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Photo Etching Technical & Design Information

Photo Etching

What Kind of Materials Can Be Etched?

Common materials that can be etched range in thickness from .0005" to .125" include:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Carbon Steel
  • Inconel
  • KaptonTM
  • Kovar
  • Lead
  • Magnetic Alloys
  • Molybdenum
  • Monel
  • Nickel
  • Spring Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Alloy 42
  • Phosphor Bronze
  • Silicon Steel
  • Titanium
  • Nitinol Shape Memory
  • Beryllium Copper

What Tolerances Can Be Held?

In general, the standard minimum tolerance equals ±10% of the material's thickness (±.0005" min. tolerance). Specific tolerances depend on three factors:

  • Type of Alloy Selected
  • Thickness of Alloy Selected
  • Pattern to be Etched
    (Lower tolerances available at increased costs)


What Shapes Can Be Etched?

Etchable shapes are, generally, any configuration larger than the thickness of the material.

When you give the job shop the size of your parts, they'll help you select a material that is compatible with your application. All etching is accomplished on flat surfaces. After etching, forming achieves any final three-dimensional configuration you may need.



Panel Size/Part Size

The size of your part is limited to the size of the panel that can be processed through the job shop's complete photo etching processing. There also may be some limitations to the width of material available from their mills. The job shop should make every attempt to fit as many parts on the available process panel as possible to lower individual unit costs.

  • Typical panel size:             18” x 28” (width often smaller based on material availability and requirements.)
  • Large panel size:               28” x 34”
  • Extra large panel size:       26” x 68”

Part Tabbing

It is recommended, wherever possible, that parts be tabbed into the process sheet for consistent etching results.   If parts are not tabbed into the material sheet there may be inconsistent dimensional results during etching process.

Also usually offered is processing of etched components in an untabbed process sheet. These requests are reviewed on an individual application basis. Many parts, such as some medical implants, may require 100% burr free and this is something that can be addressed with each request.

The job shop will ship the finished components either as single pieces or tabbed into the process sheet per your preference. Receiving parts tabbed into the process sheet provides the following advantages:

  • Improved dimensional constancy across the panel of parts
  • Process advantages for secondary processes such as plating and electro polishing
  • Higher yields due to reduced handling damage (thin, delicate parts)
  • Ease of flat sheet packaging & shipping
  • Simplified inventory control for cycle counting

Various tab configurations can be used to connect the parts into the sheet. Straight tabs are used for shearing the parts from the sheet, and “V” shaped tabs are used for flex bending to separate the part from the sheet.

This technical information has been contributed by
VACCO Industries

Click on Company Name for a Detailed Profile

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