Metal etching is defined as a subtractive process of metal machining that uses etchant chemistry for producing highly accurate and complex metal components. It is also recognized with other names such as photochemical machining, photo etching or chemical milling. It is considered an economical alternative to punching, stamping, waterjet and laser cutting when you are looking for tight tolerance and feature dense parts that are profiled from thin gauge metal. This includes metals like nickel, aluminum, brass, titanium, stainless steel and copper. The metal etching process doesn’t use any heat or force, which ensures that the properties of the material are unaltered and the etched components don’t suffer from burrs and stresses.
As compared to the traditional tooling methods, photochemical machining process is quite cost-effective and fast. This is one of the top reasons why it is the one of most inexpensive processes in the manufacture of short-run metal parts, especially when you use American manufacturing companies like Advanced Metal Etching. There are other significant benefits of this process that you can enjoy, which are:
Complexities are simplified
One of the biggest benefits of using metal etching is that it makes it easy to etch even the most intricate designs on metal parts without impacting the production and tooling process. Even complex parts can be produced through this method, something that wouldn’t have been possible with laser cutting or stamping.
No change in material properties
As mentioned above, photochemical machining doesn’t impart any mechanical stresses on metal. The unneeded metal is simply dissolved, which leaves behind a burr-free and flat part. In contrast, punching, stamping and die-cutting cause shearing deformation and there is also ablative deformation due to water-jet and laser cutting. Through metal etching, you can also etch on magnetically soft materials and still maintain their optimum permeability.
No deburring needed
Since burr-free components are produced with the photochemical machining process, there is no need to spend the considerable time required to deburr the materials.
Clean and contaminant-free
Before imaging, the raw materials are thoroughly cleaned and that’s not all. They are also cleaned after etching, stripping and before and after any major metal finishing processes are performed.
Tooling and Delivery
As opposed to hard tooling, the set-up and tooling cost associated with metal etching is considerably low. It is possible to produce the initial quantities of parts that have been newly designed on very short notice. In fact, they can be produced within days of completing a design. Likewise, if any revisions to the design are needed, they can also be done quickly and also economically.
Photochemical machining allows you to achieve high accuracies. Depending on the thickness of the material, the tolerances can be around +/- 0.01m.
It is possible to etch part numbers, company logo or any other identifying marks during the manufacturing process without adding to the cost, which is another major benefit.
Due to these advantages, metal etching has become immensely popular these days for manufacture of custom parts.