Metal is the backbone of many high-quality commercial and industrial products. While metal alone does a nice job of adding durability, function, and strength, the right type of finish can add even more value to the end product.
The right metal finishing technique can make a metal product or component all the better. But with so many metal finishing techniques available today, do you know which one is the right one for your application? In this post, we'll take a closer look at the technological importance of metal finishing and go through some of the more popular metal surface finishing techniques to help you decide which one is best. You can always contact your local industrial metal finishing company for more information:
6 Industrial Metal Finishing Techniques
Some of the most popular metal finishes include:
- Galvanized steel
- Powder coating
- Various stainless steel finishes
The technological importance of metal finishing is both functional and aesthetic. The most common reasons for specifying industrial metal finishing include:
- Improving surface roughness
- Limiting corrosion
- Increasing impact & wear resistance
- Improving looks
- Reducing surface defects
- Serving as a primer to painting
Look at the list above. Do one or more of these qualities take priority in your current metal product design? That will probably determine which finishing process (or processes) you should specify.
Let’s look a little closer at each:
What is electroplating? This involves depositing a metal or alloy onto the surface of an object via a solution. The solution contains dissolved ions of both the deposited metal and the substrate (original underlying metal).
If electroplating sounds complicated, it's because it is — and because of how complicated it is and how difficult it can be to master the process, it's a finishing technique that can come with a hefty price tag compared to others.
Benefits of electroplating:
The benefits of electroplating are plentiful, and include superior corrosion protection and tarnish protection. You can add a non-corrosive metal over a cheaper, corrosive one to keep products such as appliances from deteriorating.
But it’s especially popular for its decorative value.
It may seem financially impossible for your design to incorporate rare and/or expensive metals like:
- Chromium (Chrome)
Through electroplating, your manufacturer can cover a less valuable metal with the luster and beauty of a luxury metals at a fraction of the cost. For example, electroplating thin layers of chrome on kitchen appliances provides a pleasant, shiny appearance.
What is galvanization? Galvanizing is an old process, having been used since the mid-1700s. It involves applying a zinc coating to steel or iron, mainly to prevent rusting and corrosion. The most common galvanization method involves dipping the metal part into a pool of molten zinc.
Benefits of galvanizing:
It's simple and more affordable compared with other metal finishing techniques. So if your product’s market is not high-end, you may be able to get away with galvanizing.
Galvanized metal has found its way into several household appliances, including washing machines and air conditioner housings. The nice thing about galvanized steel is that it’s low-maintenance -- your customers won’t have to repair or replace it often, as it has self-healing properties.
What is powder coating? This dry finishing process applies powder to a product, then heats it to produce a protective layer. It basically amounts to painting, but much neater.
About 15% of all metal component finishing is done via powder coating.
Benefits of powder coating:
It's a combination of aesthetics and function. Many product makers love the powder coating process for its high-quality, high-end look. And despite what you might’ve heard, it comes in a huge variety of colors, textures, and patterns. It also applies a thicker, more even coat than paint, mitigating the need for additional coats. If your component or product will be customer-facing and dependent on a great look, powder coating’s your choice.
Powder coating also offers modest improvements to product durability, a bit more so than paint. It’s also more affordable than many other finishing processes -- did you know that any excess powder can be collected and reused?
What is paint? We’re guessing you already know the answer. Specifically, wet industrial painting involves the use of a spray, pump, or vessel to distribute paint evenly.
Benefits of paint:
The main, obvious benefit to painting metal is appearance. Paint comes in a seemingly endless number of shades that are easier to achieve than with powder coating. (Customized colors for powder coating sometimes adds cost.) And if you actually want a thinner coat, you’re better off with paint than powder.
Paint is affordable to purchase and easy to apply. If you’re on a tight budget and not concerned about long-term wear and tear, paint may work for you. Just remember that paint doesn't offer the same structural and durability benefits as some of the other finishing techniques on this list.
Using Stainless Steel
What is stainless steel? This high-end steel contains chromium for resistance to rust and tarnishing.
Benefits of stainless steel:
There's a reason why stainless steel has become the material of choice in several industries. It has a uniquely sleek look, even if you don’t apply an extra finish. Of course, there are several stainless steel surface finishes available, such as polished.
A stainless steel surface is smooth, reflective, and clean-looking. Stainless steel is also rust- and corrosion-resistant.
Where would this be potentially useful? The medical and food industries, for starters. A mirrorlike, rust-free finish gives a perception of cleanliness. This is incredibly important in food preparation or hospital settings. Stainless steel is easy to clean and sterilize.
A drawback of stainless steel is that it's expensive, but it’s still cheaper than gold, copper, or silver.
What is e-coating? Short for electrophoretic painting or electrocoating, e-coating is what you’d get if painting and plating had a baby. E-coating starts with your component being dunked a water-based solution containing a paint emulsion. Next, voltage is applied, condensing the paint onto the part.
The result is a thin, protective layer. Color options are very limited, with the most common being black.
Benefits of e-coating:
This is a very uniform finish that provides 100% coverage, no matter the part’s shape. Because of the way it’s applied, e-coating is typically a better option than powder coating when finishing parts that contain hard-to-reach areas.
The coating is resistant to corrosion and wear, and it promotes adhesion. E- coating layers can be made thin, after which you can apply paint. (This is common in the auto industry.)
Note that you can combine powder coating with e-coating. This could prove beneficial in a variety of projects:
- When you want added durability to a powder-coated part
- When you want to coat hard-to-reach areas while retaining that decorative touch
- When you need e-coating but also need a UV-resistant layer of powder coating
Don’t Cross the Finish Line Alone
Don’t struggle to make a final decision on your industrial metal finish -- let an experienced manufacturer make it for you. A manufacturer that specializes in most, if not all, of these finishing services knows what’s worked and not worked in the past.
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