Photochemical machining provides a fast, flexible and relatively inexpensive way to produce a wide variety of precision metal parts. We can chemically etch many different types of metal, including specialty materials like molybdenum, soft magnetic alloys, and metal-clad ceramics, among others. Applications for photo-etched components range from aerospace, industrial, scientific, RF/microwave and wireless, medical, and electronics.
Phototools replace conventional steel tools and dies. Phototools can be generated in a matter of hours from a customer-supplied CAD drawing or data file. Most tools range in price from $185 to $350, and can be rapidly and inexpensively regenerated to accommodate revisions to parts. Using photo etching, prototyping cycles can be reduced from weeks to days compared to hard tooling.
Photoetching has similarities to a printing process in that the part designs can be immensely intricate without having an impact on the tooling or production process. Precision metal etching can produce complex parts that would be either impossible or impractical to produce by stamping or laser cutting. Chemically etched parts are free of burrs and mechanical stress, and are pristinely clean and free of contaminants.
Photo etching imparts no mechanical or thermal stresses on metal substrates. Where stamping, punching and die-cutting impart shearing deformation and laser and water-jet cutting can leave ablative deformation, etching simply dissolves the unneeded metal, leaving a flat and burr-free part. For this reason, the photochemical machining process is not subject to Nadcap checklist 7108/5.
The phototool, which operates like a stencil, is the foundation of accuracy with light being its only working exposure, ensuring that there is no “tool wear” that needs to be monitored. Phototools are produced on a dimensionally stable mylar using an 8000-dpi photoplotter. The locational tolerances for part features typically meet the nominal dimensions of the specification.
Dimensional tolerances are a function of the thickness of the material. Typically, dimensions can be held to +/- 15% of the thickness of the material.
Photo etching is suitable for a wide range of metal gauges. The practical range of thickness for ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and molybdenum, is .0005” to .065”. Conard has developed a specialty in chemical etching aluminum alloys in gauges up to .080”
From initial tooling to finished parts, the entire photo etching cycle can be completed in 3 to 5 days. Given a normal backlog, typical lead times for new parts are 3-4 weeks. Often, repeat orders can be processed more quickly, especially if the raw material is in stock. Prototype orders may be done in 2 weeks. Additional time is required to accommodate secondary operations such as plating, forming, heat-treating, silk screening, assembly, or the addition of surface components.
Phototools can be rapidly and inexpensively regenerated to accommodate revisions to parts.
You send us data files (dxf ,dwg, etc.) so that we can generate the phototools. We can work from paper drawings or sketches.