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Economical high volume photo eching

14 May 2009

Photo Etching is known for being a prototyping technique and a manufacturing method for short to medium volume requirements of precision metal parts but few would consider the technology for volume parts manufacture. Precision Micro is determined to correct this misconception as Mick Taylor, Precision Micro’s Market Development Manager explains.

“Photo Etching is a proven manufacturing technology that, when scaled up, can be very competitive with stamping, for producing high volume precision metal components. Precision Micro has invested heavily in what is believed to be the largest, high volume, contract etching facility in Europe with a capacity to process over 30 tonnes of material per week.”

The high volume facility is located close by Precision Micro’s new Birmingham production plant. It uses the same technology but there, the similarity ends. Whereas the new plant has been designed for flexibility with an ability to meet all quantity requirements from prototypes to large volume, the high volume facility churns out components by the million, round the clock, with certain machines even being dedicated to the production of a single specific part.

“When the demand for a component increases significantly we are able to transfer production seamlessly to the high volume plant and in this way remain competitive with stamped parts,” continued Taylor. “Produced by the same method and using the same tooling, the component design and quality remains consistent whereas a move to press tooling invariably requires some design modifications that can impact on subsequent assembly.”

Unlike with press tooling, Precision Micro claims that design modifications can be made during a production run without losing any production time and at very little additional cost… simply a modified phototool.

A further benefit of the high volume machines is reported to be their ability to accommodate large sheet sizes. Individual components up to 610mm x 1500mm can be produced thanks to the larger tunnel dimensions of the high volume machines, laying waste to a further myth that etched parts have to be small.

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