Electropolishing: Creating a Smooth Finish

Posted By : Aubrey Mead , on Nov, 2015

 

In the finishing industry, a manufacturer has the choice of various methods to achieve that smooth surface. To blast away and remove flaws such as spikes and burrs, the producer can turn to buffing. It may also decide upon grinding, blasting or even passivation. Yet, when it comes to arriving at an almost flawless surface, the preferred choice by many industries is electropolishing.

What Is Electropolishing?

Electropolishing, although it involves similar elements, is considered the antithesis of electroplating. Instead of depositing a coating or layer on a base or substrate surface, the procedure actually removes some of the surface layer. The electrochemical technique does not cut away large amounts of the surface. Instead, it delicately removes microscopic amounts of the metallic top layer.

What Does Electropolishing Accomplish?

Like many similar techniques, electropolishing has one simple aim. Its intent is to make the surface of the metal as smooth and free of imperfections as possible. It removes:

Embedded particles

Ingrained inclusions

Elemental iron

Yet, in the case of such metals as steel, this method does more than improve the surface topography. It also acts upon it to enhance the chemistry of the surface metal. For example, when steel that has undergone electropolishing is exposed to oxygen, a more uniform layer of chromium oxide will form. This, in turn, produces improved the metals resistance to corrosion.

In Which Situations Does Electropolishing Excel?

In several instances, electropolishing excels over any other method. Many manufacturers and finishers turn to this method when they are dealing with irregular shapes. While buffing is good at regular shaped objects, it fails to perform to high standards when confronted with a job in which irregularity rules. Electropolishing provides a more facile and is the superior way to achieve that very desirable and required smooth and polished surface.

The same applies for items that have a complex shape – particularly tools. These include the stainless steel drums for washing machines and some laboratory and medical equipment. These specialized tools are able to benefit from the process known as electropolishing.

Electropolishing

If a manufacturer desires surfaces free from the blemishes and accompanying issues associated with burrs, spikes and other forms of deficiencies, it can consider the implementation of one of several methods. Grinding and buffing are commonly employed in such cases. Yet, they may not be as effective if the item or component is either complex or irregular in shape or design. In such situations, the best way to go is the one most frequently chosen. This is electropolishing – ideal for those ultra-smooth and polished surfaces on even the most irregularly shaped object.

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