Copper is one of the most commonly machined metals, making copper etching important for many types of projects. A soft metal, copper is well-suited for chemical etching in electrical and electronics manufacturing. It is second only to silver, in terms of electrical and thermal conductivity.
What Is Copper?
Copper is an abundant metal and is malleable, ductile, and recyclable. Photo etching of copper can yield many types of results, from sheets and plates to strips, rods, and tubes. It is often preferred for its machinability and resistance to corrosion when properly coated or plated. The ductility of copper enables it to be stretched to long lengths, which is useful for applications such as wire or tubing.
Thanks to its malleability, copper can be flattened to nearly any thickness. It doesn’t require preparation for soldering. The metal also maintains its texture when exposed to a copper etching solution, while its color is not easily distorted.
United Western Enterprises works with several alloys for chemical etching of copper. Each alloy has its own advantage.
Copper typically comes in three major alloys:
- Copper 101 is 99.99% pure copper.
- Copper 102 is 99.95% pure copper.
- Copper 110 is 99% pure copper.
Beryllium Copper is more than 90% copper with beryllium added. This material will have good conductivity and can be heat treated after forming to very good spring characteristics.
- Phosphor Bronze is stronger than pure copper and is used in spring applications.
- Nickel Silver: Despite the name, “Nickel Silver”—also referred to as “German Silver”—has no silver in its alloy. It is a nickel/copper alloy that has the luster of nickel plating but without the cost. It has good solder-ability and is often used for RF shielding that needs to be soldered onto a circuit board.
Where Etched Copper Is Used
Chemical machining is used for copper in a variety of industries, including automotive, electronics, mining, medical, and aerospace. It is also used for printed circuit boards and any PCB component that’s part of an electrical circuit, including:
- Contacts, pins, connectors, and terminals
- EMI/RFI shielding
- Lead frames
- Formed metal enclosures
- Enclosures with snap-on lids
Copper is also used for UHF/microwave antennas and waveguides, as well as fuse links and bus bars. It is used for injection molding inserts as well.
Benefits of Copper Etching
Chemical machining is preferred for copper and other metal parts because they’re not easily damaged in the process. There is no heat distortion and no burrs are left behind that require additional processes to remove imperfections. The etching process can be controlled to create features with varying thicknesses. Surfaces can be marked with part numbers or logos, or perforated to allow bending and shaping later in the fabrication and assembly process. Micro etching, especially on beryllium copper, can improve bonding later.
Pick United Western Enterprises, Inc. for Copper Photo Etching
An AS 9100D and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are photo chemical etching specialists and experienced with producing precision parts via copper etching. Our capabilities include etching shielding, covers, lids, printed circuit components, and other metal parts. We use several alloys for chemical etching of copper. To learn more, discuss your application, or request a quote, contact us on the web or call (800)964-6461.
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