Metal etching is a highly advantageous sheet metal manufacturing process — one that’s commonly viewed as superior in almost all respects. But how is the proceses compared to other precise sheet metal manufacturing processes?
Metal etching vs stamping vs laser cutting
Cost & investment
Stamping isn’t a cheap machining process by any means. Manufacturers often spend thousands on setup costs, alone. Setup, revisions, and modifications also take a significant amount of time. Laser cutting machines, too, are incredibly expensive to purchase and the running costs are extraordinarily high, requiring manufacturers to make a huge initial investment.
Chemical etching, on the other hand, has very little (if any) tooling costs and setup times. Modifications are also easy, especially during the prototyping phase, reducing overall cost and time throughout the entire process.
Etching accuracy and quality
Stamping is known as the go-to for one-time, single-use components, whereby stamped components tend to have less durability than chemical etched components. These components also have less complex and intricate designs, making them better for automotive industries but not for electronics (especially printed circuit boards).
Stamping also requires more forethought and consideration of which metal is being used and its thickness. Some tougher, heavier, and thicker metals and their alloys can be difficult for the stamping tool to penetrate with high levels of accuracy and surface quality when finished.
Chemical etching is the opposite. Incredibly accurate. Able to create intricate, elaborate, and vastly complex components at micron-level accuracy. All components are also free from unwanted burring and thermal stress-related problems, ensuring reduced risk of defects and malfunctions.
Initial tooling preparation time for stamping can take anywhere between 5-8 weeks, whilst overall processing and delivery time after finalization can be upwards of 12 weeks. Laser cutting reduces lead time compared to stamping but can be very inconsistent depending on the metal being machined. Thicker metals are particularly troublesome for laser cutters, which, again, can increase lead time dramatically.
Chemical etching manufacturers, however, estimate lead times in a matter of days (not weeks or months). Prototyping, revisions, and modifications can be completed very quickly, ensuring timely delivery and overall satisfaction to customers across a wide range of industries.