History of Multi-Etch

Multi-Etch Solution and Containers

Why did we pursue an alternative to hydrofluoric acid? We understood the hazards of working with hydrofluoric acid and nitric acids, which were the historic industry standard before we created Multi-Etch. Even relatively “safe” consumer products such as rust removers, which are sometimes used for etching titanium, contain hydrofluoric acid.

Times and regulations have changed since we first started etching titanium in 1978.  During our first experiments, while preparing the hydrofluoric/nitric acid solution, orange clouds of vapor had us questioning the safety of our work environment. We quickly adopted some safety protocols needed to protect ourselves: fume hood, separate air supply with a full face respirator, and air quality monitoring with Draeger tubes.  Although we took what seemed to be all the necessary precautions, we couldn’t be confident that thirty years down the road we might discover we had not been cautious enough.

The insidious nature of hydrofluoric acid means that if you spill some on your body, the tissue damage may not be apparent until the next day. The CDC says, “Even small splashes of high-concentration hydrogen fluoride products on the skin can be fatal.”  Another specific danger of etching with hydrofluoric and nitric acid, is the fluoride gas released and without proper safety equipment you could be releasing that into the air. It’s important to make sure your fume hood is working perfectly without a back draft.

After much research and experimentation with different solutions, we perfected an etchant that met our exacting quality standards and is exponentially safer than the hydrofluoric/nitric acid combination.  The result was Multi-Etch! One key advantage of Multi-Etch is that the fluorides are bound up in the solution and are never released as a gas.  Draeger tubes read in parts per billion and the readout was always zero!  (And yes, we checked to make sure they were working).  Although the spent solutions of Multi-Etch have to be treated/neutralized before sewering, it’s easier than dealing with hydrofluoric/nitric waste.

We have been using Multi-Etch to produce titanium jewelry and wall art for Exotica Jewelry, Inc. ever-since! After our personal success we realized this product could be useful and help others within the titanium jewelry industry. Then, in about 2008, different titanium users showed up.  Our largest users now are from dental, medical, aerospace, knife making, bicycle manufacturing, and optical industries.

The efficacy of Multi-Etch is not only useful in the titanium anodizing field but excels for welding prep and chemical milling. Multi-Etch is less aggressive than hydrofluoric/nitric acids and can effectively remove just microns of materials. With longer etching time, etch depth increases.  

Multi-Etch is also effective on stainless steel, tool steel, brass, copper, platinum, niobium, tantalum, and zirconium. Multi-Etch interacts differently with various metals, please be sure to check our etch rate table for your desired results.