Guide to Metal Finishing Types

Metal finishing is an important part of ensuring that your equipment or machinery will function effectively and efficiency.

There are many different metal finishing types. They have different functions and can also offer a different appearance.

In this article, learn about the different types of metal finishing so you can decide which one might best serve your purposes.

What Is Metal Finishing?

As the University of Illinois points out, metal finishing itself is simply the process of applying a thin outer surface layer to add value to a finished product.

This value can be to improve usefulness or inhibit damage or reduction of useful life.

Basic Purpose and Function of Metal Finishing

According to Industrial Paint and Protection Magazine, these are the basic purposes and functions for metal finishing.

– To improve the cosmetic (visual) appearance.

– To provide weatherproofing.

– To increase durability.

– To resist abrasion and damage.

– To protect against corrosion.

– To guard against electrical or chemical impact.

– To increase conductivity.

– To decrease friction.

Overview of the Basic Types of Metal Finishing

These are the basic umbrella categories of metal finishing types.

As New York State Pollution Prevention Institute points out, within each umbrella category there may be several sub-types to give your equipment or machinery different cosmetic and functional benefits.

1. Plating.

Plating is sometimes called electroplating. It is one of the most common metal finishing types used today.

The “plate” is actually a chemical substance that applies a coating to the outermost surface. Sometimes this plate has the secondary effect of changing the chemistry of the surface itself.

2. Brushing.

Brushing and cleaning can use a combination of abrasive wire or chemical solutions to clean, smooth and round out surfaces.

3. Grinding.

Grinding can be done by hand or machine. The goal is typically to smooth and finish off surfaces after manufacturing.

4. Polishing.

Polishing, buffing, lapping and honing are all names for the same basic process, although different techniques are used to achieve each.

The process of polishing not only smooths and finishes the surface after manufacturing but can also add a visually appealing shine or luster.

5. Blasting.

Blasting can include sandblasting (bead blasting), burnishing, shot preening and other processes to increase the surface strength of equipment or parts and improve overall durability and appearance.

6. Heat treatments.

Heat treatments are generally used to add or improve important properties of the finished product such as hardening against wear and tear and use fatigue.

A variety of processes can be used, such as nitriding and case hardening.

Hot blackening is another type of heat treatment that applies black oxide to the surface of the part or equipment to improve resistance to abrasion or corrosion.

7. Vibration.

Vibration is an important process to improve surface uniformity, remove sharp edges and deburr equipment and parts. This is usually used for smaller items.

The vibration is typically accomplished by placing the part or item inside a vibrating container or drum filled with abrasive micro-materials.

8. Coating.

Coating is similar to painting in that it involves applying specialized paints or coatings to improve durability, weatherproofing, resistance to fatigue or corrosion and more.

Different types of finishes can be achieved based on how the paint or coating is applied.

How to Know Which Type of Metal Finishing You Need

There are three main things to consider when you are choosing the type of metal finishing you use for your end product.

The first consideration is cost. Some processes, such as coating, tend to be more economical. Others, such as vibration, can get pricey.

The second consideration is time.

The third consideration is the hardness or softness of your metal. Some processes will only work well with harder or softer metals.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.