Finishing processes for metal parts remove imperfections called burrs, clean off rust and oil, and polish or burnish parts. Fabricators use two common types of machines—choosing the right equipment means examining tumble finishing vs vibratory finishing equipment.
Barrel or rotary finishing involves putting parts in a cylindrical barrel with abrasive media and often water and additives appropriate to the parts in the barrel. The barrel rotates, causing the parts to slide down the sides and tumble against each other. Rotary tumbling is a rougher process that causes a greater amount of grinding of parts on parts. As a result, it is more appropriate for smaller parts made of hard metals. Rotary tumbling is usually performed in batches, although some types of rotary equipment come in single-pass or in-line processing versions.
Unlike rotary systems, vibratory deburring machines create the necessary friction using a bowl or tub mounted on springs. Whereas in rotary tumbling the abrasion happens only along the slide area on the wall of the barrel, vibratory finishing equipment causes the media to contact the whole load at once. The vibration causes the parts and media to circulate within the bowl or tub, similar to a mixing bowl. The parts rub against each other and the media more thoroughly. They can deburr and polish larger and more oddly shaped parts, parts made of softer metals, and parts with holes, getting inside and around awkward edges. Vibratory machines run in batch processes but can also be automated. These machines create a smoother finish.
Determining whether to use a tumble finishing system vs. a vibratory finishing system depends on the type of part, the material the part is made of, and the desired finish. While rotary tumbling can remove flaws and clean small, hard metal parts, it results in a rougher finish that may include indentations. Vibratory machines are faster, but they are also more complex, and thus more expensive. They can also cause more wear on media. Each process can prepare parts for coatings or paint, but the required level of smoothness, brightness, or the necessary measurements for the finished parts will guide the selection of which finishing method to use.
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