JIM Cove of Mastercut Technologies says photochemical milling can help lower the costs of producing thin metal parts when laser cutting becomes prohibitive.
According to Cove, laser cutting of thin metal parts is often most cost-effective when dealing with small volumes, such as for prototyping and initial production.
As the unit volumes increase, there may come a point where stamping becomes an option. However, there is an intermediate step between laser cutting and stamping, which is photochemical milling.
Mastercut Technologies claims photochemical milling provides economical components reliably, accurately and consistently, with the ability to alter the design along the way.
The photochemical milling process exposes the image of the required parts onto light-sensitive film laminated to the material of the parts. Once developed, only the exposed areas of film remain in place.
After a series of passes through an acid etching machine, the areas unprotected by the film dissolve, leaving only the wanted components.
The parts are secured with “tabs” that allow the part to snap out of the sheet easily, often without leaving any sharp edges.
The etching process takes the same time per sheet regardless of the intricacy or number of parts. Additionally, users of photochemical milling can partially etch or include fold lines, holes, slots, mesh, text and logos without significantly increasing the process time or cost.
Mastercut Technologies has mastered photochemical milling over 15 years, and can process stainless steel, copper, brass, beryllium copper, and nickel alloys in thicknesses as thin as 0.05mm.