September '21

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5 8 G R A P H I C S P R O S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M etching process is extremely fine, and it is difficult to always contain it totally within the etching chamber. Abrasive grit is easier to contain as this particulate is larger and is recycled, but it still has a habit of occasion- ally escaping. The problem is that any minor amount of glass dust or abrasive grit that settles on any work surfaces is the enemy and will easily scratch glass and crystal. I recommend that whenever possible, keep abrasive etching away from other processes. My suggestion is to purchase the best equipment (and defi- nitely the best sealed) that you can afford. As we all know, you get what you pay for, so compare equipment carefully and invest wisely. When compared to the cost of purchas- ing a new laser or UV printer, abrasive etching equipment is still a relatively low- cost capital equipment purchase, with small benchtop versions starting around $3,000 to top-of-the-line units at $10,000- plus. Do your homework and buy the best and cleanest equipment you can afford. If possible, I recommend that abrasive etching equipment be installed in a sepa- rate room to contain any glass dust par- ticulate and abrasive grit within the room. I have seen some messy abrasive etching rooms with glass dust and abrasive grit everywhere, but at least it's contained. Ideally the room should also have some external ventilation and filtration. Any sur- face glass dust or residue on etched pieces can also be blown off with compressed air inside the room before they are taken out- side the room to be unmasked and cleaned up. This helps prevent glass dust or abra- sive grit getting into the rest of your shop. Some of the top abrasive etching units have compressed air blow-off nozzles that are located inside the blasting chamber, which is a plus. If a separate room is not possible, try to locate abrasive etching equipment in a remote corner away from your main assembly activities. Photoresist masks are used for flat, curved, convex, or concave surfaces. (Image courtesy IKONICS Imaging) The mask application process is dry and only requires a clean work bench. It is essential to have good lighting as this helps with accurate mask alignment, especially on curved or convex surfaces. (Images courtesy St. Regis Group) Laser masks are normally used for flat surfaces. La- ser masks do not have quite as crisp lines as a pho- toresist mask does, but they eliminate the develop and washout steps. They've become popular due to many shops already using CO 2 lasers. (Image cour- tesy Trotec Laser)

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