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Chemical Etching

  • Ideal for Complex Part Designs
  • Manufacture Beyond Hard Tool Capability
  • Produce Parts Quickly Without Burrs or Distortion
Over 200,000 quotes provided to top US companies.
Chemical Etching Services
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Complex Parts

Burr- and

Extensive Engineering

What is Photo Chemical Etching?

Photo chemical etching is a machining process that uses films, masks and chemical etchants to produce complex and highly accurate flat metal parts at a per-part cost that is considerably less than other subtractive manufacturing methods.

It uses a technique similar to building computer chips that enables the creation of complex shapes like very fine screens and filters, flat washers and shims and precisely-shaped electrical contacts.

Because it doesn’t rely on heat or mechanical force, photo chemical etching produces parts that are free of burrs and distortion – perfect for precision applications like aerospace, electrical components and hydraulics.

It also doesn’t require hard tooling, making it perfect for quick turnarounds of prototype parts and iterating production part designs.

How Does Photo Chemical Etching Work?

Newcut’s Pete Engel explains how photo chemical etching works and shows examples of parts created using this affordable technique.

If you’re having trouble visualizing the photo chemical milling process, you may find this explainer video from PCMI to be helpful.

Advantages of Photo Chemical Etching

Low-cost tooling: Films for photo chemical etched parts can be produced directly from your CAD drawings. No hard tools or work-holding fixtures are required.

Fast delivery: Because no hard tooling is required, an order may be fulfilled within days or up to a week for complex part designs. Multiple parts can be produced from a single sheet of metal. Little or no finishing is required.

Uncompromised integrity of the metal: Many types of manufacturing, such as machining and laser cutting, can cause thermal stresses and changes to the hardness, ductility or grain structure of the metal. Photo chemical etching doesn’t affect its internal structure.

Produce complex yet affordable flat parts: Photo chemical etching enables you to create parts with fine details and complex geometries that are beyond the capability of hard tools. It can be used to fabricate parts in dead soft or full hard material without burrs or metal distortion.

Easy, fast and inexpensive prototype parts: Photo chemical etching utilizes films to create parts, so you can iterate designs quickly and inexpensively. The same process used to create prototype parts is used to make your production parts.

Burr-free parts: Burrs are a common side effect of many types of metal production. Photo chemical etching produces a clean, smooth surface free of burrs and eliminates the need for manual finishing procedures.

Our Newcut staff has over 30 years of experience helping engineers get exceptional results with this elegantly efficient fabrication technique.

Applications of Photo Chemical Etching

Photo chemical etching is an affordable solution wherever you need extremely flat, burr-free, tight-tolerance parts.

If you need to create multiple small openings, such as those required for filter media, the etching process creates all of them simultaneously, eliminating problems with blowouts that laser cutting and other manufacturing techniques can cause.

Photo chemical etching is ideal for these types of precision parts:

  • Connectors
  • Electrical contacts
  • Encoders
  • EMI or RF shielding
  • Filters/screens
  • Flat springs
  • Signage
  • Washers and shims


Photo chemical etching is preferred by demanding industries that require flat, burr-free parts with tight tolerances and precise features:

  • Aerospace
  • Architectural
  • Automotive
  • Commercial
  • Decorative
  • Electronic
  • Medical
  • Military
  • Optics
  • Energy

Precision Parts Gallery

Here’s a sampling of the parts we’ve produced using photo chemical etching:

How Does Photo Chemical Etching Compare?

Click on the button below to view a comparison of the material thickness, tolerances, part volume, setup cost, lead time and materials for photo chemical etching versus 4 other fabrication methods:

Material Thickness Tolerance Kerf Part Volume Set Up Cost Lead Time  ** Notes
*CHEMICAL ETCHING 0.005″ – 0.060″ Is +/- 10% of material thickness, .002″ min. Equal to metal thickness 1- Infinity $350 Min. 6-8 days Metal Only. No Burrs. Beveled Edges. Half Etch and Holes.
FIBER LASER (4,000 & 6,000 WATT) AL: 0.250″ SS: 0.375″ CRS: 0.500″ COP: 0.250″ Brass: 0.125″ 0.002″ – 0.005″ .008″ 1 to High-Volume Low 6-8 days Metals – Fast
OMAX WATERJET Up to 6″ 0.005″- 0.015″ .020″/.040″ 1 to 5000 Low 6-8 days Metal, glass, plastic, stone, rubber, kevlar, carbon fiber, ceramics, etc.Taper up to 59 °
MICROCUT™ .0005″ – 0.5″ 0.0005″ -0.005″ 0.009″, 0.011″,  0.0196″ 1 to 5000 Low 6-8 days Metal, glass, plastic, stone, rubber, kevlar, laminates, carbon fiber, ceramics, etc.
WIRE EDM 0.001″ – 6″ 0.0005″ 0.005″ 1-200 Is Best Low 6-8 days Conductive Metals, Carbon

* Inner radius should be 100% of material thickness.  Outer Radius should be 75% of material thickness.
**Dependent on geometry, volume and material:  EXPEDITE options available.

Get Our Chemical Etching Design Guide

Every fabrication method has its own unique set of rules and guidelines for part design. Photo chemical etching is no exception.

Advanced photo etching ebook 

Materials Available for Photo Chemical Etching

    • Aluminum
    • Steel
    • Stainless steel
    • Beryllium copper
    • Nickel alloys
    • Copper and copper alloys
    • Magnetic alloys
    • High-temperature alloys
    • Controlled expansion alloys
    • Miscellaneous alloys

Contact our sales team for a more detailed list of materials and feature sizes supported.

Experience & Certifications

We’ve been producing parts using photo chemical etching for over 50 years. Our resident expert has over 30 years of experience helping customers optimize the part designs and material selections for photo chemical etching.

Check out our certifications.

Request a quote

Newcut by Fathom

401 W. Shore Blvd.
Newark, NY 14513 USA

Phone: 315-331-7680
Email: sales.newark@fathommfg.com
Fax: 315-331-0313

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Why Choose Fathom?

We make your parts to your specifications, we won’t put you in a box of manufacturing constraints, and we’re definitely not a broker who will send out your parts to other companies. We’re driven to provide a DIFFERENTIATED customer experience with speed, urgency & agility.

 ISO 9001:2015 Certified + AS9100 Rev. D Certified + ITAR Registered + NIST 800-171 Compliant + ISO 13485 Certified

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