Light-weight and versatile, aluminum can be a very challenging metal for photoetching. It wants to oxidize rapidly and becomes fuel for the etching process. Conard has dedicated equipment and process metrics for chemical etching aluminum which contributes to the quality and consistency of our precision aluminum products.
Developed by a metallurgist, our etching solution buffers the reaction, allowing for successful and consistent etching of aluminum. Conard’s proprietary solution is unmatched by any other etchant.
Photochemical etching is considered a non-conventional fabricating technology, along with laser, plasma, waterjet and wire EDM.
The “energetic” processes ( plasma, laser and EDM) are problematic when cutting aluminum. They operate at very high temperatures: 25,000 degrees F for plasma, over 15,000F for EDM and a relatively cool 5,500F for laser. Exposure to the intense heat alters the properties of the metal around the cut lines and creates “heat affected zones”, often accompanied by slag or a recast layer that must be cleaned up. These processes are basically combusting the material in their paths, producing fumes and airborne particulates that must be evacuated. The use of “water tables”, essentially submerging the work piece, mitigates the fume and dust problem, but can create another issue. Aluminum reacts with water, producing heat and hydrogen. If the work piece entraps hydrogen, there is the potential for an explosion.
By comparison, chemical etching aluminum is very benign. The highest temperature the aluminum is exposed to is 165F momentarily in lamination, and the etching process itself runs at 125F. The etchant is delivered through oscillating spray bars, so the work piece is wet, but not submerged: no fumes, no dust, no hydrogen, no heat affected zones.
Photochemical etching is often a superior alternative for non-conventional fabricating of aluminum.
Our aluminum etching capability is industry-leading. Other photoetching companies come to us when they need photo etched aluminum. Call us at 800-443-5218 or email your drawings and we will be happy to answer your questions