Photochemical etching, also known by many as photochemical milling or simply photo etching is a chemical milling process that manufacturers invest in, in which fabricated sheet metals are exposed to photoresist and etchants to machine away specific areas through a corrosive manner. Companies producing a wide variety of goodswork with a company offering photochemical etching services to create highly complex parts that require fine details, created in an economic manner.

Companies invest in this process because it is regarded as a strong economic alternative to laser cutting, water jetting, punching and stamping, as well as a strong alternative to electrical discharge machining when thin metal parts are needed. This enables simple change to mass production, and the ability to be agile and make changes is easy. Photochemical etching also holds fast to dimensional tolerances, and it doesn’t leave behind any sharp edges or burrs. Once the blueprint or drawings are received, a thin metal part can be made within hours.

What does the Photochemical Etching Process Look Like?

The process of photochemical etching begins by printing the desired shape of a specific part onto clear photographic film. There are two sheets: one shows the part’s negative images. In other words, the area meant to become the parts is left absolutely clear and the areas to be etched away are colored black. Both sheets are mechanically and optically set up to be bottom and top halves of the tool.

After these metal sheets are cut to size, they go through a stringent cleaning process and then they get laminated on both sides with a photoresist that is UV sensitive. Placed between the two sheets is the coated metal, then a vacuum makes sure there is close contact between the robust metal plate and the protocol. The plate gets exposed to UV light allowing the areas of resist in the sections of hardened film. When the exposure is finished, the plate gets developed and the unexposed resist is blown away leaving only the desired etched regions.

A machine with many chambers is used with a wheel conveyor that moves plates and nozzle sprays. This etchant is an acid-based solution that gets heated and, through a pressurized control system, it hits both sides of the plate in a precise manner. The unprotected areas react to the etchant and are corroded away in a speedy manner. Then the remnants are cleaned and dried.

Photochemical Etching Spans a Broad Range of Products and is Cheap to Run

Compared to other processes, photochemical etching is low cost and therefore regarded as cheap. Companies invest in it because it spans a wide range of products and is used for devices made for military weapons and apertures. For example, it is used to make noise reduction equipment used in battle scenarios. Photochemical etching is also used to make cell phones, batteries, electronics, radio and electromagnetic parts as well as electrical contacts, connectors, covers shielding, heat sinks and bus bars. Because many organizations require a wide variety of such parts being made, photochemical etching is the preferred manufacturing method because it can be used to make all of these components, and all can be achieved at an affordable price.