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What is Photochemical Etching?

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Photochemical etching (PCE), also known as photochemical machining (PCM), is the use of photo-reactive resist to fabricate a metal part based on desired dimensions.


PCE/PCM are similar to printing processes, using a photo tool to print part dimensions onto photo-resist coated metal, which is then developed and etched, resulting in the desired part. This process produces intricate parts with tolerances (as low as ± .01 mm) that would be otherwise unachievable with processing methods such as laser cutting, water-jet cutting, stamping, punching, or die-cutting.

The main advantage of photochemical etching over other machining processes is that it doesn’t introduce any sources of mechanical stress to the part, ensuring all parts maintain the mechanical properties of the customer’s selected metal (or metal alloy). Since the machining in this process occurs by dissolving the unwanted metal via chemical reaction, the burring, shearing deformation, and ablative deformation typically associated with other machining processes is avoidable.

PCE/PCM uses a reusable plotter film to apply part characteristics, meaning that once a photo tool has been made once, it can be reproduced a thousand times over, using the same identical plotter film. This property allows for short notice availability of high quantities of parts and allows for a lower production costs for customers.

In summary, PCE/PCM is an efficient, low cost method of producing parts with tight tolerances and minimal imperfections, whilst providing customers with the optimal part manufacturing experience.