Today we're launching a series of blog posts about automated and semi-automated tube finishing solutions. This is the first of four parts.
Tube finishing doesn't have to be a manual operation. Centerless grinding can efficiently finish straight tube, and now planetary grinding machines can aid the finishing of tubes of various shapes, including previously bent workpieces.
The demand for high-quality finishes on tubing has risen over the years, much of it driven by increased use of stainless steel in the medical, food, pharmaceutical, chemical processing, and construction industries, combined with the need for painted, powder-coated, and plated tubing.
No matter the desired result, a properly finished metal tube requires grinding. A grain finish is achieved using abrasive belts, used individually or in some combination. The goal for many applications is to achieve what is commonly referred to as a #4 finish.
Stainless steel tubes – along with many aluminum tube applications -- almost always require a grain finish. Many mild or carbon steel tubes receive a painted, powder-coated, or plated finish, so in these applications the coating or plating material determines the final appearance of the workpiece surface.
However, the grinding process still must prepare the tube’s surface for coating or plating, mainly to remove imperfections and smooth the tube surface so that scratches and other imperfections are undetectable after the coating or plating is applied.
Tube finishing can be extremely labor-intensive. Grinding with hand tools is difficult enough, and grinding a sensitive, curved, and formed surface makes the job even more difficult.
But automated and semi-automated tube finishing alternatives can greatly help speed operations and often create a cleaner, safer work environment. Centerless grinding can put a grain finish on straight tube, while specialized planetary grinding systems can put a grain finish on a variety of irregular tube shapes, including bent tubing.
Be sure to look for our next installment in this series, Centerless Grinding Basics for Tube Finishing.