Mass Finishing 101

Often overlooked in the manufacturing process, mass finishing can help add value in a variety of ways.  Mass finishing can reduce or eliminate manual process steps, improve process consistency, increase throughput, reduce manual labor, and more.

Manufacturing or process engineers in a manufacturing plant do not have to be the expert that knows all the latest details and techniques of the finishing process. They do, however, need to have a good understanding of the basic mass finishing processes that can be applied.

Mass finishing describes a surface finishing method where parts are deburred, smoothed, polished, or cleaned using media (tumbling or vibratory), compounds (finishing soap), and specialized equipment.

Examples of mass finishing equipment include:

Understanding how the different process components, i.e. the machine, media, compound, water, and the incoming part all interact and influence the desired part finish is important. Each of the inputs in itself has a multitude of adjustments and parameters.

As a steward of the environment and natural resources, the engineer in charge must also consider how to minimize the use of water and properly handle the waste from the process. (See our previous blog about the benefits of centrifuge technology for more information.)

The Importance of Trials

Mass finishing is predominantly a trial and error technology. While expertise and experience are helpful, relying on a trusted supplier who is willing to commit the time, testing, and effort needed to find the exact mass finishing recipe for your needs is key.

Working with a supplier that has a proven system for solving surface finishing problems is recommended. The first step is gaining a precise understanding of the specific finishing task by completing an application-specify survey in the early stages of process development regarding the process, initial workpiece state, and the desired outcome as well as timing and space constraints and other considerations. A precise understanding of the customer’s requirements is essential.

After enough information has been gathered, a processing trial is conducted. If the trial is successful, there is a high probability of attaining a successful application.  If the trial was not successful, modifications are made and the trial is repeated as many times as necessary to achieve optimal results. Nearly all projects require extensive processing trials for determining the optimal finishing process.

Types of Work Pieces

Incoming or raw parts can be as small as 1/64” and weighing a fraction of an ounce (e.g. small rivets, washers, and wristwatch components) and as big as 20-foot long and weighing up to 3,500 pounds (e.g. aircraft wing components or wind turbine gears).

The materials that can be finished are mostly metal yet plastic, rubber, ceramics, natural stone, and even wood parts can be processed in mass finishing applications.

Mass finishing processes can be found in almost any industry such as automotive, medical, aerospace, hardware, jewelry, food, and pharmaceutical equipment.

Manufacturing processes that benefit from mass finishing are as varied as the industries this technology serves. Stamping, die casting, laser cutting, additive manufacturing, 3D printing, laser sintering, powdered metals, machining, forging, metal casting, and injection molding are just some of the examples.

Process Components

The media (grinding media, polishing media, stones, rocks, etc.)
is the component of the

Sammelfoto_Verfahrensmittel_4056_CMYKprocess that actually does the work by rubbing against the part like thousands of small files. The media is usually made from ceramic or plastic and contains abrasive. The composition, size, and shape of the media allows for thousands of different combinations to optimize the media for the specific process.

Water is often overlooked as a key ingredient in the mass finishing process. Water serves as coolant, prevents dust from forming, distributes the compound (chemistry) and removes the waste (media fines, metal fines, and oils) from the process.

The compound (soap, chemistry) dissolves coolants, oils and grease, keeps the media clean and open, and protects the finished parts against corrosion and oxidation.

The machine provides the energy for the process and brings all the other components together in a controlled fashion. The control system allows the processes to be tightly controlled and monitored. Parameters such as motor speeds, weight settings, part and media load quantities, water and compound flow rates and concentrations, process times, and maintenance intervals can all be included in the controls to ensure repeatable and consistent processes.

Equipment can be as simple as a single, stand-alone,
manually operated vibratory bowl all the way to a fully
automated, multi-batch systems where parts are
automatically handled, greatly reducing costly and tedious manual labor.

True to our motto of “Finding a Better Way,” Rosler takes into account all inputs and outputs. We offer experienced finishing engineering and an entire range of mass finishing equipment and consumables (media and compound) to ensure that the entire process is optimized.

Whatever your mass finishing needs are, you can count on Rosler Metal Finishing  to find a better way. Contact us today to start the conversation.

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