Photo etching can also be referred to as photochemical milling, chemical etching, or chemical etching. Generally, this is a manufacturing procedure that utilizes ferric chloride as etching chemistry to develop highly and intricate accurate metal components. The process offers fast alternate solutions to other procedures such as punching, stamping, laser cutting, or water jet.
How the process works
- The first step of photo etching is cutting the metal, cleaning, and laminating it using a blue UV photo-sensitive resist. Then you print it depending on your much-loved CAD artwork design profile.
- Once you have printed your preferred design, you develop the metal, which washes off any unexposed photo-resist from the print procedure, leaving behind a raw metal profile track line for the etchant chemistry to engrave via metal.
- Once the profile design is etched out, you get rid of blue UV photo-sensitive resist so that you are left with raw material metal parts either tabbed or loose into the larger fretwork sheet.
Benefits of photo etching
Photo etching is one of the fastest, most effective, and most accurate options for thin metal parts. The benefits of this procedure have to be considered in the design for manufacturing procedure when selecting a manufacturing technique for industrial components.
Below are some of the benefits of the procedure:
- Quick prototyping
The procedure is digital, unlike other traditional methods, namely stamping. On the other hand, the process happens in a few hours, whereas conventional methods can last for weeks. A repeating blueprint of a part’s measurement gets formed through CAD software. Afterward, a photo plotter machine creates two pieces of mylar film containing the digital image. One-piece gets placed on the bottom of the metal sheet while the other one on top.
The entire process is cost-effective, giving engineers the chance to come up with a generating prototype onto the tooling film to make the most of the number of parts per sheet. It is easier to modify digital tooling when it comes to prototype development, thus reducing project time significantly. The tooling is durable.
- There is no alteration of the metal properties.
Machining methods such as stamping and laser cutting can alter metal properties due to the heat generated or mechanical stress during manufacturing. On the other hand, this one-of-a-kind procedure ensures the metal’s internal structure stays the same. The procedure dissolves any unwanted part sections.
The metal’s ductility, grain structure, and hardness are unaffected. This benefit is essential for the function of multiple industrial components that depend on high conductivity, low tolerances, and precision. Due to this reason, the procedure is best for electronic components, namely terminals, EMI/RF shielding pins, connectors, and electrical contacts.
- Inexpensive repeatability with compound designs
The tooling operates so that it can yield lots of pieces as the part design can allow. Due to the repeatability in the procedure, large productions run at lower costs and faster when you compare them to conventional methods. Parts that have intricate features, such as holes, are produced at additional charges.
Other benefits of the procedure comprise burr-free tolerances, quick turnaround, among others. The procedure is one of a kind; hence you need to consider it over other conventional methods.