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Etching components - Hints & Tips - Reference Area. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Tue Mar 17th, 2015 12:04 am
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The Bankie
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Hi Guys

Some of you will have seen me complaining about the non-availability of parts for trams.
Now there are some excellent general bits for overheads and the Mark Hughes bow collectors are superb bits of kit, BUT,  if you want something a little different or out of the interest range of the guys who produce these things then you need to be prepared to do it yourself.
Like most railway modellers I want to model the fascinating, or, the familiar. My modelling interest is trams, this means trams from my home town. Since that is Clydebank I am looking at Glasgow trams to start with. Now Clydebank did actually have an indigenous tram fleet made mainly from cut down ex-Paisley trams and one special case adoption “1098 known as Wee Baldy”. These ran mainly from the Partick depot to serve Duntocher, a low bridge route, and as extras for peak periods when the shipyards were clocking on or off. I mistakenly thought that finding models of Glasgow trams would be a lot easier than Clydebank/Paisley trams. Well it is, but only marginally, and mainly in paper or card and once again Robert & Elena Hardy at Elron provide excellent kits but like so many model producers they have focused on the specials. Butt & Ben, Mains tester, Cable layer, 1089, Setts car. All excellent models but no bog standard fleet cars. It’s a bit like trying to build up a branch line using the P.W. and Breakdown recovery stock.
So the next move was to see if I could produce my own card models.
I can and doing them in card means I don’t have to paint them.
However this still leaves some awkward items, stairs, lifeguards, seats, trucks or bogies which I can produce but are very difficult to cut out cleanly.
So we move on to looking at stencil cutters which are basically a plotter with a blade instead of a pen or a 3D printer. The 3D plotters have been dropping dramatically in price and can now be imported from Oz at sub £200 but postage and whatever HMRC will tack on is anyone’s guess and the delivery lead time is fairly ferocious and it comes as a kit.
Looking at stencil cutters solves the time and guesswork problem but the cost of a commercial cutter is disproportionate to the use I will get from it unless I can guarantee sales from making other things for other people.
Move to the hobby/crafting market and the machine designed for the hobbyist is the Graphtec Cameo at around £250. Still expensive but designed to cut small and intricate stencils or appliqué designs.


I have already explored etching parts and am quite able to draw the masks for this process but getting the mask on to the brass is unduly complicated and needs some quite expensive materials. You need a photo reactive film, an etch resist film and you need to have a Ultra-Violet light box to develop the photo reactive film. Finally you need to heat attach (iron on) the etch resist film.
Whilst researching the Cameo I came across a video of it being used to etch glass. The idea then occurred that if the material used to make the stencils can resist Hydrofluoric acid then it should be able to resist the etch used in producing etched brass components.


The Cameo uses adhesive backed film to make the stencils for glass etching and the film and, more importantly, the adhesive looked to be acid resistant. In that case they could be resistant to a Ferric Chloride (salty rust) solution as used to etch pcb’s and also used to produce etched brass components.


QED time!
 
If I want to motorise a version of “Wee Baldie” I need a tower and a bow collector. The bow has some very fine metalwork at the top so manual cutting is not a good idea but the main tower is fairly robust. Robust enough to withstand a bit of faulty cutting. Out with the AutoCAD, design tower fret and print on to some stick on labels (Avery L7165).




Cut out both sides of fret. Very carefully peel off of backing and stick cut outs to a piece of 0.005 inch brass sheet hoping to get front and back in register. Drop into a tray of Ferric Chloride solution and wait nervously for an hour.



Whaddya know! It worked. Proof of concept. Not good enough for assembly on to a model but now I KNOW I can make all the little nightmare bits I need and using the cutter I can get things properly in register and really fine bars on the frets.





Even better, Graphtec  don’t widely publicise it but the Cameo has a kid brother which does everything the Cameo does but on A4 (smaller than the Cameo) and at £150ish it looks like my Christmas Prezzie has been found.


Hope this has been informative.
Regards
Jim








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 Posted: Thu Sep 15th, 2016 11:01 pm
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The Bankie
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I got a PM from Gastwo who asked about labels verses official etching primer methods.
He asked

I've been reading your thread, and was intrigued with the post on etching. You said that you used sticky labels in your experiment. Am I right in assuming that the ferric chloride did not attack the paper or adhesive? (I was a bit confused because you mentioned stencil film in the same post...) I have a friend who has a stencil cutter, but if Avery label works, I could do things with Photoshop. Your advice/views would be much appreciated.


