As a machining process, there are many applications and advantages to using photochemical etching. While photochemical etching is not the most common machining process, it in fact produces much higher quality components than traditional methods such as laser cutting, wire electro discharge machining and metal stamping. Depending on the component design, photochemical etching can even be a more cost effective method of parts manufacturing.
Photochemical etching is the process in which precise metal parts
are created using chemicals and UV light. This manufacturing method is achieved by placing photo-resistant stencils over designated areas on sheet metal. The metal component is then formed through the use of chemicals that dissolve the areas exposed to the UV light, creating an exact replica of the stencil.
Chemical etching can be used on nearly every type of metal or alloy, of any hardness. It offers a great economical benefit due to the fact the fabrication is relatively inexpensive and can be rapidly produced. The process is ideal for prototyping as it allows for easy changes to be made before, or even during mass production. During the manufacturing process, the dimensional tolerance is perfectly maintained, and the completed components will be absent of burrs or sharp edges. This ultimately saves time and money, because additional work will not be required to remove these unwanted fragments.
Chemical etching also decreases production time for components. On average, a turnaround time of only two or three days is required to produce sample quantities. Compared with metal stamping, it takes a couple weeks on average to complete tooling. Due to the quick turnaround time with photochemical etching, if there are any changes to the design required, the photo tool can easily be modified at low cost within a short period of time.
With hard tools, such as stamping and punching dies, they often suffer wear and other damages. Because phototools are only exposed to light, they are more resilient and last much longer. Because of the cost of hard tooling for stamping, a large number is needed to validate the expense. With photochemical etching, components can be produced much cheaper so there is no need to make a large batch.
There are some metal parts that are so intricate and delicate that, they can only be produced by photochemical etching. Though the technology first emerged during the Second World War, it has since been modified and modernized over the years to serve a variety of applications in a variety of industries. Many of the new life altering technologies would not be possible without this rapidly evolving manufacturing process. These numerous etching advantages are eagerly benefiting industries such as consumer electronics, medical implants, aerospace engineering, etc.
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