Given the investment required to purchase Steel Tumbling Media, why use it? It basically all comes down to weight and wear.
Steel media is much heavier than other types of tumbling media. As the parts are forced through the media the high pressure results in reduced cycle times. The pressure or compression on the part helps to work-harden the surface. In many cases, tumbling parts in steel can eliminate shot blasting and lead to parts with increased wear resistance. Work-hardened parts have much less porosity increasing corrosion resistance.
Many parts ready for plating that appear to have a very smooth finish actually have microscopic imperfections in the surface. The weight of the steel media ‘flattens’ irregularities in the surface and produces a noticeably better plated finish – especially with thin depositions such as nickel.
Steel is a considered a non-consumable tumbling media and does not wear down in the tumbling process. This means much longer lifetime than traditional media (100x or more) and no media residue waste from the media.
Steel media should be considered a long term capital investment not a consumable media expense.