Photofabrication Engineering Inc.

Enabling New Technologies through Metal Etching Applications

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Chemical Etching

Learn about Chemical Etching, and its many applications, from PEI's experts.

Chemical etching (or photochemical etching) is used to manufacture high precision metal parts. By using chemicals to dissolve the excess (or unwanted) portion of the material, rather than simply “cutting” it away, you are left with smoother, more precise edges.

The benefits of chemical etching over other techniques are clear:

  • No burrs
  • No stresses
  • No deformation
  • No effect on the metallic properties
  • Precise control of the “Z” dimension (depth)
  • Rapid turnaround

How it Works

Photofabication Engineering, Inc. (PEI) has perfected the chemical etching process.

The first step in chemical etching is to prepare a sheet of the metal that is to be etched; it is cleaned of all containments and laminated with a light sensitive, UV-cured photoresist. Next, a photographically prepared Mylar tool – known as a photo tool – is produced for both sides of the metal part using the customer’s exact specifications (and compensated to allow for the lateral etching inherent with the chemical etching process). The laminated metal sheet is then placed between the phototools and is exposed to ultraviolet light, curing the polymer within the photo resist. Areas on this photo tool block the exposure to the UV light and leave them susceptible to the alkaline developing process. Once this process is performed, areas on the sheet will be free of photoresist while others protected.

The actual etching process then occurs when PEI places the metal sheets on the conveyor system that sprays both sides of the metal with the etchant (etching chemistry is determined by the type of metal). The unprotected metal on these sheets will dissolve into solution, leaving an exact metal replica of the customer’s specifications.

After etching and rinsing, the remaining photoresist is stripped-off the newly formed metal parts or sheets, and they are ready for shipment or any further operations like plating, forming, soldering, silk screening, heat treating, welding, and assembly.


PEI performs chemical etching on just about any metal or metal alloy, including exotic metals like titanium and molybdenum.

Some common applications for chemical etching include: 

  • fine screens and meshes
  • anodes and cathodes
  • fuel cell plates
  • optical encoders
  • battery grids
  • heat sinks
  • thermal planes
  • EMI/RFI shields,
  • electrical contacts
  • microwave components
  • step and flat lids
  • medical apparatus
  • medical implants
  • lead frames

Cost Benefits of Chemical Etching

PEI completes the entire chemical etching process in-house, reducing costs and optimizing turnaround time.

Creating a phototool is significantly less expensive than creating “hard” tools like stamping or punching dies. Phototools also do not experience the wear common to hard tools, so there’s no added cost of replacing worn or damaged ones. Additionally, chemical etching allows you to bypass the secondary operations of de-burring and annealing sometimes required by stamping or drilling. To see how much money you can save, request a quote from PEI today.

Quality & Certifications

PEI is proud to be in the 99th percentile in internal and external quality report ratings and on-time deliveries. Our chemical etching operations meet a number of quality standards including MIL-STD-45662, MIL-STD-105, and ANSI/ASQC Z1.4. We are ISO:9001, AS9100, and ITAR certified.

PEI’s sophisticated chemical etching processes allow us to provide precise tolerances on precision metal parts. Please visit our website to learn more.