Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

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What is photochemical etching?

A process to manufacture thin metal components using a combination of photographic digital tooling and chemical processes to image and etch the metal to shape.

Why should we use chemical etching?

Chemical etching is a fast efficient, cost effective method for the manufacture of small precision metal parts, the ideal manufacturing process for both development, prototype and production quantities. Parts produced by chemical etching are burr and stress free, with the complexity of shape unlimited, plus the complete flexibility to change the design at any time.

What metals can you etch?

Virtually all metals can be etched but some such as copper, brass, stainless steel are easier than others such as Gold, Tungsten, Molybdenum and Titanium. However at ACE we have developed unique process technology to etch even these difficult metals. For more information on metal types we can etch here.

Are you able to etch Titanium, we understand it is difficult to etch?

Yes here at ACE we are the world leaders for etching Titanium. Through rigorous R&D we have developed our own unique process to etch Titanium, called TiME (Titanium Molecular Etching) more information here.

Are you able to etch Aluminium, we understand it is difficult to etch?

Yes here at ACE we are the world leaders for etching of Aluminium. Again through rigorous R&D we have developed our unique process to etch Aluminium, called AcME (Aluminium Compliant Molecular Etching) more information here.

What are the applications of the process?

In Engineering, Aerospace, Telecommunications, Military and Medical applications there is a requirement for Shims, lead frames, RF screening cans, meshes, filters, blades and many other precision thin metal components. Chemical etching addresses all these applications and more.

What is the thickest metal that can be etched?

It depends on the metal and the application, if we need to etch all the way through a metal then generally 1.5mm is the maximum thickness we would recommend. If however only surface etching is required from one side only, then we can process thicker sheets of metal, please call our Sales Team on +44 (0) 1952 416666 to discuss.

What is the thinnest metal than can be etched?

Depends on the metal and design, 0.001” (25 microns) Aluminium is more difficult to handle than 0.001” stainless steel but we can handle both successfully.

What tolerance is achievable?

Plus or minus 10% of the metal thickness is standard, this can be improved upon at extra cost.

What is the minimum hole or slot dimension that can be achieved?

Minimum hole or slot dimension is calculated as equal to the metal thickness with the minimum hole possible of 0.15mm in metal 0.15mm thick or less.

What is a fold line?

A fold line (bend line) is an etch line for hand folding, etched half way through the metal, and are normally on the inside of the fold. Etching with half etched fold lines allows hand forming without the need for form tooling. ACE can assist with information regarding allowances for etching folds in components.

What information do you require for quoting?

With just a small amount of information: length, width, thickness, alloy, temper and quantity, we will provide an estimate for chemically etching your parts. For a firm quotation, we need an engineering spec that includes exact dimensions and tolerances, and any secondary operations required such as forming or plating.

Are photo tooling charges charged every time a component is ordered?

Photo tooling charges are charged once only - the first time the component is ordered, unless the customer changes physical dimensions of the part next time it is ordered, and then another tooling charge is incurred. If a photo tool becomes damaged while in our use or care, we will replace it at no charge to the customer.

What kind of electronic files can you accept?

DXF, Gerber, Igis. (You can also download `Suitable Data File Types We Can Accept' here)

Do you produce the photo tools/films in house?

Yes we produce the photo tools/films in house at our site in Telford.

How fast is your prototype service?

If we have the metal in stock and the data supplied is problem free we can produce prototypes within 3/5 working days. Parts that need plating, forming or heat-treating are on a longer delivery schedule.

Can we have mixed components on one sheet?

This is possible but only if all the parts are made from the same material and will be ordered in the same quantity ratio in the future.

Do you have to use tabs to hold components in sheets?

It is preferable to hold the components together whilst they are in the etching machine. It is also essential if the parts need electroplating to give a good electrical connection. For special i.e. microwave applications where smooth edges are required we can process the parts singularly but at extra cost.

Can you offer other services, forming, plating, heat-treating?

Our sister company, ACE Forming provide a full range of engineering skills and can offer complex formed components either singularly or on Tape and Reel. We offer all regular plating finishes; Tin, tin-lead, nickel, gold, silver. We can offer certificated lab reports to confirm plating thicknesses. We sub contract heat-treating to a local approved company.

If we need a non-standard thickness can you etch thicker sheet down?

If you require a non-standard thickness or one that is not immediately available from stock then we can etch down a thicker material to meet your requirements. Please discuss this option with our Sales Team, telephone them on +44 (0) 1952 416666 or via

Can you guarantee plating thicknesses and solderability?

Yes, we are unique in our field, in that we have a complete British Standard 9000 laboratory with micro sectioning, solderability, accelerated ageing, chemical analysis, porosity and XRF plating thickness-measuring facilities. We have nationally certified calibrated shadowgraphs and can offer first item inspection reports with C of C.

Are Advanced Chemical Etching able to etch onto shaped items or already manufactured parts?

Unfortunately the answer to that is no, we process flat sheets of metal through conveyorized machines, so shaped items or already manufactured parts would not be able to be processed. Also we would not be able to apply our photo resist to such items or apply our phototooling.

Where are you based?
We are located in Telford the “Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”, our full address is Units 31-34 Hortonwood 33, Telford, Shropshire, TF1 7EX, UK.

Do you have a shutdown period?
We only shutdown during UK Bank Holidays and the UK Christmas holiday period.

What are your normal opening hours?
Monday - Friday 08:00am - 16.30pm.

How long have ACE been in existence?

ACE was established in April 2000, so we have now been trading for 18 years.

Why should we use ACE?

We are a young enthusiastic company with many years of management and technical experience. We are friendly, efficient and cost competitive. We have an excellent record of environmentally friendly production. We are continually striving to push the boundaries of the etching process, even developing our own unique etching chemistry for aluminium and titanium etching.