- What is possible with Photochemical Machining (PCM)?
- What materials are available?
- What sizes are available?
- How much will it cost?
- How do I get a quote?
- How long will it take to receive my designs?
- How do you design for Photochemical Machining?
- How do you tab your designs into the materials?
- How do you add a break in your line?
- What is the smallest overall part size that can be made?
- What is the smallest feature that can be made?
- How close together can you put your designs in the sheet?
- How do you convert fonts for laser cutting?
- How do you save your file?
- What other tips should you know?
What is possible with Photochemical Machining (PCM)?
PCM is great for intricate designs like jewelry and name badges. You can etch into one side of your materials sheet.
What materials are available?
There are 3 material options available - Stainless Steel, Brass and Copper.
What sizes are available?
Two of our templates are available for PCM designs - P1 and P2 sheet sizes. These templates match the size of the material sheets, and you can choose the one that best suits the size of your design.
How much will it cost?
Unlike the pricing for our other cutting services, PCM is a flat rate based on the size of your material. You can add as many designs as you like to maximize your material usage and lower the cost per unit. Please note that you will need to leave a small gap between multiple designs on the same sheet. See prices here.
Below is an example of designs that have been tiled to fill out a template. The cost per bird is equal to the material price divided by the number of birds.
How do I get a quote?
Click here to get an instant online quote to make your design from 3 different metals. There, you'll upload your correctly formatted digital design file, choose a material to make it from, then you’ll see an instant quote to make it.
How long will it take to receive my designs?
Orders ship in about 15 business days.
How do you design for Photochemical Machining?
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:
There are 3 design elements; etching, internal cut-out, and outline cuts:
To etch an area
Any textures or patterns that you want etched into the top of the material ...
Open the Object > Fill and Stroke window and set the fill color to grey with the 'Fill' RGBA values of 128, 128, 128, 255:
To cut internal holes
Any cut-outs inside the outline ...
Set the fill color to black with the 'Fill' RGBA values of 0, 0, 0, 255:
To cut an outline
The outer most line around your shape, the edge ...
Set the stroke weight to 0.8mm:
And set the stroke color to blue with the 'Stroke paint' RGBA values of 0, 0, 255, 255:
This line will need a break in it (a tab) to hold your design into the surrounding material during production. When you receive your design you can wiggle your parts to remove them from the waste.
How do you tab your designs into the materials?
Add a break in blue outer cut line that is 0.04” / 1.0mm in length. Your tab MUST be this size or larger or it may not survive the making process and your part/s will be lost:
Parts 0.25” - 2.5” / 6mm - 63mm need one tab. Parts 2.5” / 63mm 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 do you add a break in your line?
Using the “Edit paths by node” tool, click on the line segment where you wish to add the tab. Use the + tool in the top left hand corner to add more nodes to this line segment:
Repeat this process until you have 2 nodes that are 0.04” / 1.0mm apart. Select the segment between the 2 nodes that are 0.04” / 1.0mm apart and use the delete segment button to remove this section of the line:
The result is a break in your line that will be a tab:
What is the smallest overall part size that can be made?
There is a minimum part size of around 0.25” x 0.25” / 6.3mm x 6.3mm. Parts smaller than this are too difficult to process and cannot be made.
What is the smallest feature that can be made?
The kerf for PCM is half the material thickness but not more than 0.007" / 0.17mm. 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.
How close together can you put your designs in the sheet?
All design must be spaced to have 0.20” / 5.0mm of separation between them in the design file. As such you cannot share cutting lines. All designs must be isolated. There can be no joined or nested parts:
How do you convert fonts?
Any text you use in your design file needs to be converted to outlines. This is as simple as selecting your text and then choosing Path > Object to Path from the top menu. You won't be able to edit the text once you've done this so do it last, after your spell check:
How do you save your file?
Save your design as a PDF file:
Then upload your PDF file here to get an instant online quote to make it.
What other tips should I know?
How to offset your cutting lines
You may want to offset your outer cutting lines to account for the thickness of the cut. Here’s how you do that ...
Draw your design at the dimensions that you want it. Use a “construction line” outline with a line weight of 0.01mm. From the menu select Path > Linked Offset:
Using the control handle drag an offset line out from your design. Change the line color to blue and the stroke width to 0.8mm. Drag the control handle back in towards your construction line until the inside edge meets your design:
Once you are happy with the location of the offset line, from the menu choose Path > Object to Path to convert the linked line into a proper path for adding the tab break in:
Lastly, remove the construction line from your design.
How to convert strokes to fills
To turn a black stroke into a filled shape in Inkscape, select your line and use the Path > Stroke to Path command. We don't recommend converting lines that are less than 0.02" / 0.5mm in stroke width. The black strokes will then turn into black fills.
Ready to upload your PDF design file? Get an instant online quote here.