Conard's Photo Etching Blog

Photo Etching for Metal Stampers: another way to say 'yes'

Posted by Kathleen Stillman on Dec 18, 2014 4:14:00 AM
Kathleen Stillman
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Many stampers have found that working with a photo etcher can help them meet a wider array of their customer's needs and enable them to say, "Yes, we can do that for you."

No one likes to say no to a customer. But sometimes, your customer's' requests are just not a good fit for your processes. For metal stampers, you may find that the gap between what you want and what you can do in reality is a bit wider than you think with certain designs.

The following issues are some of the common that metal stampers run into:

  • High tooling costs.
  • Long lead and production times.
  • Production methods can't accommodate design complexity.
  • The desired material/thickness combination is not possible.
  • Dimensional tolerances are too tight.
  • The customer wants too low a quantity.

Photo etching can set metal stampers on the path to saying "yes!"
Many stampers have found that working with a photo etcher can help them meet a wider array of their customer's needs and enable them to say, "Yes, we can do that for you." Here is how working with a photo etching supplier can address the common problems listed above.

  • Photo tools can be made in 24 hours and are usually less than $300.
  • Prototyped quantities can be produced within days.
  • "Design complexity is a non-issue."

    Nearly any quantity is acceptable - from tens to thousands.
  • Suitable for materials as thin as .001".
  • Accommodate tight tolerances, +/- 15% of metal thickness.
  • Design complexity is a non-issue.

For many industries today, tight tolerances, small parts and complex designs are becoming the norm for component parts. The MEMS, medical and the RF industries are just a few that are asking suppliers to make their parts even smaller and more precise. If metal stampers want to stay competitive, they must find a way to adapt to these changes. Working with a photo etcher help them expand their palette of offerings to their customers.

photo etched medical sensorsComplex component parts are a growing part of the medical equipment industry. Photo etching can help metal stampers say yes to their customers in this growing field.

How metal stamping compares to photo etching for complex parts
To get an idea of how other nonconventional fabrication methods stack up against photo etching when producing complex flat parts, the Photo Chemical Machining Institute asked a variety of suppliers to quote prices for some common yet complicated parts.

The PCMI found that as parts call for more complex design features and geometries, metal stamping becomes far less cost efficient. For example, a typical leadframe used in electronic applications wouldn't be practical in any batch size smaller than 50,000. For a batch size of 50,000 leadframes, stamping's tooling costs turned out to be 20,000 percent compared to those of a photoetcher.

For a grid that would find its home in the medical equipment industry, stamping turned out to be completely impractical - the supplier who quoted the price said that no batch size for the part would ever be feasible for stamping. The tolerances for the grid's aperture are simply too tight for stamping to produce them to the design's specifications.

If you're a metal stamper who has a customer requesting a job outside your area of expertise, call us at 800-443-5218 or email us at so we can help you say "yes"!

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