What is the difference between etching and engraving? Both processes place letters, numbers, symbols, or even an image or logo on metal and on other materials. Sometimes these terms have been used synonymously; however, they are not technically the same process. Engraving incises or cuts the design into a hard surface. Etching, on the other hand, produces the design through chemical means (usually an acid bath). Engraving is a mechanical process, while etching is a chemical process. Engraving places some stress on the material being engraved, while etching does not.
During the engraving process, grooves are cut into the hard surface with a tool called a burin. The burin can be made of hardened steel or can be a diamond stylus. Traditionally, engraving was done by hand, but today engraving usually is done on a CNC machine or a milling machine. Some automatic engraving machines have replaced the hardened steel burin or diamond stylus with a laser. Lasers are more precise than hardened steel burins or a diamond stylus. Engraving can be slower and more expensive than etching. Engraving can leave burrs, while etching does not.
Etching is a newer process for cutting lines into hard surfaces than engraving, which has existed for thousands of years. The modern etching process is a photochemical process. The main chemical for etching is ferric chloride, which works on both hard and soft metals. Certain metals require different chemicals. For instance, silver is etched with ferric nitrate. The photo etching process is one of the highest quality and most accurate processes in existence to put markings on a hard surface. Once a design is provided for the etching, the metal is cleaned before it undergoes a laminating, printing, and developing process. The metal is laminated with a UV photosensitive material. This UV photosensitive material with the design is attached to the metal. It is then exposed to UV light. The metal parts are placed into a chemical bath removing the laminate coating except where the design is at. This process allows for both simple and complex designs to be etched into metal very quickly and in any quantity desired.
What is the difference between etching and engraving? Etching and engraving both put lines, letters, and artwork on metal using different techniques. Engraving cuts the metal with a hardened tool or a laser, while etching uses a photochemical process that does not stress the metal or cause burrs. Both processes have their place depending upon what is needed. Etching is fast, accurate, and can be done at almost any quantity.