To answer your question the ferric chloride DID attack the paper but the adhesive kept it out. I cut by hand and it was not a brilliant job but it proved the principal.
The stencil film will resist far better BUT there is no way of keeping it flat and defining the edges. The Avery labels are actually better at that providing you remember to cut a front and back mask or you will end up with etched components half the thickness you expected.
Nobble your mate with the stencil cutter as it makes a far better job and does not over or under cut edges. Most importantly put in three alignment holes, one in each of three corners to ensure you get the crisp lines you are looking for. There will be a little undercutting at the exposed edges but that will happen no matter what you do so make certain of pressing the edges down as smoothly and as firmly as possible.



For the benefit of others I'll drop this into the thread and thanks for the interest.
Hope this helps.

Regards
Jim




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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 10:13 am
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The Q
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Thanks for the article It's solved one of the problems I will have when I get to make the tracery supporting the station rooves. Since I've used Etching on the past for electronic circuit boards that side shouldn't be a problem..
Now to Persuade SWMBO we need a vinyl cutter....



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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 11:37 am
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Many thanks for the reply Jim, and my sympathy regarding the health problems.

Shaun.

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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 02:45 pm
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The Bankie
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Hi There Q, Or can I call you The?:lol:

NO! not a stencil cutter.:shock::shock:
They are commercial machines and they cost a fortune. You need a HOBBY or CRAFT cutter. That way you can get prices below £200. I have a Silhouette Portrait as I do not need to cut anything which will not fit on an A4 sheet.
The bonus is that I can let SWMBO design her own Christmas and birthday cards (she's actually pretty good at it) and I cut them out. Of course you do need the cutter to produce the cards.
I make no recommendation regarding the brand of cutter you should buy but I have found the Portrait to be an excellent machine ruined only by the appalling software. The machine works extremely well  but the software is a pig to come to grips with.
Since I can only comment on the machine I use have a look at :-
http://www.silhouettecameo.co.uk/

Don't be fooled by their attempts to flog you a Cameo. It has a kid brother called the Portrait at about £100.00 less and it does everything the Cameo does but on a smaller scale.
My main problem is getting through SWMBO's work list:mutley:mutley

In case anyone else is wondering the stencil film I mentioned is for use on glass but it sticks by static and air exclusion which possibly will not work on metal as it may not be smooth enough and may not hold a static charge. Of course you could hold it down with sticky tape but that will only work round the outer edges.

Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 02:51 pm
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The Bankie
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Many thanks and best wishes passed on Shaun.
My stuff is all stable and being monitored and SWMBO is almost back to normal.
Biggest headache has been the change of email but at least the spam has decreased by about 90%.:mrgreen:

Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 03:08 pm
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The Q
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Q is my Initial and for many years I have been known as that, however on the web I use "The Q", because on one of the other forums I frequent there was already a Q who named himself after the Star Trek Character.
 By Vinyl cutter I was thinking of something like the  cameo range  if it's only for me. 
Although cutters now seem to come in a variety of styles and sizes for not that much more money. BUT until I've done a lot more research I'll not be buying any of the ones listed here http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_nkw=vinyl+cutter+plotter.
I do have or to be more Precise SWMBO has a use for larger than A4 cutter and if it will do BOTH our tasks, then there is a good chance we may get one of the larger ones.
 SWMBOs work list is always getting in the way, tomorrow is wandering around Norwich .....
thanks
Q



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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 06:10 pm
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The Bankie
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Hi Q
I can see the snag there. Could even have been a James Bond fan.:lol:

Try letting SWMBO have a look at the videos about the Silhouette since you can justify her involvement.
Had a look at the site you give and the others seem to be aimed at vehicle/decorating sticker production and with the emphasis on vinyl I have no idea if they can cope with other materials. If the vinyl is sticky backed it may well be a good solution to my needs so I will acquire some and give it a try. I have no idea how vinyl will work with conventional printer inks (will it smudge etc) and when I ran my test piece I really only wanted to prove the principal so I printed in colour without bothering about it and was pleased that I got an etched piece.
The Silhouette machines are principally paper/card cutters and at the time I acquired mine they were one of only a couple on the market.

Regards
Jim

PS: What's wrong with Norwich?



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 Posted: Fri Sep 16th, 2016 11:59 pm
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Hi Jim,

Your etching will be more precise if you up the temperature and get some aggressive agitation. 40-60°C and the use of an aquarium peristaltic pump (no moving parts in contact with the ferric chloride solution, just polypropylene tubing) to circulate the solution. A rectangular tank with the etch standing vertically on some plastic blocks will ensure equal etch rates front and back, which you don't get horizontally. It also minimizes the volume of solution being used.

