Photo Etching vs Wire EDM

Photo Etching or Wire EDM: Which Process is Best for Your Component?

October 7, 2016

Wire EDM and photo etching allow companies to produce metal components with exceptional precision.

But how do you know which method is best for your parts?

We’re going to compare a few important factors when determining which process is best for your component.

1. Material Limitations

Almost all metals and alloys can be photo etched. You might run into problems if you want to etch materials that are resistant to chemicals or corrosion, but skilled photo etchers can still etch many of these too.

Wire EDM, on the other hand, is limited to conductive metals and alloys. Since the process requires an electrical current, this property is essential for the process’ success.

2. Material Thickness

Whereas photo chemical etching excels with thin-gauge metals and alloys, wire EDM can cut materials much thicker, generally larger than 12” thick.

Material thickness affects the photo etching costs. Thicker materials require more time to etch through.

In fact, most companies don’t photo etch materials much thicker than a couple millimeters. The practicality of the process is lost at higher thicknesses.

In short: if your component is thicker than a couple of millimeters, a process like wire EDM might make more sense than photo chemical etching.

3. Metal Properties

Some applications have very tight specifications for the material. For these applications, it’s important to note that wire EDM can cause some heat distortion.

Since the process involves cutting the material with a high-temperature electrical current, some heat affected zones will occur. While the technology for reducing these zones has improved over the years, it’s still an issue for some applications.

On the other hand, one of photo etching’s primary benefits is that it does not affect the properties of the metal with regard to hardness, grain structure or ductility.

Conclusion

While both wire EDM and photo etching provide exceptional precision cutting, companies should consider the strengths and weaknesses of each process.

If you’re looking for more complex, thin-gauge parts, then photo etching is likely a better option for you. But if your component is thicker and requires a conductive material, then wire EDM may be the right option.

Many applications have very tight specifications that require an engineer’s input to determine which method suits your specs. If you have any questions about your application, please do not hesitate to contact Newcut.

We offer both photo etching and wire EDM services, so we can provide unbiased advice and pricing for your components.

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