo etching with in-house forming and finishing, offering single source supply of 3-D, polished, bonded and plated components.
Almost any metal can be etched, these include:
We also work with customer supplied material. Please contact us for more information.
Precision Micro has pioneered photo etching for over half a century, setting the standard for accuracy and repeatability. Our 10-strong technical team includes PhD and degree-qualified engineers, metallurgists and chemists, pioneers of advanced production techniques for components and materials once thought too difficult —even impossible —to photo etch.
We are the only photo etching company accredited to AS 9100, IATF 16949, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 13485, so you can rely on the stability and capability of our processes. Our robust quality systems are underpinned by a continuous quality improvement programme which ensures repeatability levels approaching Six Sigma standards.
At 44,000 sq ft, our state-of-the-art photo etching plant offers the largest sheet etching capacity in Europe. Key technologies include a class 10,000 clean room, cut-sheet lamination for blemish-free components, laser direct imaging for finer components, Europe’s largest, fastest most reliable titanium etching service, product-specific manufacturing cells and a best-in-class in-house metrology facility.
We specialise in etching proprietary super-alloys which exhibit excellent mechanical strength, resistance to thermal creep deformation, good surface stability and resistance to corrosion or oxidation.
We stock the widest range of standard and specialist material types and grades in thicknesses from 0.010mm-1.5mm and in sheet sizes to 600mm x 1500mm.
We have sales offices and partners in locations that enable us to respond quickly to customer requirements. Our sales engineering team has first-hand knowledge of photo etching and can advise on design parameters which lower manufacturing costs.
We offer a number of additional in-house services which can be combined with photo etching to produce components with greater accuracy, unique characteristics and improved functionality, reducing customers’ supplier base and time-to-market.
Precision Micro is well-invested, enabling us to deliver the levels of product quality, productivity and competitiveness expected by major international companies.