A question about deburring, cleaning and polishing brass, copper and aluminum parts. It’s worth reading through the entire question as it provides an excellent description of what may small shops are doing and the frustrations they have.
Question: I primarily machine small parts out of 6061 aluminum, a small amount out of C360 brass and a handful out of C145 copper. I currently use a small vibratory tumbler to finish my parts. I use a small (about .25″ square base) green plastic triangle to do the deburr and initial cleaning cycle. The problem with this, is it takes two to three days to run to get satisfactory results. I have tried running dry, but it takes even longer to achieve the results I want. I usually add a small cup of water to add some lubrication. But I have to take the tumbler bowl off and rinse it out and wash off the media every 6-8 hours because I get a thick black foam that fills the bowl and turns the media into a solid mass that just moves around the bowl. After this step, I clean out the tumbler and add a relatively fine red corn cob media to do a polish. But that also takes two to three days of tumbling to achieve a decent finish. I never add rouge or other polishing compound because I have no idea what to use. I just use the pre-treated corn cob media and replace it every 3 or 4 months. I am hoping to add a new machine to my shop and expect to produce several hundred parts a week that need polishing (I do not need to polish to a mirror shine, I merely need to deburr after the machining operations and provide a nice level of shine). Obviously, I would like to find a better way to accomplish this over what I have been doing. My parts are typically small – 1.2″ diameter x 0.12″ thick discs, 0.75″ diameter x 0.25″ thick slugs, 0.8″ x 0.375″ x 2″ bars. Many of the parts have threaded holes and small slots (1/16″ wide). I spend a lot of time hand cleaning the corncob out of the slots with a small pick. I have tried to do research to find a better solution, but it is one of those ask a dozen people, get 2 dozen answers types of questions. Some people tell me I need flow through on my first step. Some recommend ceramic some plastic and some steel shot. Corn cob and walnut shell seem to be recommended for finishing – some say pre-treated and others say to add rouge. I am at a loss now as to which direction to proceed so I figured it was time to seek more professional advise. Would you be able to help me find the best solution to my problem? I do not have a large space to set up multiple large tumblers, I need a compact solution with at most, two tumblers.
- Plastic Media, Ceramic Media and other types of deburring media like this require a wet process using an appropriate tumbling compound (i.e., soap/lubricant). Assuming the proper shape and size of media is being used, the cycle times on the types of metal you noted (aluminum, brass and copper) should not be more than a couple of hours. The cycle times could be longer if you have very heavy burrs or need to get a highly rounded edge. The foam is probably a result of not using enough water and no compound. This is common with Plastic Media with no flow-through system for the solution.
- Given the surface finish requirement of a ‘nice shine’ and parts descriptions, I would recommend using a 3/8″ x 3/8″ KSV Synthetic Cone Media and a solution of Kramco 1030 Mild Acid Cleaner. This media is a light, deburring media that will result in a smooth, pre-plate finish. The Kramco 1030 will leave the metals you are using with a bright finish. This media choice may require a slightly longer cycle time than a more aggressive media (i.e., Ceramic Media) but the surface finish will be much better. In addition, a flow-system is recommended for the best results.
- The polishing media you are using – treated corn cob grit – may be treated with a rouge or something similar. Cycle times with dry tumbling like this are often long, 24 hours or more, but can produce excellent, near-mirror finishes. Of course, if the parts have holes or slots that are similar in size to the grit, it is common for the media to get stuck. Using the recommendation in #2 above may eliminate the need for a second polishing step (depending on the specific finish desired).
- An alternative polishing step could be with a polishing Ceramic Media or Precision Ceramic Media instead of the dry process. While this may not result in the near-mirror finish achievable with a Corn Cob Grit, the finish can be a smooth, polishing, bright surface. A solution of Kramco 2030 Neutral Burnishing Compound would be used in this step.