Photo-Etched parts

The addition of photo-etched (PE) parts to a scale model kit is quite an easy way to obtain enhanced detail levels.

They are made using a similar process to the manufacture of Printed Circuit Boards, whereby metal alloy sheets in various thickness, generally under 1mm., are photo-imaged with a resistive compound, and then chemically etched on both faces to recreate the drawn parts.

The PE fret is made up of a support frame, with narrow links attaching to the individual parts. These links are narrow enough to allow the user to cut the separate parts from the fret. It is also possible to etch bend lines into one face of the part, so that a 3D box-like structure can be folded and formed, thereby obviating the two-dimensional nature of PE.

Drawings are usually done using CAD 2D software. Designing a PE fret requires you to draw two layers: Upper and Lower. At first it is a little difficult to visualise the Lower side, but after the couple of hundred drawings you will get used to it!

It is possible to photoetch the fret four times – two times per face. Final costs will double in the end, and in my opinion the result is generally not worth the effort. If you want to see an example of this process, have a look at the wheel well details from Trumpeter’s 1/48 Vickers Wellington.

Whilst PE details are useful in smaller scales, in bigger scales they really bring a model to life, simulating particular pieces, assembled parts or tiny detail like screws, nuts and bolts, and fasteners.

Many times I’ve been asked if it is possible to make your own PE. Although it may sound a simple process, it requires the investment in some complicated photo-resist application and ultra-violet imaging equipment, with tight dimensional control, and precise registration of the Upper and Lower images. It also requires the handling of strong acids, and final photoresist stripping and disposal. It is far better to engage a specialist to manufacture the PE for you, from the artworks you generate.

As an example, here is some of my work. I must state clearly that I don’t personally sell these accessories, so I invite you to visit the manufacturers’ websites directly.

2D drawing


A 3D place - home