Polishing

At a Glance

Applicable Materials

Colors

Applications

Textures

n/a
Jewelry, optics, low-friction environments, sealing applications (e.g. shafts w/o-ring grooves)
Toolmarks removed, No. 8 mirror finish (300 series stainless steel only)

About the Process

Polishing is the process of improving the surface finish of a part using successive treatments of finer and finer abrasive media. This process can be for cosmetic purposes or for surfaces where minimal roughness is critical, such as o-ring grooves or optics.

There are many methods by which polishing can be carried out, though most are fairly manual at the prototyping phase of development. Parts with larger surface areas are often first sanded with standard sandpaper, by hand or with orbital or belt sanders. When a fine enough grit has been reached, the surface is further smoothed with buffing and polishing wheels in combination with special polishing compounds containing tiny abrasive media.

For small parts or hard-to-reach areas, a Dremel is often employed, as larger sanding tools may deform or destroy the part. There are many different sanding and buffing heads that are available for this tool, each with a slightly different use case. However, for extremely tiny, delicate, or intricate parts, polishing is not recommended at all. The time and effort required, especially if there are multiple parts that need to have consistent geometry, usually outweighs the cosmetic benefits.

Design Considerations

- Polishing is time consuming, so only polish what you absolutely need to.
- Delicate/intricate geometries are usually not suitable for this process.

Related Resources

Finishing Metal Parts Glossary