Chemical Etching Processes: Vertical, Horizontal, or Combination?

Choosing the Right Chemical Milling Technique for your Product

Product engineers posses an incredible depth of knowledge about component design and manufacturing. Many are distinctly familiar with the intricacies of the chemical etching process and have likely used it on previous product designs. However, the rapidly evolving nature of the manufacturing industry has made even the savviest engineers question whether they should utilize a components manufacturer that offers vertical etching, horizontal etching, or a combined approach.

Understanding the differences between etch techniques as they relate to prototyping and large-scale production can help answer this critical question.

Horizontal Etcher

As the name would imply, the workpiece is held horizontally and run along a conveyor belt through various chambers as it goes through the horizontal etching process. Throughout the horizontal etching process milling cannot be stopped by an operator to check for accuracy, which means trial and error is required to achieve the correct output. Small tweaks must be tested on individual panels to hone the finished product before milling the full run. 

For large runs, losing a few panels to calibration does not influence the cost much over the price of the whole project. For this reason, horizontal etching is an ideal choice for large-volume, highly repeatable chemical etching manufacturing jobs. While the overall precision that results from horizontal etching is excellent, it is not as precise as vertical etching, which makes it a cost-effective manufacturing solution for less sensitive components.

Vertical Etcher

Conversely, vertical etching allows an operator to mill a single workpiece in the machine at a time, resulting in precise control over the etching process. With the freedom to stop and start the machine at will, an experienced operator can make small modifications throughout the etching process to achieve more granular control over the final product. 

The slower, more labor-intensive pace of running each batch results in a higher project cost. However, the vertical etch process delivers the highest level of precision available in chemical etching manufacturing. Subsequently, it is the definitive choice for projects where quality is the most important consideration.

The Limitations of a Single Etching Process

Trying to deliver a product on the wrong machine can result in a product that is unnecessarily manufactured in small batches (driving up costs), or not precise enough (increasing the likelihood of operational failures). However, utilizing a parts manufacturer offering both horizontal and vertical etching allows the ability to switch chemical etching techniques to provide the right precision at the right price as well as vary production techniques to meet the evolving demands of clients.

Combining Approaches

Both horizontal and vertical etching have their individual strengths and ideal use-case scenarios. US-based chemical milling companies that utilize one of these approaches can manufacture components that meet either strict budgetary demands or quality specifications. However, only Thin Metal Parts has the capacity to do both types of milling can provide the most cost-effective solution for manufacturing any kinds of components in any volume at any desired precision level. 

Utilizing both chemical milling processes allows greater manufacturing flexibility and superior quality – allowing the creation of entirely unique precision components. Utilizing multiple approaches with Thin Metal Parts can create a hybrid precision part that is unavailable anywhere else in the global manufacturing landscape – a truly one of a kind part for any application imaginable. 

Combining horizontal and vertical etching approaches allows for the manufacture of everything from prototypes to large-scale runs. Clients appreciate this flexibility because it means that they do not have to utilize one manufacturer for the prototyping stage and then switch companies to source their components later. The ability to cultivate an ongoing relationship with a single manufacturer provides a significant efficiency advantage, saving time and money while minimizing operational headaches and frustrating lags.

Furthermore, a combined approach creates much-needed redundancy for industrial and consumer goods companies that cannot afford to have manufacturing delays. The ability to provide this type of manufacturing redundancy is crucial for the aerospace, computer, medical, and electronics industries in particular.

Choosing the Right Approach

Manufacturers with limited offerings may have to steer their clients towards their only available milling processes irrespective of individual needs or outsource the work for a markup, which is why finding the right manufacturer is so critical. Utilizing Thin Metal Parts, a manufacturer that can combine techniques allows for a unique manufacturing approach that truly fits a client’s desired precision level. The result is a more customized manufacturing plan that provides a better service while producing a better overall final product.


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Phone: 719.268.8300

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E-mail: info@thinmetalparts.com