Unlike machine shops or sheet metal fabricators, of which there are thousands around the country, there are fewer than 100 companies specializing in photo chemical machining in North America, and barely 200 around the world. This metal fabricating process is also referred to as photo etching or chemical etching. The first "alias," photo etching, alludes to the part of the process where a mylar mask is used to expose the image of the parts onto the photopolymer resist. The second identifies the means by which metal is dissolved using etching chemistry.
As far as our research can determine, most of the companies using this process have at least 20 years in this business, and many of us more than 30 years. Conard was founded in 1965...50 years in the business!
In addition to the fundamental requirements of quality, value and service, your decision about choosing a photo etching supplier should take into consideration the supplier's environmental compliance, safety, waste treatment programs and equipment replacement cycles.
Environmental compliance is generally a state-level activity governing liquid and solid waste products. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees air quality. Our facility is evaluated regularly by environmental consultants to assure that our compliance procedures are being accurately and consistently followed. This includes specific training in compliance and safety for new hires and compulsory annual retraining for all production employees.
We have an onsite waste water treatment facility that enables us to significantly re-use our process water and return it to near-potable condition before discharging it. Our expended etchant is neutralized, relieved of its dissolved metals and re-processed as well.
In addition to the regulatory and environmental cost burdens, photo etching equipment is not a long-lived asset. Exposure to the acid etching solution, which is both heated and pressurized, takes its toll on the conveyors, bearings, and pumps. Despite continuous preventive maintenance, we routinely replace equipment every four years.
We continue to invest in the business and its future and have recently completed a plant expansion that adds 25% more space to our production facility.
When you are considering your options in selecting an etching supplier, ask for a tour of the plant. As Yogi Bera once said, "You can observe a lot just by watching."
If you are ready to take the next step: