Forums/Tutorials/Metal Laser Cutting & PCM Tutorials

Everything you need to know for Photochemical Machining (PCM)

Dan Emery
posted this on July 10, 2013 16:35

  1. What is possible with Photochemical machining?
  2. What materials are available and pricing?
  3. There are 3 design elements; outline cut, internal cut out, and engraving
  4. Cut lines need to be 0.8mm/0.031” wide 
  5. Designs need to be tabbed into the waste material.
  6. Designs must be bigger than 0.25”x0.25”/6.3mm x 6.3mm.
  7. Designs should not have features (holes etc) smaller than 0.04”/1.0mm.
  8. Designs must have a 0.20”/5mm separation in your design file.
  9. You cannot share cutting lines.
  10. What sizes are available?
  11. More materials images.
  12. How to order! 
  13. How long will it take to make?

1. What is possible with Photochemical machining?

PCM is great for intricate designs like jewelry and name badges. The materials available are stainless steel, brass and copper.
You can etch into one side of your design. 

2. What materials are available and pricing?

Unlike the pricing for our other cutting services, PCM is a flat rate based on the size of your material.

While the pricing might seem high, however, it is possible to fit 150 individual jewelry designs on a P2 sized template and get the per unit cost as low as $1.86! 

Stainless steel

0.015”/0.4mm:  P1 - $180     P2 - $260
0.03”/0.8mm:    P1 - $200     P2 - $280

stainless-3.jpg

Brass

0.032”/0.8mm  P1 - $200     P2 - $280   

brass-3.jpg

Copper  

0.032”/0.8mm:  P1 - $250     P2 - $340

Images coming soon

 *Pricing excludes shipping and tax (if applicable) 

3. There are 3 design elements; outline cut, internal cut out, and etching

You need to format your file in a certain way so we know what your design is to look like. The requirements for PCM are different from other fabrication processes and are as follows:

OUTLINE CUT - The outer most line around your shape, the edge - Blue line 0.8mm (r:0 g:0 b:255)

INTERNAL CUT-OUTS - Any cut outs inside the outline - Black fill (r:0 g:0 b:0)

ETCHING - Any textures or patterns that you want engraved into the top of the material - Gray fill (r:128 g:128 b:128) Etching will be 50% of the material thickness in depth.

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4. Cut lines need to be 0.8mm/0.031” wide

HOW TO CREATE YOUR CUT LINES:

Draw your design at the dimensions that you want it. Use a white fill on the background shape and a “construction line” outline with a line weight of 0.01mm. 

 offset-10.png

Make sure the outline is a closed shape.
Select Object > Path > Offset path.
Offset the path 0.4mm with the “Rounded” option selected

 offset-11.png

Set the offset line color to Blue (r:0 g:0 b:0) Change the line weight to 0.8mm.
Remove the construction line from your design. 

offset-12.png

5. Designs need to be tabbed into the ʻwasteʼ material.

You need to add tabs to all your designs to keep everything held together when in production. When you receive your design you can wiggle your parts to remove them from the waste.

HOW TO ADD TABS TO YOUR DESIGN: Add a break in blue outer cut line that is 0.04”/1.0mm in length. You tab MUST be this size or large or it may not survive the making process and your part/s will be lost.

tabs-09.png

Parts 0.25” - 2.5” need one tab. Parts 2.5” or greater need 2 or more tabs. The tabs must be in a place on the design that can structurally support the design during production. If in doubt ask us for advice.

 

HOW TO ADD A BREAK IN YOUR LINE

Select the “Add Anchor Point (+)” tool

Click on you line to add 2 new points 0.04”/1mm apart.

break_in_lines-06.png

Using the Direct Selection Tool click on the line between the 2 points you just added.    

break_in_lines-07.png

Delete this line segment.    

break_in_lines-08.png

6. Designs must be bigger than 0.25”x0.25”/ 6.3mm x 6.3mm.

There is a minimum part size of around 0.25”x0.25”/ 6.3mm x 6.3mm. Parts smaller than this are too difficult to process and cannot be made. 

7. Designs should not have features smaller than 0.04”/1.0mm.

The kerf for PCM is half the material thickness. This means that a small amount of material is lost while the chemical cuts out your design. You need to make sure your design accounts for this.

Any positive features smaller than 0.04”/1.0mm will be too thin and might bend or get damaged in handling. Any negative features (holes) smaller than 0.04”/1.0mm may not be completely cut out. 

8. Designs must have a 0.20”/5mm separation.

All design must be spaced to have 0.20”/5mm of separation between them in the design file. 

9. You cannot share cutting lines.

All designs must be isolated. There can be no joined or nested parts. 

nested-05.png

10. What sizes are available.

 At present we can offer P1 and P2 sheet sizes. These templates can be found here: http://www.ponoko.com/starter-kits/adobe-illustrator

templates-02.png

11. More materials images.

0.03”/0.8mm Stainless steel

stainless-03.png

0.032”/0.8mm Brass

brass-04.png

12. How to order!

Send a single email to us at serivce@ponoko.com with ALL of the following information:

  • Your design laid out on P1 or P2 Ponoko design template.
  • The material type and thickness per design template.
  • The number of times you want each template made.
  • Your shipping address, phone number, and shipping method (eg UPS ground, Next Day etc) 
EG:
Hi Ponoko!
Please make my attached P2 TEST.EPS design 3 times using 0.8mm Stainless steel.
Please ship via UPS Ground to: 
P Sherman
42 Wallaby Way
Sydney
Australia
021 123 4567

13. How long will it take to make?

Orders take 2-3 weeks to ship.
 

Comments

User photo
Jessie

Is it possible to use aluminum for PCM?  I want to make silver colored jewelry that I will apply some texturing and shaping to afterwards.  Stainless steal is a bit difficult to work with.  Thanks!

December 31, 2013 11:22
User photo
Dan Emery
Ponoko

Hi Jessie

PCM only works on stainless steel, brass and copper. Aluminum can be laser cut or milled but the material properties limit the amount of intricacy you can have in the design.

August 07, 2014 21:46
User photo
Benjamin Schwartz

Is 8pt. text the smallest that you can cut?

September 05, 2014 11:10
User photo
Dan Emery
Ponoko

8pt is the smallest size that we recommend. Anything smaller may not be very legible after processing.

September 24, 2014 12:52