This is how the big boys do it (at even higher temperatures). You've actually done the hard work with the diagram. I recon you'll have to use photo-etching to get the precision you want. Not that expensive, and you can get a lot of etches on an A4 sheet. Don't do it yourself, really fine work needs a lot of precision with the photo masks, especially if you start putting in half-etch details (rivets, seams, etc.). http://ppdltd.com/ is one service provider that I know of that a lot of kit designers use. Plus it solves the problem of what to do with all that spent ferric chloride solution (use the neutralizer from Maplin, you'll need to generate at least 100 liters before a waste-disposal outfit will come and pick it up).

Nigel




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 Posted: Sat Sep 17th, 2016 10:38 pm
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Hi Nigel
Thanks for the interest.

I agree about the photo etching but then you start to get involved with masking fluids, UV exposure, front and back masks, reverse images etc.
I also understand the agitation and heating principals but this was meant to be a trial run to see how basic I could get it as I will only need plain flat blanks as detail can be achieved with printed card/paper on top of the blank.

Disposal of the used solution is not a problem since ferric chloride is, as I have said previously, only rusty salty water and the small amounts I use are simply left for the water to evaporate off and the residue scraped into a can destined for the recycling bin. I am also lucky in that my local council have several recycling centres who will accept things like this in small quantities.
The truth is that the hard bit is the alignment of the front and rear masks regardless of how they are produced and that is why I will be using three holes lined up on three pins in a jig when I want to produce some components.

You can see the truck details below the main body and the way the layers of card (in this case) build up to represent the various components making up the truck detail.



You can also see the ragged cuts and why I am converting to a cnc cutter by comparing the unfolded truck to the one on the car. As far as precision goes I design in AutoCAD 17 so precision is not a problem.

Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Sun Sep 18th, 2016 12:07 am
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Hi Jim,

Back to basics approach then. I don't bother with any of that either, I just send a file off by email, etches come back.

The issue with the residual material from etching with ferric chloride is not the iron salts (first time I've come across "rusty salt", good one), it's the copper, nickel and zinc content. Most places have limits on how much is allowed into the environment. The big boys sell it for recycling, keeps the costs down a bit.

Nigel



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 Posted: Sun Sep 18th, 2016 06:10 pm
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The Bankie
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Hi Nigel

Ferric Chloride/rusty salt. It's not a spade, it's an agricultural tillage implement.:shock:

You Said it's the copper, nickel and zinc content. Most places have limits on how much is allowed into the environment. I agree with the limits. Even my airgun pellets are turned tin. They fly beautifully but cost a mint.

If click and await arrival works for you great. Me? I like the challenge.

Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Wed Dec 28th, 2016 04:39 pm
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The Bankie
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Hi Guys,
Some more on the etching side.

A little while back I described how had done some etching using sticky labels as the resistant medium. Well I said I would let you know what happened when I moved on to “proper” resist stencils so this is the latest experiment in the search for custom parts for tram trucks and overheads.
I finally got around to ordering some vinyl for my Silhouette cutter and did some practice runs on glass jars. I may sound like a bit of a contradiction but S.W.M.B.O. has now got a set of custom made matching spice jars and is starting to come round to the idea that the Silhouette is a good idea.
So I drew up a set of stencils for a bow collector and a trolley standard to fit a Glasgow sett and sand maintenance car.



Luckily I wont be able to use this one but it allows me to see what the possibilities and problems are.
So I printed out and cut the stencils and learned several things in the process.
First, at 4mm sizes you need to figure out how narrow you can make things with this process. It's not as delicate as the photographic process and at my present level of skill a millimetre is about as thin as I can get clean strips. A bit more thought in the stencil design and I can certainly manage less than that.
Next you have to allow for the transfer of the vinyl to the brass sheet. This can be tricky as the vinyl is sticky backed. Below you can see a cut bow collector stencil ready to be transferred to the brass for etching. The white sheet behind it is the vinyl backing and the one on the brass has already been transferred. This is where the alignment holes come into play as you can set the first piece slightly out and still line up the stencils. The vinyl on the front, the lower sheet, is stuck to the transfer sheet ready to transfer to the other side of the brass plate which is why you can see the white backing sheet at an angle. The smaller sheet is the tower already transferred on both sides of the brass with the transfer sheet removed.
The next lesson is make certain that the metal is absolutely clean. I used industrial alcohol and crocus paper. The template IS adhesive but it will only stick properly ONCE.
Now you need to flatten the whole thing and carefully peel of the transfer sheet so keep a pointed implement handy to stop the wrong bits lifting up as you transfer to the metal.
You should have already “weeded” the transfer, that is removed all the bits you want to be removed from the etching, so that you are left with the actual component in vinyl with a gap all around on the front and only the tags holding the component in the fret left on the back or underside. The underside of the bow collector is the one already on the brass sheet.
I find the weeding the most difficult simply because it is confusing trying to work out which bits remain and which bit get removed and you need to get it right as you can't stick them back on.



