Etched RF shield, flat spring, and copper control grid

The Advantages of Choosing Chemical Metal Etching For Your Business

Modern businesses demand custom-manufactured parts at fast turnaround times and at a low cost of production. Traditional mechanical forming methods cannot always fulfill today's production needs.  

Metal etching companies use a fabrication process that is particularly effective for creating thin metal parts from sheet metal using chemical etchants. It is a precise and controlled manufacturing process that is cost-effective, just as it is fast and reliable.

Elcon Precision has developed highly advanced and controlled etching processes—often using proprietary etchant—that deliver metal components with greater precision than the industry standard. 

The level of precision we achieve guarantees the success of critical applications such as lifesaving biomedical devices or high-performance industrial components. 

In this article, we'll look at the reasons why businesses should choose photochemical etching to create metal components with highly specific dimensionality and very tight tolerances.

What Is Metal Etching?

Metal etching is a subtractive process that dissolves unwanted material away from a larger sheet metal surface, leaving behind metal components or parts in intricate shapes and complex geometries in the required dimensions.

Also known as photochemical etching, chemical machining, or chemical milling, metal etching involves a multi-step process that uses etchants or corrosive chemicals (typically ferric chloride or nitric acid) to create a 2D or 3D component via photolithographically imaged patterns. The resultant metal components or parts are burr-free and stress-free, making them ideal for applications in several industries, from biomedicine to aerospace and even cutting-edge renewable energy applications.

Metals can also be etched by methods that are different from chemical etching, such as electro-etching, laser cutting (or laser etching), or acid etching.

Since the photochemical etching process relies on digital tooling, it delivers highly consistent and repeatable results at a substantially lower cost than traditional production methods that use hard tooling.

After parts are etched, they can be further processed with selective plating to add gold, copper, nickel, or silver to components.

The Advantages of Metal Etching

As businesses, products, and processes become more computerized, production methods must keep pace with the increasing digitization.

Metal etching as a fabrication process has continually adapted to meet new requirements. Metal etching relies on digital tooling and processes, which lends itself to higher precision, more efficient production, and greater flexibility in design.

Let's delve deeper into some benefits that make metal etching the ideal choice for manufacturing precision metal components.

Quality Assurance

The metal etching process starts with a computer-generated image or artwork of the required component. 

A digital imager machine then uses a UV laser to directly transfer onto the metal sheet.

Since the process is digital, there is little or no variability in each production run. Every piece of metal produced is guaranteed to be exactly identical. The precision of this digital tooling ensures that every component will meet quality requirements.

At Elcon, we have a team of full-time inspectors and metrology experts who use state-of-the-art quality inspection tools to measure each component before we deliver it to you. 

We ensure that every piece is quality-assured, meets your dimensional and functional specifications, and is ready for use.

Elcon Precision is AS9100D-certified, ISO 9001:2015-certified, ITAR-registered, and RoHS-compliant

Design Flexibility

Metal etching is a versatile process, and almost any metal can be used as a substrate, in thicknesses ranging from 0.0005 in. to 0.100 inches with tolerances as tight as ±0.0005 in.

We manufacture metal components from various metals, ranging from refractory metals such as molybdenum, tungsten, and titanium to pure metals such as copper, nickel, and palladium, as well as alloys like stainless steel, bronze, and brass.

As photochemical etching uses digital tooling, any changes in design (especially at the prototyping stage) can easily be achieved quickly and cost-efficiently. Digital amendments are made to the artwork, and the new image is directly transmitted from the computer to production without any modifications to hard tooling, as is required in mechanical processes like stamping or die-casting. 

This flexibility makes photochemical etching ideal for iterative design improvements or product variations. Moreover, this flexibility is available for both small and high-volume production runs.

Faster Lead Times

Photochemical etching delivers finished products at faster lead times than conventional processes such as stamping.

Once the initial process of creating the artwork and applying the photoresist mask or stencil is complete, the actual chemical process takes a very short time. As no expensive hard tooling is involved, design modifications can also be achieved quickly.

This makes metal etching an ideal fabrication process for projects with tight production schedules, fast prototyping, modifications to etched designs, and redesign cycles.

Businesses can bring products to market more quickly. Shorter lead times also result in overall cost savings and increased responsiveness to customer demands.

Industry Expertise

Founded in 1967, Elcon has the requisite industry experience to deliver high-quality metal etching and selective plating services.

Our expertise in advanced photochemical etching and machining allows us to meet challenging dimensional requirements with tight tolerances and consistently produce finer geometries with greater precision than the industry standard.

From prototyping to full production runs, we use state-of-the-art equipment such as lamination rollers, direct digital imagers, software for six-sigma capability assessment, and QCBD Quality Management Software for NCMR, RMA, dynamic MRB, CAR, and reports.

What Industries Benefit from Metal Etching?

Elcon produces precise, reliable, photochemically etched parts for various applications, from medical devices and particle filters to EMI/RFI shields and current collectors.

We have proven capabilities in producing mesh screens, connectors, hemispherical domes, springs, RF shields, and other multilayer structures using step etching, 3D photo etching, and other value-added services like selective plating of finished components.


The biomedical industry requires metal components of complex geometries that are precisely manufactured to stringent dimensional requirements, such as prosthetics, surgical instruments, and implantable devices.

Metal etching produces burr-free and stress-free parts with excellent dimensional accuracy, which is essential in the biomedical industry. Etching can deliver smooth surfaces, free of sharp edges, and most importantly, the etching process maintains the functional properties of the substrate material so that the final parts are biocompatible and perform to the highest level, even when exposed to harsh bodily acids and other fluids.


Cost-effectiveness and scalability for high-volume production with consistent and repeatable quality are essential for metal components used in small-scale and large-scale production in the industrial sector.

Photochemical etching is used extensively to fabricate industrial parts: flexure springs, meshes, screens, filters, and gaskets.

Elcon produces high-quality, corrosion-resistant, and durable parts suitable for various industrial environments. The design flexibility offered by the metal etching process helps us offer a high level of customization and produce components with very specific industrial dimensional and tolerance requirements. 

We have the capability to etch precise screen holes in a wide variety of geometries (circles, hexagons, rectangles, tapered) that are essential for specific processes.


Safety and reliability are critical in aerospace components. The industry requires parts in intricate shapes that are lightweight but reliable and can be produced in large and small quantities.

These may include aircraft relay components, line replaceable units, ion thrusters, radar jamming devices, and various engine components.

Metal etching delivers high-precision results with consistent quality and within tight tolerances, which is critical for aerospace components. 

Renewable energy

Elcon specializes in the customized etching of aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium bipolar plates for use in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells and electrolyzers.

Our etching process creates high-precision channels on the surface of the metal fuel cell plates and employs low-cost digital tooling with no initial setup costs. This brings down the operational cost of production of the fuel cells.

The design flexibility, burr-free surface finish, and consistent quality delivered by etching make it the preferred fabrication method for components used in the renewable energy sector.

Trust Elcon Precision With Your Metal Etching Needs

At Elcon, we pride ourselves on delivering precision parts that are built to succeed. Rely on our expertise and many years of experience in deep etching steel, copper, brass, and various types of metal to deliver to stringent dimensional and tolerance requirements.

Whether you need thin metal components for aerospace, biomedical, or simple commercial or heavy industrial use, you can trust Elcon.

Our engineers and expert consultants will work with you to ensure your requirements are met in terms of precision, quality, lead times, and budget.

Connect with our experts to understand how Elcon's photochemical etching can benefit your business.

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