Artisans and manufacturers polish jewelry made from precious metal and some types of gems with machines that tumble or vibrate. These finishing machines work with specific types of additives and media, like stainless steel, ceramic, or plastic balls or shapes that create friction when the machine rotates or shakes. When used on fabricated metal parts, the finishing process is called “deburring.” The machines, media, and additives work together to remove jagged edges or little bits of metal still clinging to the part after cutting, stamping or shaping, sometimes using heat. Deburring is necessary to create parts that consistently meet specifications for their intended purpose, usually as elements of larger machines.
In jewelry polishing with mass finishing, a similar process creates a glittery shine without losing an unacceptable amount of metal. Depending on the design of the piece, the metal parts go through a finishing process first, and precious stones are hand-set after polishing is complete.
Barrel tumblers used for finishing jewelry are large, usually octagonal barrels that rotate, causing the jewelry and the media that creates friction to ride up and slide or tumble down the wall of the barrel with each rotation. Barrel finishing is better for cruder pieces and is more labor intensive than other types of machines, as the additive solution might need to be changed before polishing is complete. The process has to be stopped to inspect progress on the parts.
Vibratory tumblers are usually U-shaped troughs or bins mounted atop springs that shake the bin, creating vibration that circulates the pieces and media, polishing them. With a vibratory finishing machine, the user can inspect progress while the process is running. Some models come with flow-through kits that permit additive fluids and water to cycle through the machine without interference.
Both these styles of machines come in versions that perform wet or dry finishing. Wet finishing combines a specially formulated liquid additive depending on the metal being polished, or water, or some combination of both, with the media that creates friction to polish the pieces in the bin. Dry polishing processes usually use natural media like pieces of wood, corn cobs, or shells.
It may seem surprising that industrial deburring machines commonly used to finish fabricated metal parts for manufacturing industries also perform jewelry polishing with mass finishing and provide the kind of glitter and shine retail jewelry customers prefer. Contact AccuBrass for help selecting the right machine for your shop’s needs.
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