Finally get the thickness and type of metal right for the job. These components were from old imperial stock of “Half Hard” brass and were 0.003 inch making them wrong on both counts. You need soft, unworked or undrawn, brass at 0.015 inch for best results.
However I did get my components just not as good as I want.


So it looks like I'll need to have another go.
Just in case your wondering the copper colour is the result of the etchant bringing out the copper used in making the brass.

Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Wed Dec 28th, 2016 08:14 pm
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Hi Jim,

Good work. Once you've got the small issues out of the way it looks like a viable alternative to photo etch. Although you may have to use that if you want micron-scale precision. Have you thought about using nickel silver rather than regular brass?

Nigel



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 Posted: Wed Dec 28th, 2016 10:00 pm
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Hi Nigel.

You said,
Have you thought about using nickel silver rather than regular brass?
. Sort of but I am uncertain about the etchant or local availability of 15thou nickle silver sheet. Also the conductivity unless there is a lot of Ag in the sheet which will bring us to expense and solderability. Mind you SWMBO has still got some Ag sheet from her ring making days and some real silver solder but that path is trodden with uncertainty and death as constant companions.
Besides I have still got to figure out some bogie and truck base frames and see if any of Nigel Lawton's micro motors will fit under the trams without fouling the road surface or protruding into the lower saloon. They are 27 inch (9mm) wheels on either an 8 foot (32 mm) truck or 4 foot 6 inch (18 mm) bogies giving only 4 mm road clearance which I might just get.
Oh well! At least the sett and sand car can use some genuine 1960s BEC motors and bogies and stop me worrying about how to use them.



Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Thu Dec 29th, 2016 01:11 am
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BCDR
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Hi Jim,

Ag ? It's zero. It's an alloy of copper, nickel and usually zinc. Common mix is 60:20:20. Treat as brass (copper + zinc) for etching. It's what the rails are made of.

Nickel silver sheets for modeling are readily available. Eileens Emporium stocks it.

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Dec 29th, 2016 01:48 pm
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Hi Nigel
Never had the need to use the stuff so I am gratefull for the info.
However you said
Nickel silver sheets for modeling are readily available. Eileens Emporium stocks it.
which is great but look at my location. Unless they have an export divisionI wont be able to pop out and buy some from them. Mind you, I might be able to persuade SWMBO that Virginia is a good holiday destination :mutley :mutley :mutley.
I should be able to find a supplier over here as my local model stockist has KS precision metals of Chicago stock. Got toadmit that I prefer the holiday option though. :mrgreen:

Regards
Jim



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 Posted: Thu Dec 29th, 2016 02:59 pm
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The Bankie wrote: Hi Nigel

Never had the need to use the stuff so I am gratefull for the info.

However you said
Nickel silver sheets for modeling are readily available. Eileens Emporium stocks it.
which is great but look at my location. Unless they have an export divisionI wont be able to pop out and buy some from them. Mind you, I might be able to persuade SWMBO that Virginia is a good holiday destination :mutley :mutley :mutley.

I should be able to find a supplier over here as my local model stockist has KS precision metals of Chicago stock. Got toadmit that I prefer the holiday option though. :mrgreen:



Regards

Jim


Errr, Confused of Stevenage here..............

Eileen's is in Gloucester, your info states Bradford(?)

admittedly it's not a 'pop out' type drive, and some poor
deluded souls think Yorkshire is a separate country(!),
but they don't need an export license!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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 Posted: Thu Dec 29th, 2016 06:55 pm
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Hi Jeff,

Equally confused of Bradford Here :shock: :shock:

The reply was to BCDR (Nigel) whose location is given as, Reston, Virginia, USA.
Still, nice to make contact with another YMR member :hiand please don't hesitate to join in the discussion since this is not a private conversation. Who knows what we can learn from each other, I've discovered the composition of nickle silver and its suitability for my purposes and who knows what's just around the corner.

Regards
Jim

PS Just looked up Eileens Emporium which is local to you and NOT in the USA as I assumed from Nigels location. :oops: :oops:.  An excellent day since I learned three things. 1) nickle silver composition 2) its place in railway modeling 3) Don't make assumptions.



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 Posted: Thu Dec 29th, 2016 08:21 pm
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Hi Jim,

With respect to nickel silver, my F-in-L* has gone over
to using it for all his etches, it is stronger, easier to work
with, and needs less cleaning up before painting.

(*He uses PPD for his etch work, and he trades as
Electrifying Trains)



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