Chemical milling can be defined as a subtractive manufacturing process, wherein chemicals are used rather than cutting tools, to manipulate the characteristics of metals. It is considered an economical option for the manufacture of small size metal parts. The difference between chemical etching and chemical milling is that the former is used to manufacture metal parts, while the latter is used to alter the characteristics of those parts.
The process of chemical milling was developed during the renaissance of engraving on the metal parts. Chemical milling is used for the removal of surface-related materials of parts after which chemical etching is performed. At the start of the process, a CAD file is used for the creation of a visual of the final metal part along with the top and bottom patterns that are supposed to be milled. This technique is necessary for the application of photoresist, a layer used to transfer the pattern by UV light on metal parts. Chemical milling generally involves a series of five steps: cleaning, masking, scribing, etching, and demasking. It is useful for creating parts such as haptics, sinks, and filters. The process of chemical milling is ideally suited for metals such as titanium, niobium, and copper, but can be used for wide range of metals such as copper and aluminum.
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Based on type, the market for chemical milling can be segmented into steel chemical etched part, brass chemical etched part, aluminum chemical etched part, and copper chemical etched part. In terms of application, the market for chemical milling can be segregated into aerospace, medical, automotive, electronics, and others.
The market for chemical milling is anticipated to witness moderate growth owing to the expansion of end-user industries. The electronics application segment held significant share of the market in 2016 due to the wide usage of chemical milling in the manufacture of integrated circuits and microelectromechanical systems. The electronics industry commonly uses plasma etching over standard liquid based etching for the production of components. The aerospace segment of the chemical milling market accounted for key share in 2016. The segment is anticipated to witness strong growth during the forecast period. Chemical milling is used to remove shallow layers of materials from extruded parts of airframes, large aircraft components, and missile skin panels, among others. Based on type, the steel chemical etched part segment constituted prominent share of the market in 2016. It was followed by the aluminum chemical etched part and copper chemical etched part segments in the year. Presence of other efficient and economic technologies such as electroforming, laser cutting, and photo etching is likely to hamper the chemical milling market during the forecast period.
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Geographically, North America held major share of the global chemical milling market in 2016. The market in the region is estimated to witness strong growth during the forecast period, led by the high investments in the aerospace sector. Presence of robust electronics manufacturing industry is a key factor driving the chemical milling market in Asia Pacific. Increase in production and sales of automotive in emerging economies of Asia Pacific such as India and China is projected to propel the market for chemical milling in the near future. Significant investments in research & development activities in the medical sector in Europe is the key factor boosting the chemical milling market.
Key players operating in the chemical milling market are Lancaster Metals Science Co., Great Lakes Engineering, Tech-Etch, Tech Met, United Western Enterprises, Orbel, VACCO Industries, and Wist Europe.