How Photochemical Machining Can Reduce Prototyping Costs for Hydrogen Electrolysis


Photochemical Machining | Photochemical Etching | Hydrogen Electrolysis | Hydrogen Production Through Electrolysis | Flow Field Plate

As hydrogen power becomes a more significant option for our future, the trailblazing companies leading the charge are in uncharted waters when it comes to optimizing your designs for maximum efficiency. While conventional manufacturing methods like CNC and stamping have long been relied on, they come with certain inflexibilities that can work against you when you’re exploring new territory. Photochemical machining (PCM), also known as photochemical etching, can be a game changer when it comes to prototyping flow field plates for hydrogen electrolysis and hydrogen fuel cell stacks.

Flow Field Plate Channel Design | Photochemical Machining | Photochemical Etching | Hydrogen Electrolysis | Hydrogen Production Through ElectrolysisLower Tooling Costs

PCM uses chemical processes, not physical machining, to do the lion’s share of the manufacturing processes. Because of this, there are no hard tooling needs for flow field plate production, mesh screens, or any other metal component needed. This means you can test designs without worrying about incurring additional tooling costs with each change, and find the right combinations for your stacks without breaking the bank in the critical early stages of prototyping and design.

Unmatched Channel Design Options

Traditional manufacturing methods pale in comparison to PCM when it comes to channel customization. When even the smallest design flaw or improvement can make a difference, PCM allows for highly precise, complex channels to be etched into each side of the plate. PCM is capable of creating channels on one or both sides of the plate, and symmetrical or asymmetrical channels on each side. That kind of design agility comes from the etching process, and cannot be replicated or matched through stamping.

Because you can easily customize the channel designs in your bipolar plates, you’re able to test subtle design tweaks to ensure you optimize the channels for your needs.

Less Waste

PCM is a process that removes unneeded material from the starting plate. The process works by using photoresist films to preserve certain areas of the plate while etching away others. Because this process is so precise, there is very little waste involved throughout the process. When you’re using specialized, expensive materials, even small amounts of waste due to inefficient material use add up.

PCM means you save money by using your materials more efficiently – it also results in stress and burr-free components, meaning the results are stronger and less likely to fail in the long run.

Bipolar Plate Design | Photochemical Machining | Photochemical Etching | Hydrogen Electrolysis | Hydrogen Production Through Electrolysis

Speedier Design Changes

Because PCM uses a chemical process and not hard tooling, design changes are as easy as updating your design files! You don’t have to wait for dies to be cast or manufacturing setups to be adjusted. Your new design can be deployed immediately, with new prototypes produced in hours. This means you can test out more design options in far less time using PCM than you can using other manufacturing methods. When time is money and getting to market quickly is the name of the game, every day matters!

Simple Scalability

The transitions from prototype to low-volume production to high-volume production are seamless when you use PCM for flow field plate manufacturing. Because the process doesn’t change regardless of the volume being produced, you can rely on each and every plate that’s produced being consistent in quality and precision, whether we’re making 1 of them or 5000 of them.

Bonus: Fast Delivery

Though not a feature of PCM specifically, when you choose Switzer as your PCM production partner, you get the bonus benefit of fast delivery. We’re able to produce and deliver new bipolar and cooling plate designs within 4 weeks.

As we all continue to explore the possibilities of hydrogen electrolysis and fuel cells, the options for how to improve our components, our output, and the efficiency of hydrogen power are limitless. Switzer is eager to partner with you in these explorations, offering a manufacturing process with significant benefits and cost savings that produces extremely precise, complex parts in less time than other methods. As hydrogen power continues to evolve, make sure you’re choosing the right prototyping method to stay ahead of the curve.

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