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.

Photo-Tool Highlights

  • 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.

Additional Advantages

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″.