Electropolishing is an electrochemical finishing technique that removes imperfections from the surface of metal components.
Many types of high-quality metal components benefit from electropolishing. This electrochemical finishing process is used to create smooth, ultra-clean surfaces that perform better and last longer. To help you determine if electropolishing is the right treatment option for your needs, this blog will discuss how the process works, as well as its key benefits and common applications.
What is Electropolishing?
Electropolishing is a type of finishing process that removes all imperfections from a metal component’s surface, eliminating microscopic uneven surfaces. After the process is complete, it leaves behind a shiny, ultra-smooth surface that is free of defects. Electropolishing is commonly performed on stainless steel components or other similar alloys.
How Does Electropolishing Work?
To perform the electropolishing process, a metal workpiece is connected to a DC power rectifier’s positive terminal, where it acts as the positively-charged anode. A negatively charged cathode, typically made from stainless steel or zirconium, is then connected to the negative terminal of the DC power rectifier.
Next, both the anode and cathode are submerged in a temperature-regulated electrolyte bath. For stainless steel components, the electropolishing chemicals are usually a high-viscosity mixture of phosphoric acid and sulfuric acid. After the component is submerged, an electrical current from the rectifier is conducted through the electrolyte from the anode to the cathode.
This electrical current causes metal ions on the component’s surface to oxidize and dissolve. This process will dissolve very small and tightly controlled amounts of metal, resulting in surface thickness removal at the micron level.
Benefits of Electropolishing
When creating virtually any type of metal product, electropolishing delivers a number of benefits:
Deburring: Surface burrs can significantly inhibit performance in many types of metal components. Electropolishing eliminates these burrs safely, even from delicate or complex parts.
Microfinishing: Scale, oxides, surface irregularities, and chemicals are all removed during the electropolishing process. Even parts that can’t be mechanically polished or treated with vibratory finishing can be electropolished for improved performance.
Fatigue life improvement: Micro-cracks and microscopic surface defects can compromise performance on many types of metal parts. These cracks are where premature bending and breaking begin and should therefore be eliminated for improved product lifespan.
Corrosion resistance: Small surface imperfections act as the initiation site for corrosion. Electropolishing creates a perfectly smooth surface that better resists corrosion.
Improved appearance: The electropolishing process reveals a clean, bright finish that helps metal parts retain a like-new appearance.
Ultracleaning: Microscopic inclusions and cracks retain moisture and encourage bacteria growth. The smooth, clean surface of electropolished components is easier to clean and more resistant to bacteria growth.
Applications of Electropolishing
The electropolishing process is an essential step for fabricating many types of components. Some of the most common applications involve industries with stringent cleanliness requirements, such as:
Clean rooms: Clean room environments demand non-particulating surfaces. Electropolishing provides a sanitary finish for tables, chairs, light fixtures, and more.
Food and beverage applications: The food and beverage industry requires unmatched sanitation from its stainless steel components. Electropolishing creates cleaner food processing equipment, kitchen components, food containers, and more.
Pharmaceutical industry: In the high-purity industry of pharmaceuticals, electropolishing is used primarily for the finishing of stainless steel components and equipment that are used in the manufacturing of drugs and medical devices.
Piping and tubing: Whenever non-contaminating or anti-fouling surfaces are required, electropolishing is performed. It also minimizes friction and safeguards the purity of the substances these products will be used with.
Machined parts: Machined parts benefit from the non-stick, easy-to-clean surface electropolishing reveals. Bolts, washers, screws, valve stems, and many other parts are frequently electropolished.
Medical applications: Hospital and surgical equipment must be easy to thoroughly clean. Scalpels, clamps, prosthetics, and many other medical components are electropolished.
Nuclear applications: Electropolishing reduces contamination and increases the effectiveness of components used in radioactive environments.
Industrial applications: For industrial applications, electropolishing can improve corrosion resistance at weld joints, remove fissures from springs, and much more.
Electropolished Solutions from Enerquip
Electropolishing is an essential process for metal components that require cleanliness, an enhanced appearance, or a long and reliable service life. As an experienced provider of equipment for sanitary applications, Enerquip offers electropolishing services that address the needs of demanding industries. If you have any questions about our solutions, contact our team. You can also request a quote to get your project started.
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