Photochemical machining offers a solution to metal parts fabrication that meets the challenges of today’s demanding manufacturing environment.
The key to photochemical machining’s advantages as a metal fabricating technique lies in its unique tooling – the photo-tool – which consists of a computer generated plot on film or, for greater accuracy, on glass.
- Low cost: There are no expensive blanking dies.
- Fast turnaround: The production of photo-tooling can be measured in hours, not days, weeks or months.
- Design flexibility: Complexity of design presents no difficulties for photochemical machining. In addition, design changes are expeditiously and inexpensively accomplished.
- Dimensional repeatability: The photo-tool is transferred to metal through a contact printing process. There is no tool wear ensuring that the first part produced from a photo-tool is identical to the last. Moreover, since there is no tool degradation incurred through use, photochemical machining avoids expensive tool maintenance and re-tooling charges.
In addition to these tooling related benefits, other advantages accrue to photochemical machining because the actual metal machining is accomplished through acid spray etching. In processing, this allows:
- A wide range of metals including, but not limited to, copper and copper alloys, steel, stainless steels, nickel and nickel alloys, aluminum, and cobalt alloys.
- Metals with thicknesses from .0001″ to .125″.
- Metals of any temper from soft annealed to full hard.
- Metal parts produced without any disturbance to the intrinsic properties of the base materials. A metal’s fundamental physical, chemical, and magnetic properties such as temper, tensile, grain structure, and permeability, remain unaltered through photochemical machining.
- Metal parts produced without burrs.
Processing parameters in photochemical machining are primarily dictated by the gauge of the material to be etched. The typical feature size tolerance is± 10% material thickness. Through holes and slots must normally be specified at 1 to 1.2 times material thickness. Outside and inside radii will typically run at one half material thickness. Center-to-center dimensions and other geometrically toleranced dimension such as true position or parallelism that are derived directly form the photo-tool may be specified at .0001″.