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When should you use chemical etching? Taking into consideration of Materials, Tolerances, Precision, Speed, and Quality

Jan 2, 2018 7:00:00 AM By Harrie Knol

Chemical Etching is an efficient manufacturing process to create high-precision metal parts in any complex shape and pattern. More often than not — especially during industrial scale production — Chemical Etching is the most cost-effective as well. This is the conclusion we reached after comparing Chemical Etching to 5 other metal fabrication technologies, namely Stamping, EDM, Laser Cutting, CNC, and Water Jetting, in a previous blog. 

But cost isn’t the only thing that matters. In this blog, we talk about other factors that need to be taken into consideration to see if Chemical Etching is the best option. To be specific, we will cover the following:

  1. Material Range
  2. Tolerances
  3. Precision
  4. Quality
  5. Lead Time

1. Your choice of metal: materials suitable for chemical etching

Chemical etching is perfect for producing burr- and stress-free parts with a wide range of materials. Almost any metal can be etched. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Stainless Steels: Wide Range of Austenitic, Ferritic and Martensitic Stainless Steels
  • Mild Steel, Carbon Steel, Tool Steel, Spring Steel
  • Aluminum: Including Aircraft/Aerospace grades
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel Alloys: Inconels, Mu-Metal, Alloy 42 (Nilo 42), Invar
  • Copper: Including C110 and C101 (Oxygen Free)
  • Brass, Phosphor Bronze, Beryllium Copper, Nickel Silver

These materials are most commonly used for chemical etching, but other materials might also be suitable for the technique. If you have another type of material in mind, please contact us with your specifications so we can help find out if chemical etching is what you need. 

2. Tolerances of Chemical Etching

If tight tolerances is a strict requirement for your product, Chemical Etching can get you what you need. Tolerances typically seen on chemically etched features will lie around +/- 10% of the parts’ thickness!

3. How small do you need to go? The precision of chemical etching

Since the biggest design challenges often involve the smallest and most dimensionally precise part of your product, it’s important to know the precision of a manufacturing method. With chemical etching, you can go as small as 30 μm, making it one of the most high-precision manufacturing processes around. 

4. Because aesthetics matter too

So we said it already, but we’ll say it again: with chemical etching, you can create absolutely beautiful burr- and stress-free parts with a high cosmetic finish. Curious what all that beauty might look like? Challenges us to develop a prototype for you and we’ll show you.

5. Rapid prototyping; almost instant industrial scale production

If you need prototypes — and you need them fast — then chemical etching is the way to go. With our favorite subtractive manufacturing method, prototypes can be produced from drawings in a matter of days. Moreover, chemical etching allows you to move from prototyping to industrial scale production almost instantly.

Note: the ability to quickly transit from prototyping to industrial scale production depends on the specific process to set up. Ideally, the majority of their production parameters are already in place from when they created your sample. Your manufacturer’s philosophy should be to use as much of the pre-existing production processes for large volume production of your parts — something you’ll notice in terms of delivery times and quality. With the right partner, delivery times for industrial scale production can be as short as one week.

To learn more about Chemical Etching, check our Whitepaper of Chemical Etching.


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