World leaders in

Photo Chemical Etching

At Photofab, we’ve been working in chemical etching (otherwise known as chemical milling or photo etching) since 1971. In that time, we’ve built a large pool of technical knowledge on the subject; we know the benefits it brings to our customers.

Chemical etching is a machining process which uses acids and other chemicals to dissolve unwanted material, usually metal, to produce precision components. The range of metals possible is vast, from yellow metals such as brass, copper, beryllium copper, etc. to ferrous metals including stainless steel, carbon steel and mild steel, up to a thickness of 1.5mm. See our Metals page for a full list of metals that can be chemically etched.

Chemical etching benefits

  • Low Cost Tooling
  • Low Cost Design Changes
  • Half-etched forming
  • Prototype to Full Production
  • Rapid Delivery – from 24 hours
  • Metal Properties Unaltered
  • Burr Free
  • Identification Marks Easily Added at No Extra Cost
  • Tabbed-in components for Greater Accuracy

Through a process of masking unwanted areas, one can selectively etch specific areas of the part. The aerospace industry regularly uses this type of etching to remove shallow layers of material from aircraft components and missile skin panels. The amount of material that can be removed can vary; one could remove anything from 10 microns (0.0004”) to over 0.5mm (0.020”).

For thicker requirements, Photofab can offer laser cutting. All of these metals etch at a different rate depending on their chemical composition.

Why use Chemical Etching?

For tooling

With chemical etching, tooling production doesn’t require the same long-winded, expensive mechanical processes as other methods. Bespoke tooling can be created quickly via CAD – and in the unlikely event of the tooling wearing out, a replacement can be just as quickly created and supplied, free of charge. Contact us for a quote to see how our low-cost tooling can make a huge difference in your production.

For prototyping

Prototyping is often a painstaking process of trial and error – even minuscule design changes can cost valuable time and money. Chemical etching drastically reduces the cost and time consumption of these experiments. Rapid prototyping is possible, ensuring that you can easily implement cost-effective improvement. See our Rapid Turnaround Service for more details.

Our tools can accommodate more than one design on a single sheet of metal. This means that you can trial two or three options on the same sheet of metal, making the process even more efficient while further reducing the costs.

Chemical etching bridges the gap between prototyping and full production, as you can use the same tooling to make one part or a million. We’d be happy to discuss how we can bring your ideas to life, so you can see a return on your hard work. Send us your spec to get a quote within 24 hours.

For everyone

One crucial aspect of the chemical etching process is that it produces burr free components – completely eliminating expensive and time-consuming deburring from the production process.

Chemical etching also carries the unique advantage of leaving the internal structure of the metal unchanged. This means leaving the metal unaffected with regard to hardness, grain structure, or ductility.

Company logos, part numbers or other identifying marks can easily be etched into the surface during manufacture, allowing you to produce branded components at no extra cost.

Why work with Photofab?

We are world leaders in the development of photochemical technology to produce intricately shaped components. We have produced over 70,000 different components at the request of our clients over the years. When you work with us, this experience is at your disposal; at all stages of the chemical etching process, our engineers at Photofab will offer advice to improve the product and reduce the costs.

Our knowledge and experience allow us to control the etching speed and produce metal parts with both high accuracy and high quality. We carefully review the component usage to ensure that the correct metal has been selected both from a performance and cost perspective.


In addition to our etching services, we have the facilities to offer forming solutions in-house, meaning that we can take care of an additional stage of your process and eliminate unnecessary admin time. Read about how we can provide Formed Components for your project.

To ensure excellent customer service, we include:

In addition, Photofab offer a full manufacturing solution for all your metal product needs – from washers to complex formed springs and screening cans, we can also form, heat treat, and plate as required.

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Chemical Milling / Chemical Etching

Forming & Toolroom

Plating

Laser Cutting

Metal Stamping

Wire Erosion

Far East Supply Chain

Prototyping to High Volume

Short Lead Times

Electronic File Handling

Photo Etching

Chemical Milling / Chemical Etching

At Photofab, we’ve been working in chemical etching (otherwise known as chemical milling or photo etching) since 1971. In that time, we’ve built a large pool of technical knowledge on the subject; we know the benefits it brings to our customers. Chemical etching is a machining process which uses acids and other chemicals to dissolve unwanted material, usually metal, to …

Read More

Forming & Toolroom

Our forming department covers not only the bending of metal parts, but also complex tool making, soldering, spot welding, surface grinding, milling and turning. We specialise in both prototyping and production runs. This section details not only what Photofab can provide in terms of forming methods, but also the assembly, soldering, spot welding a grinding services. Forming and Toolroom Benefits …

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Plating

What is plating? Plating is a surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface. Plating has been done for hundreds of years, but it is also critical for modern technology – Wikipedia Plating is used to: Add a decorative finishCreate corrosion inhibitionTo improve solder-abilityTo harden the surfaceTo improve durability To alter conductivityFor radiation shieldingTo improve paint …

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Laser Cutting

Etching through metal over 1.5mm thick gets expensive, this is where laser cutting comes into its own. With state of the art equipment and finishing facilities to remove sharp edges and burrs Photofab can offer high tolerance cost effective solutions. Laser Cutting Benefits Laser option – CO2 Laser option – Nd Laser option -Nd-YAG Laser Marking Photofab can provide parts …

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Metal Stamping

Photofab offer the process of stamping (sometimes referred to as blanking) metal components. The manufacturing process of metal stamping involves feeding sheets of metal into a high tonnage press between pre-manufactured stamping dies to cut and form metal. Metal stamping is predominantly used for producing parts in high volumes at low manufacturing costs. Metal Stamping Benefits Very low unit cost …

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Wire Erosion

Wire Erosion is used by Photofab in combination with the Photo Etching / Chemical Milling process to produce very precise cost effective products with very low cost tooling or set up charges. As a machining process Wire Erosion is used to cut through various substances in order to form parts for a number of different industries, who require component accuracy …

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Far East Supply Chain

Photofab have developed strong links with a reputable etching company in the Far East. We have researched them and they have passed various tests for environmental, ethical, and employment practices. We recognise the importance of our responsibility to only work with decent and honest companies. Far East Supply Chain Benefits Large Volume Manufacturing Lower cost compared to UK Tried and …

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Prototyping to High Volume

Prototyping to High Volume Whether you are looking for volume production in hundreds of thousands, a short production run or a one off prototype, Photofab has the answer. The chemical milling, photo etching or chemical etching process is ideally suited to rapid prototyping as electronically generated files can be used to produce photo-tools which are then transferred to the surface …

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Short Lead Times

24 hour quotes Dedicated account managers Rapid 3 day service Here at Photofab we pride ourselves on the short lead times we provide our customers Photofab, the chemical machining specialist, have an enviable record of meeting customer requirements both in terms of achieving the impossible on short lead times and reliability. We will always quote within 24 hours for standard work; even faster if …

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Electronic File Handling

Most types of file formats can be viewed but not all types can be used to create photo-tools. Quotation Stage Almost all electronic drawing file formats can be opened and read at the quotation stage. These include: CAD format dwg, dxf, IGESImage format: pdf, eps, cdr, ai If your drawing format is not shown here, please call us on 01480 …

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Photo Etching

There is a phrase often associated with Photofab and photo etching, “If you can draw it, we can make it”. With nearly 50 years experience and a large pool of technical knowledge, we are specialists in photo etching of thin metal parts. Photo Etching High Accuracy Burr Free Components Low Cost Tooling Fast Turn Arounds This means we can offer …

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