Chemical Etching Company Offers a "Green" Alternative

Chicago manufacturer of custom metal parts makes great strides in environmentally conscious photochemical machining.

Photochemical machining, also referred to as chemical etching, photo etching or chemical machining, is the process of using UV-light and chemicals to develop, stamp and etch custom metal parts out of a broad range of alloy metals. Traditionally, acidic solutions of Trichloroethane and Methylene Chloride are used in the etching process. However, these chemicals are extremely dangerous to human health and are harmful to the environment.

Fotofab, a leading manufacturer of custom metal parts based out of Chicago, Illinois, has developed a non-traditional process that eliminates the use of Trichloroethane and Methylene Chloride in chemical etching. Instead of hazardous acids, Fotofab uses an aqueous solution of Ferric Chloride to etch precision metal parts from sheet metal. When mixed with water, Ferric Chloride (also called iron chloride) produces heat, creating an exothermic reaction. The resulting solution is safe enough to be used as a flocculent in sewage treatment and in drinking water production.

Fotofab developed the new chemical etching process as part of its goal to implement more Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing (ECM) practices. ECM is a greener way of thinking about manufacturing that encourages the adoption of more eco-friendly processes that minimize waste and reduce scrap. While many companies have resisted this movement, Fotofab has been embracing it for years, eliminating the use of all solvents even before chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were regulated by the government.

In addition to utilizing green chemicals during the etching process, Fotofab also filters all air and water leaving the manufacturing facility to remove airborne chemicals and water contaminants before reintroduction into the environment.

"All wastewater is thoroughly cleaned until it is actually cleaner than it was before coming into the building," said CEO Dan Brumlik.

And the company doesn’t stop there. Through its extensive recycling program, all chemicals, metals, and paper products that are able to be reused are recycled. Cloth rags are used instead of paper towels whenever possible, and customers are encouraged to return used packaging materials so that they can be used again.

"Taking care of the environment has always been a priority for Fotofab, and we look forward to making even more progress in this area the future," said President Jamie Howton.

About Fotofab: Founded in 1967, Fotofab continues to refine the photochemical etching process, (also known as chemical etching or milling) to produce custom precision metal parts in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.  A veteran supplier to the aerospace, automotive, defense, electronic, telecommunications, and medical manufacturing industries, Fotofab is among the leading suppliers of precision metal parts including RF/EMI shields, electrical contacts, screens, connector housings, and more. Fotofab is ISO 9001:2000 certified. For more information, visit:

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