3D printed-metal parts can have surface issues. These can include visible build layers, sharp edges or burrs, and higher surface roughness than parts that are ground, milled or turned.
Fortunately, there are many post-processing methods that can ensure your 3D-printed metal parts meet dimensional requirements, performance characteristics and even aesthetic guidelines. These processes include green sanding, media blasting, tumble finishing, pin finishing and vibratory finishing.
Each post-process finishing method has its strengths and weaknesses depending on the application and required outcome. However, few offer the smoothness of electropolishing. And that’s just the first of many benefits of electropolishing for 3D-printed metal parts.
Electropolishing vs Electroplating
Before we examine the other benefits of electropolishing, we should make sure there’s no mistaking it for electroplating. In electroplating, positively-charged metal ions that are dissolved in a solution are drawn to the negatively charged surface of a part. This results in a thin metal coating on the part’s surface.
Conversely, the electropolishing process is that opposite of electroplating. It uses an electric current to pull material from parts.
So electroplating fills in imperfections and electropolishing removes them.
4 Benefits of Electropolishing for 3D-printed Parts
Electropolishing eliminates micro-peaks to reduce surface roughness to a higher level of smoothness than other finishing methods. This can be a key differentiator when surface smoothness is critical to part performance.
Better for Complex or Irregular Shapes
The electropolishing solution is able to reach every part of the surface of the part. This can include internal gaps and cavities that other finishing methods can’t reach.
More Corrosion Resistant
A smoother surface means fewer places for corrosive elements to take hold. This can extend the life of a part finished with electropolishing, compared to if it underwent another finishing process.
A More Consistent Finish
Electropolishing generally delivers a more consistent finish across the entire part surface. In contrast to that, many other polishing systems can leave marks or patterns on the surface.
DLyte DryLyte® Dry Electropolishing
Now you have the option of getting exceptional electropolishing results from a dry-electropolishing system. DLyte DryLyte® is a new patented technology that uses solid media for grinding and polishing metals leveraging ion transport using free solid bodies. This results in exceptional surface smoothness (Ra under .01 microns), increased corrosion resistance and stable results between different part batches.
to learn more about 3D post-processing, check out our article Your Quick Guide to 3D Print Post-Processing.