Ship Modeling Using Photo-Etching

Modelers Make use of Photo-etching Techniques

The procedure for photo-etching is the same as that used in making tiny electronic components. It's invaluable in making delicate parts such as railings, radar screens, and chain plates. All you do is make a precise large-scale drawing in black ink of the parts required, and then take the drawing to a company that does photo-etching. They will produce high-quality brass fittings using your drawing.

Ship Modeling from Scratch: Tips and Techniques for Building Without Kits

By Edwin B. Leaf

Model Manufacturers Suppling Photo Etched Parts in Kits

Dragon Models Limited (Dragon or DML for short) is a Hong Kong based manufacturer of plastic model kits and military action figures. Founded in 1987, the company shares distribution agreements with Revell/Monogram, Revell Germany and Italeri in Europe, and Hasegawa and GSI in Japan.

Photo-etched Metal Parts

Dragon almost always includes a small amount of photo-etched brass in its kits. Originally Dragon relied heavily on photo-etched metal parts to model engine deck screens, but it has since expanded its use of photo-etching to include optional metal parts like chains and fenders, providing a more realistic model.

Photo Etched Parts
In addition to photo-etched metal parts straight from the kit, Dragon also manufactures a small amount of separate photo-etched detail sets. It also has distribution agreement with Chinese model accessories company Lion Roar to sell and market Lion Roar's detail sets, which are available for kits from Dragon and other model companies.

Trains, Planes, Automobiles, Trucks, Tanks, Ships, Boats, Houses, Buildings, People, Windows, Doors, Railings, Decorative items and even the kitchen sinks can be made using photo-etched parts. Most of the model manufacturers are using some form of photo-etching today. In production runs, the cost of the individual parts are quite low. In small prototype runs, the cost of the parts can still be quite inexpensive, particularly when considering the detailed accuracy and exact scale details that are attainable through photo-etching.

If you are a model manufacturer, contact E-FAB for a photo-etching price quote.


What is Photo Chemical Machining (PCM) Used to Manufacture?

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Versatility of Photo Chemical Etching
The processes of using photo chemical machining, photo etching, and chem milling, are ideal for thin metal parts fabrication, fine line etching, and engineering of micro machined parts. Many of these thin metal parts are then precisely formed into complex shapes.

Small Part MachinedAdvantages: The advantages of photo chemical machining and photo chemical etching are quite diverse in what it can do for metal parts manufacturing. Large format panels, tight tolerances, and low cost of tooling are but a few of the advantages with PCM for producing burr free intricate metal parts. Additionally the time from concept design engineering, to prototype, to manufacturing the parts, is substantially reduced. Fine lines and traces can be etched quickly and accurately using chemical milling techniques as opposed to CNC milling.

All types of products can take advantage of the PCM and photoetching manufacturing processes. Everything from interconnects, RF and EMI shielding and fencing on PCB boards, microwave components, small antennas, fractal mulitband antenna geometries, microstrip devices, heat sinks, specialty flex circuits, hybrid circuits, precision springs, fine mesh screens, shadow masks for CRT devices, encoder disks, encoder strips, step lids, thermal frames, IC and PCB lead frames, PCB stiffeners, miniature contacts, precision scales, and a whole array of miniature components and micro machining possibilities that simply can not be produced cost effectively using conventional CNC machining or milling processes.

Metals And Materials Used: Various types of metals and materials can be photo chemically machined and etched. Alloys such as: Kovar, nickel, brass, bronze, beryllium, copper, stainless steel, spring steels, tin, aluminum, tungsten, zirconium molybdenum, titanium, gold, silver, and other exotic materials can all be machined or photo etched using the PCM process. Various substrates such as Teflon, Duroid, polyimide, ceramics, copper foils, stainless steels, polymers, plastics, composites, and omega foils can be used in the parts. Ideally, the parts that can take advantage of the PCM process are built with thin metal sheets that are .062 inches or less in thickness. Parts and/or printed circuits, can additionally be built up, or deposited upon, the various substrates and material thicknesses, with very high precision using the PCM method. This provides engineers, when dealing with stringent design requirements, the means of taking full advantage of the micro precision manufacturing processes when designing new products and technologies with high precision, complex shapes, and excellent surface quality. See below.

Process: The photo chemical machining principal involves the process of reproducing a precise photographic image on the surface of a metal sheet or other substance with a photoresist, and the etching away (or depositing upon) the unprotected areas by chemmachining or electrical means. This conversion of the exposed work material takes place by an electrochemical reaction. View the Photo Chemical Machining Process Advantages.

Metal machined parts can be specially treated with a dielectric coating (superior to powder coating) for providing high Hipot electrical insulation values while at the same time maximizing and producing superior heat dissipation values. This type of dielectric coating has broad spectrum applications including: transformers, windings, RFI & EMI shielding, and laminations used in small motors.

Photo-etched Diskdrive Components The industries that can take advantage of the PCM process are equally as diverse as the products themselves. Where tight tolerances and extreme thermal integrity are desired, the use of photo chemical machining for the manufacturing of certain components and highly complex parts, has been a benefit to the military, aerospace, NASA, and a host of other high tech industries for parts that need to be designed to handle the rugged use and the extreme temperature variations of equipment going into outer space. Satellites, Space Borne antennas, space fed lens antennas, smart antennas, ground based adaptive antenna arrays, and RF microwave antenna systems are continually being updated and designed to handle new types of communications and satellite direct imaging technology. With the need to develop new lower cost connectivity technologies, between low earth satellites, ground sensors, and continuous Internet connectivity requirements for military, research, and commercial applications; have resulted in a new breed of antenna engineering designs. Having to stay in-step with these new designs, new manufacturing processes and special application methods are being developed as these technology improvements have pushed the window of engineering and design beyond the limits of what can be manufactured using standard machining practices and fabrication operations.

Miniaturization of existing printed circuits and the ability of these circuits to handle additional power requirements has created a whole world need for hybrid flexible circuits, miniature parts, and heatsink components of all shapes and sizes along with new methods for fabricating them. As the proximity of these miniature devices have merged closer on the printed circuit boards and operation at higher RF frequencies have increased for the components, there exists a need for tuned EMI shielding and RFI fencing in a wide variety of applications. This is where the PCM manufacturing process can really shine; especially when intricate, custom formed shields are required.

Stacked memory arrays are another area of development where assembled components must be robust to handle the demands involved with military applications and severe use environments. Places where a hard drive would fail in a severe service environment, a stacked memory array can last through the same harsh environments. The assembly of these stacked memory arrays can take advantage of using an interconnect or multiple interconnects that have been precisely machined through the PCM and photoetching process. The interconnects not only provide the means of a superior electrical connection, but the metals and alloys used in stacked memory array assemblies are also natural heat sinks for superior heat dissipation.

Circuit Board Shielding Other industries that have used the photo chemical machining, chemical milling, and photo etching process for precision metal parts fabrication have included: Medical, Dental, Microwave, Telecommunications, Antenna, Cellular, Satellite, Communications, Circuit Boards, Flex Circuits, Optical, Electronics, Semiconductor, RFID, Laser, and other High Tech OEMs.

See other photo chemical machining examples.

Contact E-FAB for technical engineering, specialized applications, and photochemical engineering design help services.