In this work the etching of different Si-oxide, Si-nitride and metal layers in HF:H2O 24.5:75.5, BHF:glycerol 2:1 and vapor HF is studied and compared. The vapor HF etching is done in a commercially available system for wafer cleaning, that was adapted according to custom specifications to enable stiction-free surface micro- machining. The etch rates as a function of etching method, time and temperature are determined. Moreover, the influence of internal and external parameters on the HF vapor etching process are analyzed before choosing the standard HF vapor etch technique used for comparing the etching behavior of the different films.© (2000) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.