Why More Designers are Partnering with the Best Photo Etch Company

July 2022
Photo chemical etching

Veterans in the design space will refer to photochemical etchers as a “photo etch company”, while people a little newer to the space (or those who just like traditional purist language) will search for “photochemical etching companies”. These are the exact same things: organizations that perform photochemical etching services to produce thin metal parts that can be used in multiple applications. Photochemical etching has always been a popular manufacturing method for creating thin metal parts, but in 2021 and 2022 there was a surge in product designers looking for the best photo etch company to produce thin metal parts with ultimate flexibility and options, at an affordable cost, and with a fast turnaround time. This article will go over some of the main reasons for this growth, and attest to why United Western Enterprises is the best photo etch company and demonstrate why a spike in partnerships has formed between photochemical etching departments, and product design teams spanning a wide variety of industries.

A Photo Etch Company Provides Better Solutions than Metal Stamping

When it comes to manufacturing thin metal parts, metal stamping, by an overwhelming majority, consumes the largest segment of the market. And, according to the data we have collected from designers who used metal stamping for past projects and that switched to a photo etch company, more than 92% said they would continue to use photochemical etching in place of metal stamping. When asked for more detail regarding the switch, product design teams said that metal stamping was more costly and time-consuming because the process requires hard metal tooling that often produces burrs and cold working. And when parts are complex, metal etching costs skyrocket. When a photo etch company uses photochemical etching, all edges are completely smooth, precise, and there are never any burrs that require being removed. The process is faster, more affordable, and once design teams experience the benefits firsthand, they are sold on the process going forward.

The Best Photo Etch Company Can Create All of Your Metal Parts (No Need for Multiple Processes)

Chemical etching metal components

In some cases when design teams work with product manufacturers, they need to go to multiple providers to make specific parts because no singular provider can create everything in house, under one roof. The best photo etch company will be able to work with virtually any type of metal, and a thickness of 0.0005 to 0.080 inches, or 0.013 to 2.043 millimeters. When you are searching for the best photo etch company, be sure to check their parts portfolio to see how capable and well-rounded they are–this will give you clear insight into their abilities, and how they can help your company take its products to the next level. Some common parts that the best photo etch company will be able to make in house includes the following:

  • Metal gaskets
  • Metal seals
  • Fine screens
  • Fine meshes
  • Sensors
  • Heat sinks
  • Circuit parts
  • Flexible heating elements
  • Springs
  • Jewelry
  • Electrical contacts
  • RFI and EMI shields

When your photo etch company has a long-standing history of making the above parts using the photochemical etching process, you can rest assured that they are indeed the best provider in the industry.

The Best Photo Etch Company Follows the Correct Process

Each photo etch company will follow their own process, while still utilizing common practices. However, there is a high standard when it comes to the photochemical etching process that must be followed, so make sure the company you work with embraces this path. When a new order comes in, the process begins with the customer and chemical etching team working to select the material which will be heavily predicated on the client’s requirements. The client’s design is then delivered, and based on that, a tool is created by means of the design being printed onto photographic film.

The next steps of etching thin metal parts are as follows:

  • Cutting – Based on process specifications and requirements, raw material is cut to size.
  • Cleaning – Before any processing can take place, the metal sheets must be cleaned. This is critical because it will remove any wax, oil or debris that could otherwise compromise the integrity of the part.
  • Coating – A photo-sensitive resist must be added to the metal in the coating process. Usually this process is automated, and it must be done correctly because quality and accuracy are predicated on this resist coating.
  • Printing – When printing happens, the coated metal sheets are placed between the photo tool sheets, and a vacuum optimizes the contact. Then, UV light hits the sheets where exposed areas harden, and the areas not impacted remain soft.
  • Developing – At this phase the soft unexposed resist is washed away so the printed sheets can be developed.
  • Etching – Using specific chemicals, the photo etching takes place.
  • Post Etching – This process should include neutralizing the acid, rinsing the sheet, removing any remaining photoresist, cleaning, drying, and a visual inspection.

Make sure the inspection is performed by an experienced, certified individual and that a written report is sent confirming all the steps taken.

Call United Western Enterprises to Speak to the Best Photo Etch Company in the Industry

For more than 50 years, United Western Enterprises has been mastering the photochemical etching process by serving leaders in a wide range of industries that include aerospace, medical, consumer goods, electronics, automotive, military and defense, and many more. All our services and teams work in the same location, under the same roof in the Los Angeles area and have a record for helping brands improve the quality, efficiency, features, profitability, and the user experience, just to name a few. We have the best teams in the industry and look forward to learning all about your project and its details. Call today for a consultation and a quote and learn more as to why United Western Enterprises is the best photo etch company in the industry.

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