The Basics of Photochemical Machining (PCM)
Photochemical machining (PCM) is an excellent alternative to traditional CNC machining operations. Thousands or millions of high precision parts can be manufactured at one time with substantially reduced tooling costs. Metal parts that are intricate in nature, with complex shapes and geometries, can easily be tooled using CAD/CAM software and printed on a phototool. This minimizes expensive mechanical and manual operation costs and reduces the overall turnaround time.
We know that our customers want quality parts machined to specifications, with on-time delivery, and at the agreed-upon pricing. E-Fab engineers ensure that the processes used are in the best interest of getting you what you want. Whether this is a one-off prototype run or a multi-million production run, we are able to keep costs low and quality high.
- Create Phototool – a component containing a negative image of the desired part used to block UV light from reaching specific sections of the workpiece
- Prep Metal – cutting, cleaning, and applying photoresist—a light-sensitive compound—to the sheet metal
- Exposing – applying UV light to the masked metal, which hardens the exposed photoresist
- Developing – washing off the unhardened photoresist to reveal raw metal
- Etching – specialized etching equipment and etchant removes the unprotected raw metal areas
- Cleaning – removing the remaining photoresist to reveal the finished part
Tolerances – Photochemical machining (PCM), or photo etching, is ideally suited for most metals and alloys that are less than .050″ in material thickness depending on features and part tolerances. Parts requiring tighter tolerances can be easily stepped and repeated on larger panel sizes with high parts to panel density ratios. This substantially increases the yield ratio and decreases the material waste.
Low Cost – Traditionally, CNC machining and milling have difficulty making thin metal parts. PCM can solve the complex thin metal part challenges, and at a fraction of the cost. E-Fab can beat the cost, time, and accuracy of traditional manufacturing methods like CNC turning, milling, laser cutting, waterjet, and wire EDM (electrical discharge machining).
Quick Turnaround – Engineering modifications can be done quickly and conveniently using CAD/CAM software. PCM allows the designer and engineer to significantly reduce the turnaround time involved with prototypes and improve the complete production time frame.
Part Integrity – The PCM process maintains surface quality without producing burring or tool markings as with CNC machining. Metal properties and structural integrity of the alloys are also sustained through the process.
E-Fab PCM Applications
Metals – The PCM process is well suited for manufacturing thin metal parts in a variety of metals including aluminum, beryllium copper, brass, bronze, copper, Kovar, molybdenum, nickel, nickel silver, spring steel, stainless steel, steel, tin, and other common and exotic materials.
Products – With the design freedom of PCM, nearly any part can be made. E-Fab manufactures custom parts to customer specification, some of which had included stiffeners, busbars, flex circuits, mesh screens, antennas, micro bumps, connectors, contacts, filters, gaskets, heatsinks, lids, masks, RF circuits, sensors, shields (EMI/RFI/RF), shims, spacers, springs, step lids, and washers. The list is endless.
Industries – E-Fab has had a long history of working closely with the military and many leading aerospace companies. We provide engineering, design, and technical support services for all types of applications for aerospace, defense, medical, aviation, electronics, laser technology, semiconductor, automotive, pharma/biotechnology, and renewable energy.
Secondary Services – We not only want to provide thin metal etched parts, but we want them to be completed per your final needs. To get the parts from etched to application ready, E-Fab offers additional services including forming, shaping, bending, CNC machining,
Why Choose E-Fab?
By partnering with us for their precision thin metal and flex circuit needs, our customers benefit from our:
- Commitment to customer service (including signed nondisclosure agreements for proprietary ideas and products)
- On-time delivery and accuracy (better than traditional manufacturing methods)
- Design/engineering assistance (including optimizing for quality, manufacturability, and cost)
- Expert in Photochemical Machining (ISO 9001 certified, ITAR registered)
The bottom line is E-Fab Photochemical Machining can save you time and money in a multitude of ways. If you have an idea to discuss or a project to quote, contact us today.