Guide to metal finishing techniques

Metal mastery: a guide to various types of metal finishing techniques

Metal finishing is a multifaceted process that treats the surface of metal products to improve their properties. The right finishing not only enhances the visual appearance, but also bolsters resistance to corrosion and moisture, and ensures overall longevity.  

Let’s delve further into the world of metal finishing! Below we’ll explore various types of finishing techniques, with examples for each, and provide insights into when specific finishing styles are most beneficial.

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Plating: adding luster and corrosion resistance

galvanizing process

Chrome plating

One standout option to achieve a shiny, reflective surface is chrome plating. Engineers looking to enhance the aesthetic appeal of their products often opt for chrome plating, which not only provides a sleek finish but also offers excellent corrosion resistance. Chrome-plated components are used in automotive parts, faucets, and decorative elements where appearance and durability are paramount. 

Zinc plating (galvanizing)

When dealing with steel components, zinc plating (commonly known as galvanizing) is a go-to finishing option. Galvanizing forms a protective zinc coating on steel surfaces, which creates a robust barrier against corrosion. This finishing style is particularly useful for outdoor structures, construction materials, and steel components that might be exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

Metal finishing coating: protection with a splash of color

Powder coating

Powder coating is another durable and visually appealing finishing option. This involves applying a dry powder to metal surfaces, which is then cured to form a robust, protective layer. Powder coating enhances corrosion resistance and is also available in a wide range of color options, making it suitable for applications in consumer electronics, furniture, and architectural components.

E-coating (electrophoretic painting)

E-coating, or electrophoretic painting, is a cutting-edge coating technology employed to achieve an even and controlled paint application. It’s particularly effective for intricate metal parts with complex geometries. Automotive components, electrical enclosures, and appliances often benefit from the uniform and high-quality finish provided by e-coating.

powder coating metal parts

Surface treatment: enhancing durability and performance

metal finishing using passivation technique

Passivation of stainless steel

Stainless steel components often undergo passivation to improve their corrosion resistance. Passivation removes free iron from the surface, facilitating the formation of a protective oxide layer. The medical device, aerospace, and food processing industries all rely on passivation to ensure the longevity and biocompatibility of their stainless-steel products.

Shot peening

For applications where fatigue strength is critical, shot peening is a valuable surface treatment. By bombarding metal surfaces with small spherical media, shot peening creates compressive stress, enhancing the material's resistance to fatigue and improving overall durability. Aerospace, automotive, and industrial machinery components often benefit from the fatigue-resistant properties imparted by shot peening.

Mechanical finishing: perfecting the surface texture

How to smooth metal: polishing

Achieving a smooth, reflective surface is often the goal in applications such as high-end consumer electronics, jewelry, and architectural components. Polishing, whether through buffing or sanding processes, adds a lustrous finish to metal products, enhancing their visual appeal and providing a premium feel.

Brushing

In situations where a textured finish is desired, brushing comes into play. Brushed metal surfaces have a distinctive pattern created through abrasive brushing, making them ideal for applications in appliances, consumer goods, and architectural elements where both aesthetics and touch are significant factors.

Polishing as a metal finishing technique

Specialized metal finishing solutions

image of metal piece being finished using electropolishing technique

Electropolishing

Electropolishing is an electrochemical process that removes a thin layer of material, resulting in a smooth and reflective finish. This technique is particularly useful for medical instruments, pharmaceutical equipment, and aerospace components where a high-quality surface finish is critical for functionality and cleanliness.

Laser marking / engraving

In industries where product identification and traceability are paramount, laser marking and engraving play a vital role. This technique is commonly employed in automotive, aerospace, and electronics manufacturing to mark serial numbers, barcodes, and other critical information on metal components.

Elevating metal manufacturing with Nelson Miller Group 

As illustrated above, different applications require different finishing techniques. NMG supports a diverse range of metal finishing techniques, from plating and coating to surface treatments and specialized processes. We can tailor solutions to customers’ specific requirements. Selecting the right finishing techniques can enhance the quality, functionality, and aesthetics of your product, ultimately contributing to your organization’s success. As the industry evolves, embracing innovative finishing techniques becomes essential, and NMG remains committed to delivering cutting-edge solutions that exceed your expectations. 

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About NMG 

NMG has more than 85 years of experience partnering with organizations to bring their industrial, IoT, lighting, medical, telecommunications, consumer, and aerospace products to life. We solve your most complex challenges in engineering design, manufacturing, and supply chain management.  

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