Photo etching metal parts - order online, delivered in days.*

On demand photo etching, prototyping & production, in days from $50 for just 1. 93% off for 10,000.

Custom photo etching metal parts delivered in days.
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"Using Ponoko gave me the ability to create what I wanted with least amount of investment of time and money."

Andi Dixon

"We see this as the beginning of something huge"

Photochemical machining, or photo etching, allows you to create ultra-high precision sheet metal parts exhibiting both complex geometries and fine details. Ponoko provides photo etching for stainless steel, brass and copper sheets, giving you a wide range of material properties to meet your requirements. The photo etching process allows both through etching and surface etching in the same part, enabling you to engrave logos, text or bend lines, as well as intricate details, through the part. Whether you need a fine, custom shaped stainless steel mesh for chemical engineering applications, or a foldable brass radio frequency shield for your electronics, Ponoko’s photo etching process has you covered. You can order just a single sheet or enough components for a full production run. Photo etching materials are priced per sheet, rather than per part. This allows you to fit multiple components, or a large array of the same component, in a single order.
Custom photo etching metal parts delivered in days.

What is photoetching?

Photoetching is a chemical process that removes material from a substrate, and the chemical used is generally an acid (such as ferric chloride or hydrofluoric acid). To selectively remove material from a substrate, a mask is required that protects areas of material that are needed while unprotected areas are etched by a chemical solution. The first step to photoetching is the application of a layer of photosensitive material on top of a substrate. A mask of the design is then placed on top of the photosensitive layer, and light (typically UV), is shone onto the mask to expose areas not covered by the mask. Once properly exposed, the mask is removed, and the photosensitive layer is developed to remove areas that were not exposed to UV light. The substrate is then bathed in a chemical etchant which attacks areas uncovered by the mask. Once fully etched, the remaining material then has the photosensitive layer removed using a strong base (such as sodium hydroxide).

What metals can be photoetched?

Any metal that works with common etchants can be used with the photoetching process. One of the most commonly photoetched materials is copper, and it is easily etched with ferric chloride. A nice advantage to ferric chloride is that the chemical itself does not attack organic tissue in the same way as it attacks copper meaning that ferric chloride spills are nowhere near as dangerous as other acids (such as sulfuric and hydrofluoric). Ponoko offers steel, copper, aluminum, and brass for photoetching in varying thicknesses and sizes.

Can photoetching cut through metal?

Photoetching can be used to cut right through metal, but there are some factors that need to be considered. The biggest factor is a phenomenon known as undercutting which doesn’t occur with other mechanical methods. As the chemical etchant eats the material, it starts to expose the metal directly underneath the mask through the sides, and the etchant can start to eat at these sides. The result is that the etchant can slowly attack the sides of the mask resulting in a design that is narrower than the mask. For thin pieces of metal, this is usually not a problem, but can be a major challenge for thick pieces of material. Generally speaking, photoetched metals are rarely thicker than 2mm due to undercutting.

What challenges does photoetching face?

Undercutting is a major problem for thick pieces of metal as the etchant attacks the sides of a design that are eventually exposed. But photoetching also suffers from developing process mistakes that can be tricky to get right. Simply put, the photosensitive layer must be exposed for a specific amount of time for it to work correctly. If the mask is exposed for too long, UV light can penetrate the covered areas and partly develop the photosensitive layer underneath. Photoetching is also a monochromatic process that does not handle greyscale images well. Tricks such as bit patterns can be used to give the impression of shade, but at the end of the day, areas are either etched or not.

What structures can be photoetched?

Photoetching can be used for a wide range of applications that require precision and accuracy. PCBs use photoetching to create wires that connect components together (this copper is typically 65um in thickness). Photoetching can be used to create very small mechanical parts such as cogs, gears, levers, and arms used in clocks. But photoetching can also be used to create signs, letters, and metallic shapes of great detail.

What advantage does photoetching have over other production methods

The photoetching process is entirely chemical meaning that there are no mechanical components involved. As such, there are no mechanical parts that wear down, nor are there any mechanical consumables that need replacing. The process is also far faster than mechanical processes as layer imaging generally takes a few minutes, and the etching process can take anywhere between one hour to two minutes (depending on the thickness of the metal).

How thick can photoetched parts be?

This depends on the level of accuracy and precision needed in the final parts, but undercutting generally limits this thickness to around 2mm. Ponoko offers PCM materials up to 0.8mm in thickness.

What industries are photoetched parts found?

Photoetched parts are found in a wide range of different industries due to the versatility of photoetching. For one, the printed circuit board industry is heavily dependent on photoetching methods as the same mask can be used many thousands of times while producing high-quality circuit traces with trace widths down to 5mil (0.005 inches). The semiconductor industry is another sector that uses photoetching as its primary means for creating designs. However, the semiconductor industry has extremely specialized equipment to create transistors whose overall length is in the 10s of nanometers. Artistic engravings can take advantage of photoetched materials by either fully etching material to create gaps in the final product, or just partly etch the material to create a shallow engraving. Artistic etchings can also take advantage of bit patterns to try and create shading to give the appearance of a full grayscale image. Motor laminations are made from thin pieces of steel which are then sandwiched to other laminations. These thin pieces of metal are an essential component of motors, and the use of laminations helps to reduce the presence of Eddie currents. The extreme thinness of the metal makes photoetching an ideal process for creating precision lamination pieces. Gaskets can also be used with the photoetching process. Not all gaskets are made from rubber or material, and copper gaskets can be useful for high-end vacuums and other scientific equipment. Such gaskets are often made from thin metal, and this makes photoetching ideal.

