Photo Chemical Machining Advantages

The photo chemical machining (PCM) or chemical milling process is perfect for etching simple or complex thin-metal components of one to one million parts. This process offers many advantages:

Chemical Etching is Economical

It is very economical option for R&D or prototype phase of a project when quick turnaround is vital.

Precise, Thin Metal Parts

Chemical machining can be utilized to etch through metal thicknesses between .0005″ to .060″ and between .060″ to .250″ for depth etching on metals.

Etching Process Works On Many Metals

Our etching process can be used with many types of metal including bronze, brass, copper, aluminum, nickel, steel, beryllium and more. Northwest Etch can rapidly produce the complex components needed for your next project.
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Photo Chemical Machining Advantages

Metals Used

Stainless Steel Etching, Spring Steel, Electrical Steel, Copper etching, Beryllium Copper, Brass, Aluminum, Bronze, Phosphor Bronze, Nickel 201, Nickel Alloys, Nickel Silver Stainless Steel Etching Examples

Dimensions and Tolerances

In the photo chemical milling / machining process there are certain techniques and basic guidelines for designing photo chemical machined parts. Key factors in design include metal thickness, metal type and size of part features being etched during the photo chemical milling process. advantages_2 Relationship of hole size to metal thickness As a general rule, the diameter of a hole cannot be less than 125% of the metal thickness. Diameters of 110% of metal thickness on metals up to .010 thick can be achieved during photo chemical milling. Remaining surface area Remaining surface area in a large field of slots or holes also has certain limitations as to how small the metal land between holes can be. Again it depends on material thickness. If the material is less than .005″ thick the space between holes must be at least the metal thickness. If the material is over .005″ thick, the spaces between holes must be at least 125% times the material thickness. Relationship of inside corners to metal thickness Relationship of inside corners to metal thickness is directly proportional to the thickness of the metal. Smallest inside corner radii equal to metal thick can be achieved. Example: corner radius would be .002″ for piece of metal .002″ thick. Relationship of outside corners to metal thickness Relationship of outside corners to metal thickness considered to be at least 66% of metal thickness. The outside corners tend to etch more sharply than the inside; therefore radii of less than metal thickness are obtainable. Relationship of bevel to metal thickness When etching from one side of a sheet of metal the etchant attacks the material laterally as well as vertically. The result is an edge condition known as “bevel.” Typically this bevel will be 40% of metal thickness. When the material is being etched from both sides (equally) the bevel is reduced to typically 10% of metal thickness. Photo Chemical Milling Tolerances Tolerances achievable with photo chemical milling / PCM depend on the material type, thickness, size of panel, equipment used and yield required. As a general rule of thumb a tolerance of +/- 15% of metal thickness can be achieved. Tolerances of +/- 10% of metal thickness can be achieved through photo tool modifications. The above specifications have been kept very general  for more specific dimension and tolerance information as well as design criteria, please contact NW Etch. Depending on the alloy and the components you wish to produce we can specify the tolerances that are possible. NW Etch has its own in-house CAD department that can generate tooling from DXF and other data files as well as from dimensioned drawing. Tooling is kept very reasonably priced because the same photo tool is used until revisions are needed.


RFI/EMI shielding, screens, filters, lead frames, encoder disks, buss bar, flat springs, heat sinks, drive bands, electrical contacts, ribbon shields, laminates, backplates, shields, EMP grids, signage, plaques.