Benefits at a glance
- Unlimited complexity – you only pay for the first hole
- No expensive hard tooling
- Low-cost design iterations – fast
- Burr-free, stress-free and flat
- Lead-times in days, not months
- Virtually any metal
- Accuracy to ±0.025mm
What is photo etching?
Photo etching, also known as chemical etching or metal etching, is a highly precise, tightly controlled corrosion process used to produce complex metal components with very fine detail.
The photo etching process offers a cost-effective alternative to stamping, punching, laser and waterjet cutting when machining precision components from thin gauge metals to 1.5mm thick.
How it works
- Sheet metal is laminated with photoresist, a light-sensitive polymer which is exposed with UV-light to transfer the CAD image of the component.
- The unexposed photoresist is removed (developed) then sprayed with etchant chemistry, removing the unprotected metal atom by atom.
- The protective photoresist mask is removed (stripped) to reveal the final etched component.
Photo etching benefits
- Photo-etch tooling is digital, meaning no expensive hard tooling needs to be machined. Photo-tooling can be produced and modified extremely quickly allowing for low-cost, risk-free design optimisation.
- When component integrity is critical, photo etching is often the only suitable metal machining technology as metal properties are unaffected.
- No mechanical force or heat is used during the etching process, meaning components are free from stresses and burrs.
- Photo etching is the most economical option for producing custom parts with complex designs as cost rarely ever increases with design complexity.
What metals can be etched?
Almost any metal can be etched. Typical materials include:
- Steel and stainless steels
- Nickel and nickel alloys
- Copper and copper alloys
- Titanium and titanium alloys
- Other specialist metals including molybdenum and polyimide metallised film
We also work with customer supplied material on request. Please contact us for information.
Precision Micro: The market-leading photo etching company
Precision Micro supplies major global manufacturing customers across multiple markets with more than 50 million high-precision metal components each year.
By collaborating with us at every stage of the product development cycle, we can achieve the most cost-effective, timely and accurate outcomes to your design engineering challenges.
Here are a few reasons why
- Unrivalled know-how – Precision Micro has pioneered etching technology for over half a century
- Proven capability – AS 9100, IATF 16949, ISO 9001, ISO 13485 and ISO 14001 accredited
- Largest capacity – 44,000 sq ft state-of-the-art photo etching plant
- Material know-how – we specialise in etching hard-to-machine metals
- 2,000+ metal variants – standard and specialist material types and grades
- Global support – we have sales offices and partners in locations that enable us to respond quickly to demand
- Added value – we offer a number of additional services including wire EDM, electropolishing, forming, finishing and plating