First, let’s take a quick look at what is chemical etching exactly and why it’s different from other metal etching techniques.
Like stamping, laser-cutting, water-jetting, and others, chemical etching is a subtractive manufacturing technique that’s used to achieve absolute precision shapes and designs in the required material (in this case metals).
The reason that this is such a big market is thanks to the continued demand for precision metal parts like grilles, filters, surgical equipment, automotive parts that require the metal not only to be perfectly cut/ etched to size but also without affecting its inherent characteristics such as ductility or structure.
This is where chemical etching comes in and throughout this article, we’ll take a look at its top 5 benefits.
As I mentioned above in the introduction, the chemical etching process does not affect the metal’s structure or characteristics thanks to a carefully formulated and designed chemical process.
While other techniques use high-energy tools such as water-jetting or lasers that create incredible temperatures that can negatively affect the metals, chemical etching is a technique that only removes the desired parts and leaves the stencil completely intact.
It is in fact because of this chemical process that the production time is reduced as there’s no requirement to tidy up the metal or a need for any post-production; it comes off the line virtually ready to be used in its desired operation.
Another advantage of this extremely efficient process is that it leaves a clean and smooth surface that is perfect for electronic mating components which explicitly requires this.
The chemical etching manufacturing process lends itself to creating components that require low tolerances, precise sizes, and shapes and with high conductivity.
Some of these component types include electrical contacts, pins, EMI/RF shielding, and terminals.
Thanks to the process of chemical etching being so efficient, it eliminates any secondary deburring or further production efforts to produce the final product. This obviously reduces overall costs as it’s such an efficient process that more can be accomplished in less time.
Another factor that speeds up the process is the fact that the etchant works across the entire sheet metal concurrently.
So, where you would need multiple lasers to work over a sheet of metal, the chemical etchant is sprayed across the entire sheet and gets to dissolving right away.
And where you may find scrap metal by water-jetting where it has to first cut a pilot hole and then create the stencil, the chemical etching does not produce waste of this sort – it is a process that produces very little waste product.
Reduced Lead Times
I’ve touched upon this in each of the above points but this is an area where chemical etching really shines thanks to the very efficient nature of its production technique.
The etchant is applied to and gets to work on the entire sheet metal and it is moved through the production line. This means that it has an immediate advantage over other etching techniques that require multiple stamps, multiple lasers, etc. that can then work concurrently.
It also helps that the prototyping is all done through CAD software so that various iterations can be tested quickly until a final design is found.
This means that from prototyping to industrial-scale production run, it could only be a matter of days and for the run to be finished within weeks depending on the scale of order.
Again, the nature of the chemical etching process creates the perfect conditions for a number of different industries where precision and reliability are essential: aerospace, medical, and automotive to name a few.
The fact that it can produce burr and stress-free parts means that there’s also an absence of friction and therefore heat that could warp or affect the metal’s integrity.
This is also a great benefit for other types of electronic microwave and radio frequency components that require the metals to be untampered.
This is where chemical etching really shines as it has the capability of producing measurements as small as 25 μm. This means that not only can it produce precision parts but it can also repeat this on an industrial scale.
As the designs are created and modified on computer software, it’s just a case of deciding how many you want; there’s no expensive re-tooling or constantly maintaining and adjusting manufacturing equipment for each production run.
It also means that there’s huge scope for complexity as the designs are created by software – there’s no extra cost for complexity, or simplicity for that matter!
For these 5 benefits and more, it’s clear to see that chemical etching has a great number of advantages when compared to the other options available.
As always, do check first with the manufacturing company regarding any specific requirements you may have. They should always be happy to work together in order to find a solution.