Chemical Engineering News

Innovations and Insights in the Field


Etching Vs Engraving

Etching and engraving are two manufacturing processes that are often mistaken for the same thing despite being wholly different. While the outcome of etching and engraving is mostly the same, producing incised designs on the flat surface of hard materials like metal, the processes used are notably different. 

Each one has their advantages, with both etching and engraving being used in various manufacturing sectors and industries, yet many don’t understand the main differences that chemical etching and engraving bring to the table. 

Let’s take a closer look at the main differences between chemical etching and traditional engraving

What’s the difference between etching and engraving?

The difference between etching and engraving is surprisingly simple – etching is a chemical process (hence the name chemical etching) while engraving is a physical process using tools and/or machinary. 

Although different solutions are used, all chemical etching involves using an acid solution, known as an etching agent, to etch into the surface material. Basically, chemical etching dissolves selected parts of a metal material to leave a desired pattern or design. 

Engraving on the other hand, requires the use of physical tools to engrave designs onto hard surfaces like metal and wood. 

Traditional hand engraving uses sharpened tools to incise intricate designs onto surfaces, while newer processes such as computer-aided machine engraving use commercial machinery for a similar outcome. 

The Advantages of Chemical Etching 

Chemical etching offers many advantages over engraving and many other manufacturing processes. Here’s just a few of the benefits it offers:


One of the most notable benefits of chemical etching is how accurate the process is. Virtually any design can be created using this process and the accuracy is unrivalled, from simple designs to more intricate patterns. 

Each piece of sheet metal that undergoes the chemical etching process has an identical outcome, making it especially useful for mass production of designs on metal materials, from door signs to jewellery.  

Smooth and Burr-Free Finish 

Because chemical etching involves covering the sheet metal with a photo resist layer that has the desired design pattern, the material remains untouched during the process. The original material comes out with the design smoothly etched onto its surface, with absolutely no burr or stress marks, which isn’t guaranteed with other manufacturing processes on metal materials.


Designs used in chemical etching are first created digitally before being transferred onto the material, meaning there is no case of trial and error – simply adjust the design using the software and then apply it when happy with the final design. 

This means no need to etch various designs until you get the right one, as all designs are confirmed digitally before being applied, helping to keep costs low. Also, because various designs can be applied to a single sheet of metal, further savings can be made compared to other processes. 

Fast Production

The speed in which chemical etching is completed is incredibly fast, meaning quick turnaround when manufacturing. Countless different designs can be made and etched onto a single sheet, ensuring a fast and efficient turnaround.

Emily Carter: Emily, a trained environmental journalist, brings a wealth of expertise to her blog posts on environmental news and climate change. Her engaging style and fact-checked reporting make her a respected voice in environmental journalism.