One of the basic facts in the photo etch process is that the quality of the artwork is crucial in the quality of the final etched sheet. By following the steps in this guide you will create a drawing that will allow us to produce a high quality etched sheet from the artwork you send.
The guide covers:
- File Format/Software Selection
- Drawing Colours & Layers
- Scale/Sheet Size & Layout
- Tolerances & Tags
- Artwork Checklist
You can also take a look at our ‘Example Artwork’ that shows in detail the steps involved in creating the ideal format to send to us that will keep our editing charges and therefore tooling costs to a minimum.
At PPD Ltd. we use the following software to process artwork: Adobe Illustrator/CorelDraw/AutoCAD In general we keep up to date with the latest releases but please do contact us for information on the specific version we are currently operating.
If you are using one of these programmes then send us your artwork in the native format of the software, cdr for CorelDraw, ai for Adobe Illustrator or dwg for AutoCAD files.
The software we use also allows us to import a number of additional file formats, these are: eps pdf dxf dgn
In general it is good practice irrespective of which programme you use to include a pdf file of the artwork, we can then double check that what we see on screen is what you have originally drawn.
The quality of the final etch is a result of the quality of the artwork and so our advice is to avoid rastor type formats such as jpg/tiff/bmp etc. and only use software that generates a vector file.
Drawing Colours & Layers
To create a phototool we need a black and white drawing comprising of a separate front and back artwork. The more complete your drawing the less editing it will require and therefore the lower the cost, shown below are three options of how to supply your artwork with option 1 being the most cost effective and option 3 involving the highest level of editing and therefore incurring additional cost.
Option 1- Separated Front and Back in Black and White:
In this example the front and back artwork have been separated, the tags are shown on the back artwork and therefore will be halfetched.
You can see the numbers on the clockface only appear on the front artwork and so will be halfetched on the front.
The parts are arranged within a sheet and are tagged either to the frame and or other parts
(We operate our software using a white screen background).
The above layout requires minimal to no editing and therefore is the most cost effective way to supply your artwork.
Option 2 - Black/Red/White on a Master Sheet:
In this layout the front and back are shown on a single page, the front halfetch is shown in red.
This example will require additional editing by PPD to separate the front and back artwork, it is essential that the following layers are used on this type of layout:
Full Thickness Parts (Black)
Halfetch Front (red)
Halfetch Back (blue - not used in this example)
Option 1- Black/Red/White Individual Parts:
In this option individual parts are shown with the quantity required, it’s no problem for us to create the artwork from this layout but please keep in mind that editing charges will be incurred.
This example will require an additional level of editing by PPD to step and repeat the quantities required and then create the front and back artworks. It is essential that the following layers are used on this type of layout:
Full Thickness Parts (Black)
Halfetch Front (Red)
Halfetch Back (Blue - not used in this example)
All drawings should be sent at final model scale, we recommend including a measure bar that we can use as a check of the scale.
Have a look at our ‘Stock Metal Info’ pdf file for information on the maximum possible sheet sizes for each metal type and thickness.
In general a sheet width of 300mm, with an etched dimension of 285mm should be used, the length of the tool should be set to suit the individual design, bear in mind that sheet lengths greater than 600mm will incur additional oversize tool charges.
Where a design has very fine detail we recommend a sheet length of 300mm or less, you should also remember that the longer the phototool the higher the setup charge will be, for example there is no benefit in creating a tool at 600mm in length and running 1 copy if you could have created a 300mm long tool and run 2 copies.
When creating a drawing for a photoetched sheet there are a few essential rules that should be followed so that your artwork can be successfully etched on your selected metal type and thickness.
One drawing rule is that the gaps/holes and bar widths must be greater than the thickness of the metal.
The same rule can be used for Brass/Copper/Nickel Silver/Phosphor Bronze Minimum Bar/Line & Gap Width = 1.2 x metal thickness For Stainless Steel the rule is: Minimum Bar/Line & Gap Width = 1.5 x metal thickness
Take a look at our pdf file ‘Drawing Tolerances & Tags’, the minimum bar/line gap width is listed for each metal type and thickness.
As a general rule for metals of thickness 0.2mm or less, a full thickness tag at 0.25mm wide should be used, for all metal thicknesses greater than 0.2mm a halfetched tag at 1mm width should be used.
If you have completed your artwork, have a look at the following checklist that will hopefully highlight any issues that may prevent your artwork successfully translate to the perfect etched sheet.
- Has the artwork been created as a vector type file?
- Is the artwork in one of the following formats: ai/eps/cdr/pdf/dwg/dxf/dgn?
- Is the artwork at final etched scale?
- Has all text been converted to curves?
- Are the tags the correct type and thickness for the metal type and thickness selected?
- Have the parts been drawn as per our recommended gap/line widths for the selected metal and thickness?
If the answer to these questions is yes then we can use your artwork to create a high quality etched sheet that will match your expectations.