What is photo chemical etching?

A process used to produce thin, flat metal components, using acids to cut through the metal to produce the shape required. Also known as Chemical Milling and Photo Etching.


Where would you use this type of process?

In both engineering component such as; shims, screening cans, encoder disc etc or decorative components such as; business cards, book marks, plaques etc.


What metals can be etched?

Almost all metals. Stainless steel, aluminium, other steels, yellow metals etc. There are only a few that we are unable to etch such as Tungsten and Titanium.


What is the thinnest metal that can be etched?

The thinner – the better! With very fine material such as 0.002″ or less, we may wish to mount the metal onto a sticky back paper. Parts can be removed from the sticky back paper using a 50/50 solution of acetone and white spirit.


What is the thickest metal you can work with?

This depends on the material and the application. Should we need to etch all the way through a piece of metal, then the thickest we would be prepared to etch would be 1mm in stainless steel and 1.5mm in yellow metals. If we are manufacturing a decorative component such as a plaque, where only surface etch is required or screen-printed images, then the material can be thicker.


Is etching and in-filling better than screen-printing or sublimation printing?

There is no right or wrong answer – it depends on the component. Contact us for further information, telephone 01480 226699.


How accurate is the process? (What are the tolerances achievable?)

Depending on your requirement we can achieve a minimum working tolerance of +/- 10% of metal thickness or +/- 0.025mm, whichever is greater.


How small can apertures, holes, bars etc be?

Generally all detail must be equal to a minimum of 0.1mm, however this can be improved upon depending on your requirement.  Please contact us to find out.


What types of electronic files can you accept?

For quotation purposes we can open and read most types of electronic file. For manufacture, we prefer CAD files: dxf, dwg or IGES. However, we also accept image files such as Illustrator, pdf and eps. Please contact us if you wish to use another file format.


How fast can you manufacture prototypes?

We look at each part required, and give a realistic lead-time to meet the customer’s requirement. Depending on production schedules, prototypes can be turned around within 48 hours.


What is the PCGT charge for?

PCGT stands for Part Cost Graphic Tooling and refers to the photo-tool that is required to make any part. We only ask you to pay a portion of the cost. We will then not allow anyone to order or ask for a quote that involves using your tooling, without your written permission.


Can you make a mixed sheet of parts?

Yes! This can be done, but a) only if all parts are to be made from the same thickness and type of material, and b) if all parts are to be ordered in similar quantities at the same time in the future. Contact us for further information, telephone 01480 226699.


When do we use tabs to hold parts in sheet form?

When the parts are very small, and made from thin material, to stop them ‘flying away’ when in contact with jets of acid. Tabs are also used when a part is being plated after etching, as it is much more cost effective to plate a sheet of parts than individual parts.


What metals can be cut using the Laser cutting service?

Virtually any metal can be laser cut ranging in thickness depending on metal type.


Can you include both the Chemical Milling and Laser Cutting process on the same piece of metal?

Yes, for example Photofabrication can etch detail into the surface of the metal, and then laser cut the profile.


Does the gas used when laser cutting make a difference?

Yes it does, by changing the gases we can produce an edge finish on stainless steel as clean as the natural material. This is especially useful in medical and aerospace requirements.


What additional services can you offer?

Forming, plating/coating, heat-treating, painting, in-filling, screen-printing, soldering, stud welding or drilling holes.


What if my query isn’t covered above?

Please fill in your email address and the nature of your enquiry below, and we will reply quickly to you.

Talk to an experienced member of the team today.
Please call us on 01480 226699 or email us using sales@photofab.co.uk

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