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What are the processes of PCB etching? What is the role of etching?

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PCB (printed circuit board) etching is one of the key steps in the PCB manufacturing process. It involves removing the unwanted copper layer to form the desired conductive paths and patterns on the PCB. The following is the basic process of PCB etching:

Copper Foil: 

Covering a uniform layer of copper foil on an insulating substrate.

Making Images: 

Forming the desired circuit pattern on the copper foil through a photolithography process. This usually involves the use of photosensitive resist (also known as photoresist or photoresist).


The resist on the PCB is exposed to ultraviolet light through a mask (a transparent or translucent material containing the desired circuit pattern) to harden the resist in the circuit pattern area.


The unexposed resist is dissolved and washed away to reveal the circuit pattern on the copper foil.


The PCB is immersed in an etching solution, and the etching solution (usually containing acidic or alkaline chemicals) dissolves the copper foil parts not covered by the resist.

Resist Removal: 

After etching is completed, the resist is removed to reveal the complete circuit pattern.

Cleaning and Drying: 

Clean the PCB to remove residual etching solution and resist, and then dry it.

Inspection and Testing: 

Check the etching quality, test the conductivity and insulation, and ensure that the PCB meets the design specifications.

Subsequent Processing: 

Perform other manufacturing steps such as drilling, electroplating, and solder mask coating as needed.


Before copper foil cladding, the substrate may need to be pretreated, such as cleaning and drying, to ensure that the surface is free of oil and impurities.

Resist Coating: 

Before photolithography, a layer of resist needs to be evenly coated on the copper foil, which can be done by spraying, dipping, or spin coating.

Soft Baking: 

After resist coating, soft baking is usually required to remove solvents and fix the resist.


After exposure, the resist needs to be post-cured to improve its chemical resistance during etching.

Etching Rate Control: 

During the etching process, the etching rate needs to be controlled to ensure uniformity and precision of etching.

Neutralization and Passivation: 

In some cases, it may be necessary to neutralize the unreacted etchant after etching, and passivation treatment may be performed to protect the copper surface.

AOI (Automated Optical Inspection): 

After etching is completed, AOI equipment is used for automatic inspection to identify any defects or deviations.

Electrical Testing: 

Conductivity tests are performed to ensure that the etched PCB meets the electrical performance requirements.


Etching Functions Are:

Forming Conductive Paths: 

By removing excess copper foil, the etching process forms conductive paths on the circuit board, which connect electronic components and realize the functions of the circuit.

Precision Manufacturing: 

Etching can very accurately replicate the circuit pattern on the mask, which is essential for manufacturing high-performance and high-reliability electronic products.

Adapt to Complex Designs: 

Etching technology can handle very complex and delicate circuit designs, meeting the needs of modern electronic products for miniaturization and integration.


Compared with traditional mechanical processing methods, etching is a cost-effective manufacturing technology that can mass-produce PCBs.


The etching process can be customized according to different design requirements and adapt to a variety of different PCB applications.

Improve Performance: 

Through precise etching, the performance of the circuit can be optimized, such as reducing signal transmission delays and improving signal integrity.

Environmentally Friendly Treatment: 

Modern etching processes are increasingly paying attention to environmental protection, using safer and more environmentally friendly chemicals, and taking measures to reduce the generation and treatment of waste liquids.

Quality Control: 

The etching process helps achieve strict quality control standards and ensure the reliability and consistency of PCBs.

Design Flexibility: 

Etching technology allows designers to achieve more complex circuit layouts and improve design flexibility.

Interlayer Connection: 

In multi-layer PCBs, the etching process also involves the production of inner layer connections and interlayer vias.

Surface Treatment: 

The copper surface after etching may require additional treatment, such as tin plating, gold plating, or silver plating to improve soldering performance and anti-oxidation ability.

Impedance Control: 

Through precise etching, the impedance characteristics of the PCB can be controlled to meet the requirements of high-speed signal transmission.

Thermal Management: 

The copper foil pattern formed during the etching process also helps with thermal management because copper is a good thermal conductor.

Signal Integrity: 

By optimizing the etching pattern, signal reflection, crosstalk, and attenuation can be reduced, and signal integrity can be improved.

Environmental Adaptability: 

The etched PCB may require special treatment to adapt to different environmental conditions, such as high humidity, high temperature, or harsh industrial environments.

Cost Optimization: 

By optimizing the etching process, material waste can be reduced, production efficiency can be improved, and costs can be reduced.

Etching is a multifaceted process in PCB manufacturing that not only determines the physical properties of the board, but also directly affects the performance and reliability of electronic products. As technology develops, etching processes are also constantly improving to meet the needs of higher performance and smaller size electronic products.

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