Photo Chemical Etching vs Laser Cutting

Chem Etching vs Laser Cutting: Which is Best For Your Part?

Photo etching and laser cutting both provide precision cutting at competitive prices with fast lead times—but which one is best for you?

Each cutting process has its own strengths and weaknesses. What you need for your part will determine which process best suits your specs.

Laser Cut

Fiber optic or CO2 Laser cut machining uses a powerful laser to carve parts from sheet metal, often to be formed subsequently.

Laser cutting can accommodate thicker metals than PCE, but sacrifices PCE’s tight tolerances.

Features include:

  • Thicker Metals: .010” - .500”
  • Produces Burrs/Tabs
  • Heat Distortion
  • Holes ≥ ½ Metal Thickness
  • Webs ≥ 2x Metal Thickness
  • Features Cut Individually
  • No Set Up Cost
  • BeCu Not Possible

Common Laser Cut Parts

  • Brackets
  • Busbars
  • Chassis
  • Components for assembly
  • Larger, Thicker Parts

Chem Etch

Photo chemical etching applies powerful chemicals to specially treated metal to etch precise cuts.

This process works best for thin metals and results in every part feature being cut simultaneously.

Features include:

  • Optimal Thickness: .001" - .030", up to .060" possible
  • No Burrs/Tabs
  • No Heat Distortion
  • Holes ≥ 1.1x Metal Thickness
  • Webs ≥ Metal Thickness
  • Features Cut Simultaneously (1 hole same cost as 100 holes)
  • One Time Set Up Cost
  • BeCu Possible
  • Can half-etch material including bent lines and part marking

Common PCE Parts

  • Washers
  • Screens
  • Contacts
  • Optical Parts
  • Smaller, Thinner Parts

Comparing Laser and PCE

A thick part with minimal complexity is likely better suited for laser cutting because photo etching would require too much time and cost.

Similarly, a thin part with complex geometries is much more appropriate for photo etching since lasers would need to make each cut individually, which requires more time.

If you’re somewhere in the middle – contact Newcut. You can speak with an engineer to discuss which cutting process is best for your design, or we can quote your part with both laser cutting and photo etching so you can compare price and lead time.

Advanced photo etching tips design engineers should know.