There are so many industries that require extremely precise parts and tools. When those come in the form of custom thin metal parts, the number of ways to precisely manufacture the products shrinks considerably. Laser etching and machine stamping are not universally applicable, and trying to compensate for the inherent challenges of either method can drive costs and development times too high. When that is the case, it’s important to remember chemical etching. When it comes to metal, chemical etching frequently presents as the best way to get extreme precision with little delay.
What Is Chemical Etching?
In short, chemical etching is a high-precision manufacturing process. More specifically, it uses chemical processes to manufacture metal parts. Chemical etching competes with stamping, laser etching, and other high-end methods when it comes to manufacturing complex and extremely precise parts.
Chemical etching achieves success through a multi-step process that doesn’t require prior prototyping. The first step laminates the metal with photoresist and UV exposure. That creates the guides. From there, a series of heat-controlled chemical baths are applied to remove desired material until the part is left in its desired state.
When Is it Best Used?
The nature of chemical etching grants it a few key advantages over other manufacturing techniques. First, chemical etching is primarily used on metals. That makes it ideal for custom thin metal parts that don’t leave enough margin of error for more intense processes.
More importantly, the exposure process primes chemical etching to be used for prototyping rather than after it. The technique is at its best when designs need to be flexible and function on short lead times. The adaptability and customizability shine under these circumstances. Chemical etching can also be utilized for fully prototyped manufacturing, but at that stage, other processes may compete economically.
What Can Be Etched?
Virtually any metal can be tooled via chemical etching. The most common targets are stainless steels, carbon steel, aluminum, nickel alloys, copper and brass. These are just frequent targets. Chemical etching is readily adaptable to suit a large number of other manufacturing metals that serve countless niche purposes. Even brittle compounds are potential targets. It’s a simple matter of finding the right cocktail to get the job done.
For custom thin metal parts, chemical etching brings new possibilities to life. It’s a manufacturing process that skips many of the difficulties of prototyping, and as such, it is essential to high-quality production in many industries.