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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 Hua Fan

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 when 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. Choice of material: what materials can be etched

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 be a good option, compared to traditional manufacturing processes.

Tolerances typically seen on chemically etched features is only around +/- 10% of the parts’ thickness. Chemical etching is especially suitable when round holes, sharp edges and straight or profiled edges are desired.

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

Since the biggest design challenges often involve the smallest and most 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. 

4. Because aesthetics matter too

With chemical etching, you can create ultra smooth burr- and stress-free parts with a high cosmetic finish, which is important for many applications. Chemical etching is especially suitable when round holes, sharp edges and straight or profiled edges are desired.

 Challenges us to develop a prototype for you and you will see.

Develop a Prototype

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 favourite 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. 

To learn more about Chemical Etching in details and how it can help with improving your products, check our Whitepaper of Chemical Etching.


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