Fotofab specializes in producing your parts by whatever means necessary – chemical etching, stamping, forming, metal fabrication, electroforming, laser cutting, and wire EDM are all tools in our chest. The Fotofab process features a trio of fundamental Improvements over other manufacturers: reduced costs, faster speeds and higher precision parts. We do all of our manufacturing and source our materials in the United States, Chicago, IL to be precise.
The affordable pricing, quick speed, and high precision of our photochemical etching process ensures that it is the quintessential method for both production and prototyping of metal parts.
So what is photo etching?
“Chemical etching(photo etching) is a photo-lithographic process whereby a phototool is used to block UV light from exposing the area of a sheet of metal which has first been cleaned and laminated with photoresist. The sheet is developed which washes away the unexposed photoresist leaving a very precise mask of hardened photoresist behind. This patterned sheet is then exposed to concentrated etchants which very precisely dissolve any exposed material.”
Etching has been around since the Middle ages, it was used to decorate armor and by the printmakers of the 16th century as method for producing their printing plates. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etching. The process was developed as a manufacturing process by The Buckbee Mears Corporation from St. Paul, MN in the early 1900s and then further developed by Kodak during the 1960s. Kodak wanted to sell more film and photoresist so they ran a seminar on how to produce sheet metal parts via photo-etching – The Fotofabrication Corporation was founded in 1967 in Chicago, IL as a result of those seminars. Buckbee Mears went on to produce shadow masks for a large percentage of the cathode ray TV sets manufactured in America and throughout the world. You have used a photo-etched product whether you know it or not, every electronic device made contains an electronic circuit board manufactured by photo etching.
Fotofab was featured on season 3 of the Modern Marvels show produced by The History Channel. We are not allowed to post the video online because the History Channel owns the copyright and they don’t want us to but if you are interested in receiving a DVD of that episode for free by mail, please fill out our Request Information form.
Photo tools are inexpensive
The majority of phototools used in chemical etching are priced between $300 and $400. This is thousands of dollars less than the cost of using hard tools for etching equivalent metal parts.
…and fast to produce
It typically takes less than a day, often less than an hour and that means that your custom, brand new parts can be ready to ship the same day you order them (with our optional expedited service), standard lead times are usually 5 days.
…with much higher precision
Your Phototool is produced, stored and used in our in-house, Class 100,000, temperature and humidity controlled clean room. Your tool rarely leaves this environment so there are no variations in size, it remains consistent – as do we.
Photochemical machining or Chemical Etching has the ability to produce complex geometries within very strict tolerances and the good news is that increased part complexity is very rarely a cost driver.
How quickly do you need your parts? Fotofab can deliver. We offer a menu of delivery Lead Times from which you can select. These delivery options may be selected just by including them on your purchase order or credit card order.