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Just Finishing Up: Finishing Processes for Laser Cut Parts

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If you’re looking for ready-for-market laser cut products or just wanting your parts to have a consistent finish, you’ll want to perform some kind of finishing process. Whether you’re smoothing out a scratched surface or imparting a colorful luster on a piece that would otherwise remain a dull, metallic gray, there’s a perfect finishing process for every application. 

SendCutSend offers a number of finishing processes that we can perform for you, and we’ll be talking about those as well as several finishes that you can create yourself.

Key Article Takeaways:

  • SendCutSend offers deburring, tumbling, and powder coating
  • Additional finishing options are easy to complete at home
  • If you need some help picking what would work for your project, contact support@sendcutsend.com.

SendCutSend In House Finishing Processes

Let’s first go over the finishing processes that we offer here at SendCutSend. Our ceramic tumbling and deburring processes are completely free of charge. You just have to make sure “deburring” is selected when uploading your file for laser cutting. It’s important to remember that while deburring and tumbling are good options for smoothing out sharp edges, they will not make your part look perfect. After you’ve received your deburred parts, you will probably still want to put in a little elbow grease yourself to make them really shine.

Deburring

Probably the most common finishing process is good ol’ deburring. Like we talked about earlier, deburring is great for removing scratches, burr, and other minor imperfections leftover from the manufacturing process. It’s sweet and simple, and works well to prepare your parts for later painting or anodizing. Deburring does not give your parts a perfect finished shine. 

Our deburring process is used for your larger parts, with the shortest axis needing to be no more than 24” long. Deburred parts are “brushed” on one side to smooth scratches and remove dross, so the bottom face of your part may have remaining scratches. Check out our full guidelines for deburred parts.

Tumbling

SendCutSend’s ceramic tumbling process is top-of-the-line. Our equipment is harmonically tuned to the material we are tumbling, making it more of a vibratory-abrasive process than a traditional tumbling process. This allows us to give your parts a more consistent finish than what you may be able to accomplish at home with a traditional rock tumbler.

Tumbling is used for the smallest laser cut parts. We can tumble parts as small as 1 square inch, which is smaller than most deburring processes allow for. Keep in mind that while tumbling will take the rough edges off your parts, it does not give them a completely “finished” look. They may still have scratches or marks left from the manufacturing process, so for a true finished product, you’ll want to use one of the processes we talk about later in the article.

Powder coating

Powder coating is one of our favorite methods here at SendCutSend. Where paint is applied wet, powder coating starts off dry and is applied electrostatically. It is then cured in an oven. As long as a material can hold an electrostatic charge, it can be powder coated. This applies to most metals, though the prerequisites make aluminum, steel, and stainless steel the best candidates for powder coating.

Powder coating is a better alternative to paint environmentally as it contains none of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that paint does. It’s also more durable and less wasteful, as powder coating can last up to 10x longer than paint and the leftover powder/overspray from the application process can be recycled and reused. 

We offer a few different powder coat colors in house: black (matte, gloss, and wrinkle), red, white, and yellow. We make powder coating simple: all you need to do is upload your design, select which color(s) you want to powder coat your parts, and let us work our magic. But make sure to review our powder coating design guidelines first!

Quick note: at this time, we do not offer tab removal on powder coated parts. This means that micro joints and tabs may be visible through the powder coating, especially on parts made of thicker metals. Tabs are typically 0.015-0.030″ in width (depending on the material) and about 0.010″ in height.

Anodizing

Anodizing is the process of putting metal, usually aluminum or titanium, in a liquid bath that’s charged with an electrical current. The resulting reaction thickens the metal’s outer oxide layer, providing a durable and scratch resistant finish. Most commonly, sulfuric acid is used in the charged liquid bath, but chromatic acid is also sometimes used. You can choose a clear or dyed finish when anodizing your parts. 

Aesthetically, anodizing is hard to beat as a finishing process. It also gives the metal a finish that’s resistant to corrosion, heat, and electricity, making it the ideal choice for parts used in any projects exposed to electricity or the outdoor elements.

We offer aluminum anodizing in two color options in three types of aluminum. Currently, anodizing adds 7-10 days of production time.

We’ve also got a great tutorial for DIY anodizing in just 10 easy steps if you’re wanting to anodize your parts at home.

