Continuous Reel-to-Reel Metal Etching

Lancaster Metals Science offers both conventional discrete metal sheet etching and, since 1989, continuous reel-to-reel processing. In application, continuous manufacturing is identical to sheet fabrication except that all the processing steps – from cleaning the metal to applying photo-resist to UV light imaging and ultimately to etching the metal and stripping the photo-resist – are performed on a coil as opposed to a sheet of metal. The final product, then, is presented to the customer not as individual pieces or as a panel of parts but as a continuous coil of fabricated parts.

Our Advantage

At the heart of Lancaster Metals’ reel to reel etching is the ability to image continuous strip and maintain precise registration and alignment between sequentially exposed and imaged panels. As digital imaging technology evolved, improved and became more widespread in manufacturing, it found its way into reel to reel printing for photochemically etched product. In 2007 Lancaster Metals upgraded its reel to reel printing with one of the first machines that employed digital imaging and optical targeting to achieve precise panel to panel registration and alignment. In 2018 Lancaster Metals added a second print line based on that same technology and incorporating all the advances of the preceding decade including the use of LED’s as a light source. Both lines employ multiple CCD cameras to locate numerous predefined targets to achieve the very best panel to panel alignment.

Manufactured parts are subjected to complete first article inspections to ensure that all print dimensions are met.

Using multiple 2D optical micrometers, Lancaster Metals also offers inline inspection of etched strip at the end of the develop, etch and strip line. In real time, critical dimensions are monitored, recorded and supply immediate feedback on the efficacy of whole etching operation.

As a final, off-line inspection, all etched strip is run through a high speed machine vision system. Lancaster Metals’ vision systems have the ability to inspect both the metal surface and the etched part geometry simultaneously.

Any metal that Lancaster Metals etches in conventional panels including copper, aluminum and stainless steels can be processed in this reel-to-reel format. All the advantages normally associated with metal etching including the production of burr-free parts; the ability to produce fine, intricate geometries; dimensional repeatability; the ability to etch surface features such as grooves or channels and the cutting of metal without disturbing the intrinsic characteristics of the base metal are also present in continuous processing. In addition, the tooling requirements for reel-to-reel etching are comparable to the low cost tooling associated with discrete sheet etching. During imaging, the continued dimensional accuracy of the tooling is assured by environmental controls within the reel-to-reel print line itself and verified by the systems ability to measure and monitor tooling dimensions.

Additional Benefits

While certain economies may accrue to metal etching parts in high volumes in this continuous format, the customer may also realize additional benefits. Having parts in continuous strip allows any subsequent fabrication steps – plating, forming, die-cutting, insert molding or assembly, for example – to be performed on a continuous reel-to-reel basis.

For metals less than 75 microns in thickness, whether because of the thickness, temper or the complexity of part design, reel to reel etching offers a solution for high volume production. Or for parts ultimately destined for high run stamping through progressive dies, consider reel to reel etching as a quick and inexpensive means to produce prototypes or even for pre-production runs. Allow reel to reel etching to be your trim die and let all subsequent operations – forming, plating or over-molding – be done in efficient and cost effective reel to reel fashion.

In a world where everything is getting smaller, thinner and more complex and time to market is getting shorter and customization as opposed to mass production is becoming the rule, reel to reel etching offers some unique solutions for modern manufacturing.

Contact our engineering department to evaluate your specific requirements.

Continuous Reel-to-Reel Metal Etching Services


  • Continuous Reel-to-Reel Metal Etching
  • Single and Double Sided Exposure Capability
  • Chemical Blanking
  • Chemical Etching
  • Chemical Milling
  • Photo Etching
  • Photo Milling
  • Photochemical Etching
  • Photochemical Milling
  • Photochemical Machining
  • Copper
  • Beryllium Copper
  • Phosphor Bronze
  • Brass
  • Mild Steel
  • 300 and 400 Series Stainless Steel
  • Precipitation Hardening Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Aluminum Alloys
  • Nickel
  • Monel®
  • Inconel®
  • Kovar®
  • Molybdenum
  • Carbon Steel
  • Magnetic Alloys
  • Spring Steel
  • Alloy 42
  • Invar®
  • Low-Cost
  • Fast Turnaround
  • Design Flexibility
  • Dimensional Repeatability
  • 10%
  • 2 Develop, Etch, and Strip Lines (Ferric and Cupric Chloride)
  • 2 Reel-to-Reel Print Lines
  • Prototype
  • Low Volume
  • High Volume
  • Blanket Orders
  • Quoted on Job by Job Basis


  • 0.001 in
  • 0.025 mm
  • 0.012 in
  • 0.3 mm


  • 50 ft
  • 15 m
  • 1,000 ft
  • 300 m


  • 6 in
  • 150 mm
  • 20 in
  • 500 mm

Additional Information

  • Electronic Connectors
  • Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Shielding
  • Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) Shielding
  • Filtration
  • Heat Exchangers
  • Lancets
  • Mesh & Sieving
  • Perforated Metal Screens
  • Circuits
  • Mesh/Screen
  • Aerospace
  • Automation
  • Automotive
  • Biomedical
  • Communications
  • Computer and Electronics
  • Dental
  • Defense Industry
  • Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Electromechanical Devices
  • Material Handling & Processing
  • Medical
  • Medical Devices
  • Military
  • Oil, Gas, & Petroleum Exploration
  • Oil, Gas, & Petroleum Extraction
  • Optical
  • Optics
  • Research
  • Robotics
  • Specialty Machinery
  • Surgical Devices
  • Telecommunications
  • Textile
  • Tool & Die
  • ISO 9001:2015 (International Organization for Standardization)
  • RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances (Compliant))
  • ITAR Registered
  • AutoCAD (DWG, DWZ)
  • DXF (Drawing Interchange Format, or Drawing Exchange Format)
  • JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
  • PDF (Portable Document Format)