When you’re starting the fabrication process, you will have many decisions to make. One of the most important decisions centers on finishing. Metal finishing is an additional but necessary part of the fabrication process. The right finish can offer a number of incredible benefits, including corrosion resistance, increased durability, tarnish resistance, electrical resistance, electrical conductivity and enhanced aesthetics.
To unlock the benefits that matter most to your application, you need to choose the right metal part finishes. Here’s a look at your options, plus what you can expect from different types of metal finishes.
Anodization is a finishing for metal parts that’s only available with aluminum. Aluminum features a natural oxide coating, and the anodization process converts that coating into a new layer that adheres more closely to the metal. The result is an aluminum coating that is far more resistant to abrasion and corrosion, making the part much more durable than it would be otherwise. The main drawback to anodization is that it occurs uniformly, so it cannot by used to smooth out a surface with imperfections.
Blasting is the process of using abrasives and high velocity to smooth out, form and finish a metal surface. There are two main types of blasting — bead blasting and sand blasting. Bead blasting is the more environmentally friendly approach, and blasting machines most often use glass beads for finishing metal. Sand blasting provides the same effect but with a different type of abrasive.
Brushed metal is a finishing process that’s often used to remove imperfections from a metal component’s surface. Fabricators will use belts or brushes to smooth out the metal or create decorative designs on the surface.
Buffing and Polishing
When you want to achieve surfaces that are exceedingly smooth or that possess a powerful luster, buffing and polishing are the best approaches. Buffing is used to remove any lines that may exist on the metal’s surface, and it can also be used to create a bright finish. Polishing is used to create a coarse pattern and to leave brushed or lined marks in the metal’s surface.
The hot blackening approach to metal finishing involves exposing the metal surface to high temperatures and using a machine to spread an oxide layer on the component’s outer surface. The result is a matte finish that is incredibly strong and durable, allowing the component to resist abrasion and corrosion over its lifespan.
Grinding is a common approach to finishing metal parts. During the grinding process, friction is used to smooth out surfaces. Different types of grinding can be used to create different levels of smoothness.
Plating is a broad category of metal finishing that includes various subcategories. For example, electroplating is the process of adding a thin layer onto an existing metal surface. The fabricator uses an electrical current to create the perfect layer of plating. Electroless plating, on the other hand, is the process of using nonconductive layers to achieve the same result.
Immersion plating is a rare approach that uses an atom exchange to reduce the metal ion. Choose the right plating approach to meet your needs and to achieve the desired finish for your components.
If you’re looking for a straightforward approach to finishing metal parts, you can always try painting. The painting process adds a nonmetallic coating to the exterior of your components. Most fabricators choose painting for color alone, but painting is perhaps the least environmentally friendly and least effective finishing approach over the long-term. Most choose painting simply because it’s the least expensive option among metal part finishes.
Just as anodization is an approach that only works with aluminum, passivation is an approach that only works with stainless steel. During the passivation process, the component is exposed to oxygen, which then forms a protective layer of oxide on the exterior. Stainless steel is naturally resistant to corrosion, but the passivation process makes it nearly impossible for corrosion to occur. The only challenge with oxidation is fully removing any contaminants that might interfere with the process itself.
Powder coating is an easily automated process for adding a nonmetallic coating to a metal component’s exterior. Powder coating is also one of the most popular types of metal finishes because it’s fast, effective, environmentally friendly and affordable. If you’re looking for a strong, tough, durable way to approach finishing metal parts, powder coating is among your best options.
Vibratory finishes are achieved by placing components into machines that remove burrs while also cleaning and brightening them. Vibratory finishing results in a flat finish, but it is a fast and effective approach to finishing.
Contact APX York Sheet Metal for More Information
Need help choosing the right type of finish for your components? Need support executing the finishing process? At APX York Sheet Metal, we provide finishing services for an array of metal components and parts. Our specialties include material handling equipment components, construction equipment, electrical boxes and panels, industrial enclosures and cabinets, battery cabinets, conveyor belts, OEM manufacturing parts and more.
Family-owned and family-operated, we have more than 71 years of experience in metal fabrication and finishing. When you need finishing guidance and services, trust the team you’ll find at APX York Sheet Metal. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help create the finish you want.