Photofabrication Engineering Inc.

Enabling New Technologies through Metal Etching Applications

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History of Photofabrication Engineering Inc.

Photofabrication Engineering, Inc. (PEI) was established in October 1968 in Holliston, MA in order to supply the fast-growing semiconductor and computer peripheral manufacturers in the Boston area with metal precision parts quickly and inexpensively.   Our first building was only 4,000 square feet.

With the process of photochemical machining (PCM), the tooling needed to produce precision parts is essentially a low-cost, easily produced film that allows companies to move quickly through the product development cycle.  As word of this innovative technology spread throughout the industry, PEI was on its way, becoming a proven source for precision parts.


Also, with PEI’s proximity to the Rhode Island costume jewelry world, jewelry manufacturers quickly became aware that the photochemical machining (PCM) process was a perfect fit for their needs.  They could manufacture findings quickly, and did not have to incur the high costs required by metal stamping.  This lead to the creation of PEI’s Decorative Products Division in the mid-1970’s.

Moving into the 1980's

As PEI’s product lines and manufacturing capabilities expanded, the Board of Directors searched for a new president to take the company into the 1980’s and beyond.  In 1977, William M. Lehrer was hired from Oak Industries to become president of PEI, bringing his vast engineering experience and outstanding educational background with him.  Bill earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and his Master’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  While working at Raytheon Company, he received a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University.  Bill was the perfect fit for a company that manufactures etched metal precision parts with sophisticated chemistry. 

As an aside, Bill was selected at a young age to participate in the V-12 program in WWII. (For more information on the V-12 program, go to College_ Training_Program.)  Bill then attended the U.S. Naval Reserve Mid-Shipmen’s School and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. 

In the following years, PEI grew steadily, mainly because of its focus on providing the highest level of quality, which continues to be of the utmost importance to the management team.  In 1983, management realized that more space and equipment would be needed, and decided to build a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the PCM process in Milford, MA.

A State-of-the-Art PCM Facility

PEI broke ground in 1983 in Milford, Massachusetts’s Granite Park. Once the facility was completed in 1984, design and manufacturing equipment was installed; a four-stage metal hydroxide precipitation process area for waste treatment was built; and the corporate, sales, and marketing offices were relocated to Milford.  The facility’s 40,000 square feet allowed PEI to continue its growth and develop new product lines and technology.  With this building, PEI became the world’s largest photoetching company under one roof.

The physical plant was designed solely for the process of photochemical machining and includes a high-tech waste water treatment facility.  Among photochemical machining companies, PEI was the first to separate metal etching acids for iron and copper alloys, allowing for acid regeneration and resulting in maximum uniformity of metal etching, controllability, predictability, and environmental friendliness.  This innovation eliminates downtime for unloading and reloading etching chemistry, delivering a better product at a better price for every PEI customer from high-precision parts to custom ornaments for a non-profit fundraiser.  It also makes PEI a “clean” manufacturer, actively working to preserve the environment.

Industry Expansion in 2010

History of Photofabrication Engineering Inc.

Today Chip Lehrer, President of PEI, continues the expansion of PEI's Precision Products Division by manufacturing mission critical parts for most technology-driven industries.  The firm etches almost all metals, including stainless steel, copper, brass, kovar, silver, beryllium copper, nickel silver, gold, sterling, titanium, zirconium and other standard and specialty metals and alloys. PEI is also the industry leader in titanium etching for a wide variety of applications, including medical implants.

PEI’s Decorative Products Division manufactures custom brass ornaments, collectables, and other items for museum stores, foundations, large and small non-profits, universities, and companies looking to recognize their customers and/or employees.  For many years, PEI has supplied beautiful, custom 3-D ornaments for large mail-order houses, such as the Danbury Mint, Franklin Mint and others.  Most recently, PEI has developed a series of programs to help non-profits raise revenue for their organizations, offering assistance with marketing, design, and fulfillment.  The programs allow non-profits to create a new revenue stream that they can rely on year after year.  PEI now has hundreds of customers that look forward to the New Year and their new ornament design.  To view our decorative products, visit our decorative etching website.

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