How Photochemical Etching Can Resolve Common Problems in Fabricating Precision Aluminum Components

August 2022

Fabricating precision aluminum parts comes with several challenges. People who are veterans to our space know the value found in using the best photochemical etching companies in the US to initiate a process that offers big solutions to common problems, and this article will delve into the subject a bit deeper.

What are the Better-Known Metal Part Fabrication Processes for Aluminum?

When it comes to parts that are to be fabricated from foil, strip, or aluminum sheet, there are some more popular cutting methods that include the following:

  • Water jet cutting
  • Plasma cutting
  • Milling
  • Metal stamping
  • Laser cutting

Even though each of these methods come with their own set of benefits, they all have individual challenges that manufacturers face when fabricating parts from aluminum. First, there are primary problems with these popular methods of cutting aluminum, such as:

  • Metal stamping tends to be very expensive and often comes with long lead times
  • Milling can make aluminum gummy because it is a light metal with a low melting temperature, and as a result the aluminum can stick to the milling tools
  • Plasma cutting has an extremely short exposure time before the material is annihilated, as aluminum melts at 650 Celsius and plasma cutters function at 25,000 Celsius.
  • Laser cutting is challenging because aluminum has high reflectivity and lasers create heat affected areas that retard the metal’s characteristics which creates a risk for spawning hazardous dust
  • When it comes to water jet tolerances, they are generally greater than what precision parts require

How Does Photochemical Etching Provide Solutions to These Problems?

Experienced fabricators know that photochemical etching provides a great alternative for cutting aluminum. Not all fabricators are familiar with photochemical etching, nor do they know how it can be a very good alternative for fabricating aluminum parts. Photochemical etching, also known as photo chemical machining (PCM), photo etching, and chemical etching all encompass the same process in which a photoresist is used to cut away unwanted metal from the sheet. Photochemical etching is a process with several steps that involves laying down an acid-resistant layer on each sheet of metal, followed by exposing the etching solution and neutralizing the acid to remove the layered material. This is beneficial in many ways. For example, there is no “etching machine”, but instead involves several actions performed by a single worker. Based on the common problems associated with traditional cutting options as expressed above, here are some reasons why photochemical etching is the best solution to resolve problems faced by manufacturers in cutting aluminum sheets:

  • Reflectivity – There are no reflection problems when it comes to etching an ambient light material
  • Heat – The maximum temperature reached in photochemical etching is equivalent to the heat levels of a standard dishwasher, which is 55 Celsius
  • Affordability – Unlike the expensive metal stamping option, photochemical etching usually costs less than $500 for the photo tools
  • Tolerances – Tolerances are loose with etching dimensional tolerances that are +/- 15% of metal thickness (e.g., +/-.005” on up to .032”

Once manufacturers are familiar with these benefits, photochemical etching is usually the direction they take, which offers a shorter lead time, helps to preserve the budget by offering greater affordability, and there is no need to wait, as the process is always ready to proceed as soon as we get your pattern and dimensions.

Primary Characteristics of Aluminum Parts Cut by Photochemical Etching

You should be aware of several characteristics associated with photochemical etching aluminum parts. First, photochemical etching can be utilized on metal sheets with a thickness between .001” to .080”, l and the part dimensions can fall between .020” diameter all the way up to 24” by 58”. Furthermore, the dimensional tolerances are in the range of +/- 15% of material thickness.

Why United Western Enterprises Offers the Best Photochemical Etching Services

United Western Enterprises works with a large range of industries performing photochemical etching services on a wide range of metals. From biomedical to photochemical etching for aerospace, and from consumer goods to military and defense, we have been providing multi-sized organizations across numerous field with photochemical etching services for the last 53 years, making quite the name for ourselves as being the most reliable photochemical etching company based in the United States. Located near Los Angeles, we have the luxury of fast, multi-shipping options for land, air, or sea, and as a result, our customers have more options while benefiting from a high-quality and experienced photochemical etcher. Our 21,000 square foot building offers customers all the services they need, conveniently offered under one roof which promotes an error-free experience with better communication and greater affordability.

Request a Quote for Photochemical Etching Services

Simply visit our contact page on our website, scroll down, and submit the details of your project for a fast response. Alternatively, you can call and speak to one of our photochemical etching experts by dialing 866-579-1719 to discuss your project in finer details and to get a quote.

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