Process Optimization Leads to Unbeatable Tolerance Attainment

16. February 2022
micrometal has evolved the already precise PCE technology, and has optimized the process so that today it offers levels of precision and tolerance attainment impossible using traditional PCE or any other more traditional technologies. Dr Angel Lopez, Director of Business Development at micrometal says, “There are many stages in the PCE process, and at micrometal we have focused in on a couple in particular to refine the technology to cater for the ever more exacting requirements of our customers throughout industry. micrometal’s PCE process is very different from conventional PCE processes. Uniquely, we use a special liquid resist system to obtain ultra-thin (2-8 micron) photoresist layers enabling a higher degree of precision in the chemical etching process. It allows us to achieve extremely small feature sizes of 25 microns, a minimum hole diameter 80% of the material thickness, and single digit micron tolerances repeatably. In addition, along with our optimised exposure system we can avoid the parallax problems typically associated with PCE.” Lopez continues, “Traditional PCE uses relatively thick dry film resist which compromises ultimate part precision and the tolerances that are available, and it is only able to achieve 100-micron feature sizes and a minimum hole diameter of 100-200% material thickness. Our PCE process enables ultra-precise contours to take shape, and as such we can produce metal parts with unique features and a level of complexity that cannot be matched. Because of this we consider our PCE process to be an enabling technology, producing hitherto impossible metal parts and components, and therefore driving industrial innovation for our customers.” You can see micrometal’s complete photo-chemical etching process HERE. Although developed as a sheet metalworking technology more than 5 decades ago, etching has seen rapid growth in the 15 years or so, and is being adopted by designers to solve a wide range of engineering challenges, many of which are either not achievable or cost-effective with traditional PCE of legacy fabrication processes. PCE can truly stretch the boundaries of what is possible, not only answering key questions on product features, complexity, and efficiency, but in many instances offering enhancements of component characteristics. The process can be applied to almost any sheet metal 0.01mm – 0.4 mm thick in a variety of grades and tempers, and unlike stamping does not struggle with very hard materials. micrometal produces millions of components each year from a huge range of metals, including those considered hard to machine such as titanium and aluminium. Lopez continues, “PCE is best suited to the fabrication of complex parts with high degrees of accuracy, or parts which rely on the integrity of the material.  As a global leader in PCE, we are constantly researching refinements to the process to stretch the boundaries in terms of complexity, tolerances attainment, and repeatable precision.  In addition to our use of wet resist instead of dry resist, whereas most PCE service suppliers use digital photo tooling created on films, micrometal uses photo tooling created on glass, which caters for the many applications that require extreme precision. Glass photo tooling can achieve tolerances in the range of 1-2 microns, and negates issues with distortion due to environmental factors such as humidity that are a constant problem when using film tooling. By way of example, over a 700 mm etch area, micrometal can consistently achieve 5-10 micron tolerances, whereas PCE companies using film-based tooling can only claim 50-60 micro tolerances. This is why we are the go-to supplier of intricate, often safety critical, precision metal parts and components for leading names across a range of high-tech industry sectors.” PCE from micrometal has many attributes that can truly stimulate innovation and stretch the boundaries of what is perceived as possible with the inclusion of challenging product features, enhancements, complexity, and efficiency, and it is important that design engineers fully exploit its potential. Optimum success involves early-stage engagement with a PCE specialist. A partnership needs to be forged, not a customer / subcontractor relationship if the true potential of micrometal’s PCE is to be realised, and so the company invites customers to present applications for review to discuss how PCE can help in product development programs.

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