Superfinishing Vs. Tumble Finishing: Tumble Themes

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Superfinishing Vs. Tumble Finishing: Tumble Themes

superfinishing tumble finishing themes

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some basics on the metal superfinishing process. One of two common processes for metal and steel finishing involving aesthetic surface needs and limitation of heat and friction, along with another known as tumble finishing, superfinishing is common in many industries where public view of the metal in question is common.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to discuss common finishing processes and numerous other characteristics of any of our steel products – in fact, we offer several steel services of our own to help you obtain the precise parts you require. What are some of the potential downsides of metal superfinishing, and why is tumble finishing often used for steel products in particular? Here’s a primer to help you choose between the two if needed.

Downsides of Superfinishing

The most prominent downside of superfinishing is how long it takes to carry out. The process itself doesn’t necessarily take forever, but this adds another step to the finishing process that’s already fairly significant to many metals. This addition can come with major costs due to both the time and equipment needed for this job.

In addition, superfinishing does not create a mirror-like like other forms of polishing do. Rather, it creates a cross-hatching aesthetic that, while pleasing in many circumstances, isn’t ideal for all applications.

Tumble Finishing Basics and Uses

For many forms of steel, including stainless steel, the tumble finishing process is more commonly used than superfinishing. Also called mass tumbling, this is a process that allows for the polishing of multiple small metal parts simultaneously.

Tumble finishing uses multiple machines at once, with a couple different types (more on this below). It’s often ideal for those who want that mirror-like smoothness in their part, particularly for public-facing steel applications.

Types of Tumble Finishing

There are two primary types of tumble finishing generally used for metals:

  • High energy tumbling: A format that uses centrifugal force to polish various parts in a batch, high energy tumbling is the ideal format for many applications because it’s relatively fast. It involves a machine with sealed, water-filled barrels spinning to create force, with a carousel pushing barrels in opposite directions to create the centrifugal polishing force. It’s the most common surface polishing finish for steel, aluminum and titanium.
  • Vibratory tumbling: A process that applies force to parts placed in a vibratory bowl or tub, usually with water and some abrasive media. When the setup vibrates, the parts move along with the media, which creates a deburring and polishing effect. This process is more common for particularly large bulk finishing projects, plus for various descaling and surface prep needs.

For more on superfinishing and tumble finishing for your steel or other metals, or to learn about any of our steel products, speak to the staff at Wasatch Steel today.