Precision Photochemical Manufacturing Since 1965

Advantages of Photo Etching Parts

Chemical Machining for Precison Metal Fabrication

  • Chemically etching thin gauge precision metal parts
  • Metal thickness ranges from .001″ to .080″ depending on the type of metal
  • Photochemical Etching Metals include many alloys of steel, copper, aluminum, molybdenum and more.
  • More Etchable Alloys
  • Alternative to stamping, punching, laser, water jet and wire EDM
  • Low cost tooling in one day
  • Part sizes from .020″ diameter to 24″ x 60″
  • Quantities from handfuls to 100,000s

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.

Chemical Etching Advantages:

Inexpensive tools in one day

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 $500 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.

Complex designs are simple to produce

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.

Material Properties Unaltered

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.

Tight, consistent tolerances

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.

Ideal for Many Alloys and Gauges

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”

Fast and Flexible

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.

Additional Info

Chemical machining is the process of choice for many avionics applications.