VOL. 9 January ISSUE YEAR 2008
in Vol. 9 - January Issue - Year 2008
Future Perspectives of Mass Finishing?
Some weeks ago in a meeting, a business partner from the aluminium casting industry asked me: “Do you see a future perspective for mass finishing technologies?” Everybody who joined the meeting was a bit surprised by that question. However the following discussion showed that many users of mass finishing equipment still regard this technology as old fashioned, dirty, loud and simple.
My response was: “What do you think are the fields of application for mass finishing?” He answered: “Burr removal and cleaning, what else?”
For everybody who is working in this branch there is no doubt, in nearly all fields of metal production, mass finishing with all its variations is the No: 1 technology between mechanical production of a part and the final plating or finishing operation.
After the meeting, we used the time left for awareness training and our business partner departed much more aware of the fact that mass finishing has gained in importance and will continue to do so, more and more.
The tradition of mass finishing was indeed used in a small number of applications for burr removal and rough grinding procedures, carried out in barrels or powerful vibrating bowls. With regards to the available machine models and the broad range of applications a lot has changed in the past 20 years. Today most types of machines are available with additional options for high end finishing operations. More and more users rediscover mass finishing as an innovative technology and expect new solutions for finishing tasks. The manufacturers of mass finishing equipment. as well as the research and development divisions, have mastered the task of finding new and better ways.
Amongst others, vibratory finishing technology has developed thousands of different treatment and automation possibilities. Sometimes it is quite difficult to decide what kind of machine or system could be the best for a surface finishing operation. Standard Rotary Vibrators, High Energy disc systems, Continuous Flow installations, Plunge or Drag finishing systems, or a custom-made solution with a mix of different systems.
However, today’s mass finishing technologies can mostly be described as complete final finishing operation steps. For example, using vibratory finishing machinery in combination with special additives and polishing compounds makes it possible to achieve high end decorative or functional surfaces.
In some cases these surface finishing applications can make the final plating operation unnecessary. For example if the results of a polishing process come close to the result of a chrome plated surface, that shows not only interesting decorative and technical aspects but also has economic advantages.
For manufacturers there are almost no limits with regard to the utilisation of these innovative technologies. Decorative parts such as jewellery, high-grade metal fittings, components for spectacles, decorative automotive parts, design objects and much more can be processed in a very effective way. Progressive mass finishing technologies must be considered not only for decorative but also for functional surfaces. If the characteristics of friction and wear are quality aspects of parts, the improvement of the surface structure constitutes significant benefits. Some of these innovative applications may reduce the surface roughness down to Ra 0.02µm. These dimensions of surface improvement cannot be achieved with conventional mechanical operation methods and an ideal combination of equipment and processes has to be developed.
This is the future of mass finishing technologies. Engineering drawings today often contain a list of quality demands with regards to the surface condition of the final part. The manufacturing companies are often not familiar with how to fulfil these demands. The responsible engineers and technicians must have confidence in the competence of mass finishing suppliers to develop solutions and to meet the demands. For this reason, the well-known suppliers of mass finishing equipment carry out intensive research in machine modification and process improvement. Expensive test laboratories and development divisions are continuously working with the final goal to fulfil all customers` demands and to find new and better ways for the future.
The various new technologies offer possibilities to develop from relatively unknown to well- established and trend-setting operations. Individual customers or a whole branch can benefit from new developments.
Finally, every customer should be convinced: Mass finishing has considerable future potential and prospectives!
by Dirk Gather,
Contributing Editor MFN
and Plant Manager