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Understanding Sheet Metal Surface Finishes: A Guide for Engineering Professionals
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As a professional sheet metal parts supplier, we understand the importance of providing our clients with top-quality products that meet their specific needs. When it comes to sheet metal surface finishes, attention to detail is key. From selecting the appropriate finish for the material and application, to properly preparing the surface and applying the finish, there are many important considerations to keep in mind.

Upgrade Your Metal with Surface Finishes

Surface finishing is important for visible or cosmetic parts that may have burrs, handling marks, frosting, or tabs from cutting. Finishing after cutting can minimize cleanup before installation. Our expanded list of finishes offers more options for sheet cut and sheet metal parts.

Standard Surface Finishes for Cut Parts

Standard finishes are commonly used for parts that won't be seen or handled, or if you plan to apply a finish yourself. However, these finishes may not have a consistent cosmetic appearance due to overspray, handling marks, water exposure, discoloration, or mill marks.

For smaller parts with dimensions less than four inches, we may need to tab them to the sheet during cutting to prevent them from falling to the bottom of the waterjet tank. In these cases, we allow technicians to pop them off the sheets or ship the sheet with the parts still attached. If the individual parts are too small and could easily get lost in packaging, tabbed parts are shipped still attached. To have parts shipped separately with the tabs ground down, you can choose one of the finishing options below or select "Remove Tabs" when ordering. This ensures your parts meet your desired specifications.

Standard As-Cut Surface Finishes Gallery

sheet metal surface finish

Enhance Your Parts' Appearance and Durability with Bead Blast Finishing

The bead blast finish is an effective method for removing burrs and imperfections on parts, while providing a fine-grain finish. This is achieved by blasting the parts with a high-pressure stream of small glass beads. It is particularly well-suited for use with waterjet cutting, as the surface produced by the garnet from the waterjet closely matches the finish of the bead blast.

The even "tooth" of the surface produced by the bead blast finish makes it an ideal option for parts that will be painted, as it allows the paint to adhere evenly to the surface. Additionally, this finish is perfect for achieving a matte appearance, which is particularly useful when preparing parts for anodizing.

To apply the bead blast finish, parts must fit inside a blast cabinet and be no larger than 24 inches in both height and width. We recommend this finish for parts larger than one square inch, as it may be difficult to hold and apply the finish evenly on smaller parts. Before applying the bead blast finish, tabs will be removed from the parts and their edges will be ground to ensure a clean and uniform surface.

Overall, the bead blast finish is a reliable and effective method for achieving a high-quality finish on parts. Its versatility makes it an ideal choice for a variety of applications, and its ability to produce a non-reflective matte appearance makes it particularly useful for preparing parts for anodizing.

Gallery: Bead Blast Finish

Refining Swirled Surface Finish

When it comes to finishing signs, a popular choice among our clients is sanding random (swirl) parts with a powered non-woven abrasive pad in a random orbital pattern. This technique is effective at removing light surface scratches, mill marks, and burrs, while also providing a textured surface that allows paints to adhere well. This finish is particularly well-suited for parts larger than six inches, as the orbital motion helps ensure an even finish across a larger surface area.

For smaller parts, tumbling is often recommended as an alternative to orbital sanding. Like sanding random swirl finishes, tumbling can also be used to prepare surfaces for anodizing to create a matte, non-reflective appearance.

In addition to its use in signage, sanding random swirl finishes are also commonly employed in a variety of other applications where a non-reflective or matte finish is desired. For example, this technique can be used to finish metal components for automotive or aerospace applications, where minimizing glare and reflections is important for safety reasons.

Gallery: Sanding Random (Swirl) Finish

Sanding with Grain (Linear)

The Sanding with Grain (Linear) Finish is achieved by using a non-woven abrasive on a belt sander to create a brushed finish with parallel lines on both sides of the material. While this finish is visually appealing and generally satisfactory for most clients, it should be noted that it does not meet the exacting standards of a perfectly even #4 finish due to the manual nature of the operation. As such, this finish is best suited for parts that are less than six inches in height or width.

At our facility, sanding with the material's grain is the default finishing process, with the grain direction specified through a technical drawing. This ensures that each part is finished to meet the highest standards of quality and consistency. Our team of professional engineers uses their expertise to optimize the finishing process and ensure that our clients receive the best possible result.

Gallery: Sanding with Grain (Linear) Finish

Tumbled Finish

Tumbling finishing is a cost-effective technique that can be used to eliminate burrs, reduce surface imperfections, and achieve an even texture on small parts. The process involves placing the parts in a vibratory tumbler along with ceramic abrasive media, which, when combined with movement and water, produces a smooth and uniform surface all over the part.

Tumbling is particularly useful for preparing small jewelry parts or electrical connectors prior to further polishing or soldering. It is also an effective way to process small parts for production purposes. However, it is important to note that parts that undergo tumbling finishing are typically no larger than four inches in height and width.

Moreover, the stock material must be strong enough to withstand the tumbling process. For instance, stainless steel parts must have a thickness of at least 0.030", while aluminum and other non-ferrous metals must be thicker than 0.045". Our technicians also remove any tabs by grinding to ensure that they do not appear on the finished part.

In conclusion, tumbling finishing is a valuable technique that can be used to achieve a smooth and uniform surface on small parts. By utilizing ceramic abrasive media in a vibratory tumbler, our skilled technicians can remove burrs, reduce surface marks, and produce an even texture. This technique is ideal for preparing small parts for production and can be used on a variety of materials, provided that they meet the minimum thickness requirements.

Gallery: Tumbled Finish

Additional Finishes

We offer a range of turnkey finishing services, including anodizing, chem-film, metal plating, powder coating, heat-treating, passivation, and custom finishes. Our customers can easily specify these services through our factory Instant Quoting Engine, simplifying the ordering process. Our team of experienced technicians is trained to remove any tabs and burrs from the finished part, ensuring a smooth surface finish. We employ professional engineering expertise to optimize our finishing services, enhancing their quality and authority. Trust us to provide you with expert and reliable finishing solutions for your project.

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This article was written by various Hongming sheng factory contributors. Hongming sheng is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, sheet metal stamping, and more.

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