Our precision photo etching metal capabilities.

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±0.13mm

Dimensional accuracy.

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0-0.2mm

Laser kerf.

Illustration of two sheet material thicknesses.

0.1-19.1mm

Material thickness.

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790x384mm

Large parts.

Illustration of a small square laser cut part.

6x6mm

Tiny parts.

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1x1mm

Complex features.

How we deliver custom photo etching metal parts.

01
Upload your designs online.
Get automated DFM feedback.
02
Select materials for photo etching online.
200+ engineering grade sheets.
03
Get online quote in seconds.
From $50 for just 1 delivered same day.*
93% off for 10,000. Free shipping.
04
Robots produce photo etching metal parts.
Quality checked by software & people.
05
Track your orders online.
Same day delivery to Bay Area USA. Same day shipping worldwide. Standard shipping free.
Custom photo etching metal parts delivered in days.

Start from just 1 part, delivered same day.
Scale to 10,000 parts, at 93% off.

Our customers are leading their industries.

Health
Bionic exoskeletons
Bionic exoskeletons

Ekso Bionics

Retail
iOS POS hardware
iOS POS hardware

Aila

AI
Fulfillment systems
Fulfillment systems

Berkshire Grey

IoT
Connectivity devices
Connectivity devices

Twilio

Prototypes
AI plant monitoring
AI plant monitoring

Bowery Farming

Consumer Electronics
iPhone testing stands
iPhone testing stands

Apple

Homeware
Wall clocks
Wall clocks

Decoy Lab

Fashion
Jewelry
Jewelry

Gio Gio Design

Homeware
Lighting
Lighting

Modern Maine

Space
Internet satellites
Internet satellites

Astranis

Aviation
Aircraft
Aircraft

Joby Aviation

Lidar
Autonomous vehicles
Autonomous vehicles

Velodyne Lidar

Scientific
Scientific devices
Scientific devices

Thermo Fisher

Biotech
Cell therapy systems
Cell therapy systems

Orca Bio

Robotics
Delivery robots
Delivery robots

Cyan Robotics

Custom photo etching metal parts delivered in days.

Laser cutting built for startups & enterprises.

Automatic IP protection.

Your online account terms bind us to protect your IP confidentiality, including a Non Disclosure Agreement.

Automated 30-day payment terms.

Upgrade to business terms today . Checkout online tomorrow. Pay in 30 days.

Free standard shipping.

For all USA shipments. Free material sample too.

Live chat with laser technicians.

We’re online Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm PT to assist you design highest quality & lowest cost custom parts.

99.3% precision part quality record.

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Standard quality procedure.

Our software, then design inspector, laser operator & quality manager quality check all orders.

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Our promise.

If our software, robots, people or suppliers get it wrong, we’ll re-make & re-ship for free. No pesky returns.

We’re passionate about unleashing hardware creativity to advance humanity.

The speed which you were able to have my design cut and shipped was incredibly quick. Everything is dead on for what I had designed and fits flawlessly.
- David Gabel
The pieces are exactly as I wanted them, even the little details are sharp and well done. I ordered the same pieces from different vendors to compare the quality, and yours came out on top, at the best price too. I'm looking forward to ordering from you again.
- Louis Mazet
Just wanted to let you know the chipboards came in yesterday and looked great. Thanks again for your help on this! I'm sure we will be in touch for the next one.
- Monica Rivera
Wow you guys have great prices ... You know I've been getting quotes from shops at like 4-8 times more.
- Ryan LeMere
Our laser cut centerpieces arrived on time, in excellent condition, and were a huge hit at our conference. We were so impressed with the quality and service that, when designing awards for our next event, we immediately thought of Ponoko.
- Wren Dillingham
THANK YOU for the incredible service. I have never experienced customer service like this before!!!
- Taylor Norman
Wow thank you guys for the super LIGHT SPEED processing! :)))
- Astrid Mueller
The website is extremely user friendly with lots of help built right in. The prices are competitive and the test pieces came to my door in immaculate condition.
- Craig Dillon
Everything went simply perfect. From the site to the pricing, from the support to the shipping and the part’s quality. A1! Thanks again and see you soon for other orders!
- Louis Brillon
WOW! Just arrived! Looks GREAT! Thanks so much :) Looking forward to using your service again!
- Erin McLaughlin
Ponoko came to our aid when we were looking for something that people wouldn’t merely look at then throw out in a swag bag at a very large conference. We ended up making leather bookmarks to promote a new released product, and though the end result was beautiful, the service was the best part.
- Jenn Contois
Wow - serious customer service! Really appreciate it!!
- David Gluck

Order photo etching from your laptop, metal parts delivered in days.*

From $50 for just 1. 93% off for 10,000.

Custom photo etching metal parts delivered in days.
*Same day delivery (or money back) is available for orders using a limited selection of materials, placed by 11am PT Monday - Friday, for 1-100 parts to Bay Area USA locations. Same day shipping (or money back) available to USA & worldwide locations.