Anodized metal parts from SendCutSend

Finishing Operations You Can Do At Home

There are dozens of possibilities when it comes to at-home finishing processes for laser cut parts. Your projects deserve to look as badass as you imagined them, so we want to give you some ideas for creating a perfect finished look in the comfort of your own home (or garage).

Brushing

Brushing creates a really beautiful, rustic finish on sheet metal, and is ideal for metals like stainless steel. This is one of the easiest finishing processes you can do at home. All you need is a lubricant (like WD-40), 120-180 grit sandpaper, and a sanding belt or drum. Thinly coat the metal with lubricant, and use the sanding belt and sandpaper to slowly sand the metal in one direction. The most important thing to remember about brushing sheet metal is that the sandpaper will mark up the metal if you move it around too much, so be sure to apply constant pressure and only move the sanding belt in one direction. Of course if you want a swirled finished look, just move the sanding belt in a concentric motion to create a swirled pattern.

Once you’re satisfied with the sanding, use a grease cutting agent to wipe down the dust left behind. It may take a few more passes with the sanding belt to get it just right, but the final look is worth the extra little bit of elbow grease.

Media Blasting

Media blasting is the process of shooting abrasive under high pressure at a surface to shape, smooth, clean, or roughen the surface depending on the abrasive and method. Oftentimes this is paired with pressure washing and is then called “wet blasting.” Blasting is typically used as a surface preparation prior to painting and other finishes.

Sand is one of the more common abrasives used, so blasting is frequently just referred to as “sandblasting,” but there are many different kinds of abrasives used in blasting sheet metal, including glass beads, metal shot, walnut shells, and even dry ice. The appearance is much like that obtained by tumbling, but blasting can accommodate larger parts and surfaces than tumbling can. 

It’s a little dangerous and difficult to accomplish at home, but it is possible. However, there are a lot of local companies that provide blasting services of all kinds, and we recommend looking for a local professional to perform this specific finishing process.

Media blasting is the process of shooting abrasive under high pressure at a surface to shape, smooth, clean, or roughen the surface depending on the abrasive and method. Oftentimes this is paired with pressure washing and is then called “wet blasting.” Blasting is typically used as a surface preparation prior to painting and other finishes.

Sand is one of the more common abrasives used, so blasting is frequently just referred to as “sandblasting,” but there are many different kinds of abrasives used in blasting sheet metal, including glass beads, metal shot, walnut shells, and even dry ice. The appearance is much like that obtained by tumbling, but blasting can accommodate larger parts and surfaces than tumbling can. 

It’s a little dangerous and difficult to accomplish at home, but it is possible. However, there are a lot of local companies that provide blasting services of all kinds, and we recommend looking for a local professional to perform this specific finishing process.

Painting

Sometimes the best methods are the old fashioned, tried and true ones. Painting has a long history of being one of the best protective finishes for projects of all materials and applications, and can easily be done at home with just a little prep and a couple spray cans.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re painting laser cut parts at home is to properly prepare the metal. If you aren’t having your parts blasted in preparation, you should brush them with an abrasive material and then wash the parts in acetone (diluted if need be). This will help create a rough surface for the paint to stick to while also cleaning off any dirt or residue that may prevent a clean finish.

Sometimes the best methods are the old fashioned, tried and true ones. Painting has a long history of being one of the best protective finishes for projects of all materials and applications, and can easily be done at home with just a little prep and a couple spray cans.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re painting laser cut parts at home is to properly prepare the metal. If you aren’t having your parts blasted in preparation, you should brush them with an abrasive material and then wash the parts in acetone (diluted if need be). This will help create a rough surface for the paint to stick to while also cleaning off any dirt or residue that may prevent a clean finish.

Painted metal sign from SendCutSend

Finishing Up

This is only the tip of the finishing iceberg. There are also dozens of different plating processes, as well as blackening, chemical etching, dip coating…it’s a long list. We’ve given you a brief intro to the technologies used in each one, so if a finishing process we’ve mentioned here has piqued your interest, we encourage you to do further research to determine what’s best for your project. Since we offer several of these services ourselves, we’d love to help you decide how to finish up your project. You can email us at support@sendcutsend.com or if you’ve got a part in mind already, send it in for a custom quote and talk to our awesome support team.

Let’s make your parts look as perfect as you imagined them. Get a quote today!

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