How Electropolishing Enhances Medical, Automotive & Food Service Parts
Electropolishing is a specialized metal finishing technique that involves the removal of surface material through electrochemical dissolution. This process is commonly used in the manufacturing and finishing of a wide variety of metal parts, ranging from small medical device components to larger mechanical parts used in food processing machinery and actuators.
What Is Electropolishing And How Does It Work?
The electropolishing process starts with immersing the metal part in an “electrolytic bath” — a liquid container full of a specialized electrolyte solution. An electrical current is then passed through the solution, causing the metal surface to dissolve at a controlled rate. This is essentially the same way electroplating works but in reverse. In electropolishing, the electrical reaction removes material from the part’s surface, rather than attracting a new layer of metal particles from the bath.
The result is a smooth, shiny surface that is free of surface defects, such as burrs, pits, and rough spots. These traits make parts easier to clean, more attractive, and more resistant to corrosion. Many industries can make use of such qualities, including the five example applications below.
5 Example Electropolishing Applications in Metal Finishing
One of the main applications of electropolishing is in the medical device industry. Medical devices are required to meet strict regulatory standards, and electropolishing is an essential step in the manufacturing process to ensure that the devices meet these standards. The smooth, clean surface of electropolished medical device components or surgical tools will be free of microscopic surface defects. This can help to prevent bacteria and other contaminants from adhering to the surface of the device or surgical implement.
Another important application of electropolishing is in the manufacturing of actuators. Actuators are common parts used in applications from automotive to aerospace, and the smooth surface produced by electropolishing is essential in all of them. A perfect, low-friction finish helps to ensure that these devices operate smoothly and reliably for years with minimal maintenance.
Food Processing Machinery
In addition to medical devices and actuators, electropolishing is also used in the food processing industry for kitchen device components. Food processing machinery is subject to strict hygiene standards, and electropolishing is an essential step in ensuring that the machinery is free of surface defects that can harbor bacteria and other contaminants.
Mechanical Parts Manufacturing
Electropolishing is also used in the manufacturing of mechanical parts including gears, bearings, and other components of heavy machinery. The smooth surface produced by electropolishing helps to reduce friction and wear, which can extend the life of these components and improve their overall performance.
Large Metal Parts
While electropolishing is commonly used in the finishing of small metal parts, it is also an effective technique for larger pieces. Large metal parts used in industrial machinery and equipment can be difficult or unwieldy to finish using traditional methods, but electropolishing in an efficient electrolyte bath can produce a smooth, uniform surface that is free of defects, even on large and complex shapes such as large springs for vehicle suspension. A professional electropolishing operation can process many large parts all at once on the finishing line for a rapid, cost-effective turnaround time.
Advanced Electropolishing Capabilities For Your Parts
The smooth, defect-free surface produced by electropolishing helps to improve the performance, reliability, and hygiene of metal components. Between the simplicity of the process, the low cost, and the uniformity of the results, electropolishing is a go-to capability for enhancing the performance of metal parts.
Metal Finishing Technologies has provided world-class electropolishing and fine surface finishing services to the Automotive, Marine, Aerospace, Medical, Commercial, and Electrical industries since 1947. Have a project coming up that could use reliable electropolishing with a rapid turnaround? Get in touch for a fast quote.