Surface Finishing: The Basics

Surface finishing refers to an extensive array of industrial treatments or processes that change the surface of a component or other manufactured item. This is done so with a specific purpose in mind. Its intent is to imbue the metal used – called a mill surface with certain properties.

Surface Cleaning Treatments

Metal finishing companies utilize a variety of methods to achieve the right results for the components. Surface finishing is not a “one-treatment-suits-all” approach. Several different methods, materials, and processes are applied to ensure the product receives the right finishing desired. Throughout history, three different approaches have been taken to achieve the goals desired. These involve methods that use inhibitive primers, metal specific barrier coatings, or zinc anodes.

Among the better-known treatments that employ one of these methods are:

1. Barrel Finishing
2. Electropolishing
3. Electroplating
4. Electroless Plating
5. Abrasive Belt Polishing
6. Tumbling (a type of barrel finishing)
7. Vibratory finishing (A form of barrel finishing)

These are all designed to deburr, descale, and provide a quality “finish” to the components. However, the processes of dipping them in chemical baths and tumbling them in a barrel also provide the items with other qualities.

Surface Finishing: An Enhancement Process

Metal surface finishing is encouraged for many reasons. As noted above, it provides the components with a “finished” appearance. As manufacturers and salespeople are well aware, an attractive appearance is sold. Consumers like “pretty” things. This is not the main reasons engineers and technicians want components to undergo an appropriate form of surface finishing. They are well aware that the proper treatment is capable of enhancing various properties of the metal. Surface finishing has been known for centuries to augment:

1 Resistance to corrosion by such elements as air and water
2 Resistance to various types of wear and tear the part will be subjected to
3 And modify electrical conductivity and resistance
4 Appearance and reflectivity
5 Tolerance to twisting and turning motions
6 The items solderability
7 Resistance to tarnishing
8 Chemical resistance
9 Hardness
10 The ability to bond

Surface finishing also removes burrs and descales. It eradicates other surface blemishes such as sharp edges that can impair both the function and the salability aspects of a product. The removal of sharp edges also makes it safer for employees to handle. The result of a quality finishing leaves a smooth, uniform surface – easy to handle and easy to look at. The process truly is a multi-purpose one.

Metal Surface Finishing: Different Goals Met

To engineers, corrosion is the major reason surface finishing is important. To consumers and manufacturers, it is important to have the durability and longevity that the process creates. For these two groups, another consideration is also important. This is appearance. How the finished product looks matters to certain segments of the population. They want it all. They want it to function at its optimum, but they also want it to look great. Fortunately, for all concerned, surface finishing, when done with attention to quality and by skilled and trained professionals, can satisfy manufacturers and consumers by providing them with both.

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