Media choices play a significant role in the properties of each alloy and how it affects them during the finishing process. Media is commonly used for vibratory tumbling and produces an altered appearance or finish to another material or part to meet exact finishing standards and requirements.

What is Tumbling Media?

Tumbling media is used for finishing and polishing parts made of various materials, including alloys. Depending on the size and type of pieces worked on, tumbling media removes machining edges from parts to the desired surface finishing requirement. Specific media is selected for their ability to burnish, clean, color, deburr, deflash, degrease, descale, radius, refine, and dry a specific part. 

Media is typically a rigid molded shape or cut extrusion and contains a bonding agent. Tumbling media maintains a consistent overall shape because it is continually exposed to abrasive particles creating an even wear across the media surface. The combination of the shape and size of media along with a specific binding agent, allows us to create an exact formulation to continuously expose the abrasive particles during the finishing process. 

Media factors that determine the surface finish outcome include:

  • Mineral composition
  • Media size & shape
  • Abrasive particle size mixed within media
  • Any Bonding agents used

Media & Vibratory Tumbling

Vibratory tumbling is effective for creating smooth and polished surfaces on metal and plastic parts. For decades, this form of tumble finishing has been trusted by finishing companies to provide incredibly smooth surfaces on even the most fragile metal and plastic parts.

Vibratory tumbling works by combining the energy from abrasive media and water in a machine called a vibratory tumbler. The vibratory action causes the media to rub against the workpieces which yields the desired result. Depending on the application this can be either a dry or wet process. This machine creates fast vibrations to promote powerful collisions between the parts, water, and abrasive tumbling media. Vibratory tumbling is a preferred method of finishing, with vibratory tumblers available in both small and large sizes. 

Vibratory finishing is one of the most common styles of mass finishing. It’s preferable to other methods of deburring in that it allows the load to move as one unit – this prevents parts from being bent or distorted.

Common Types of Finishing Media Materials 

The most common types of tumbling media include ceramic, plastic, steel, and organic compounds. The correct media type is crucial for successful finishing and polishing. 

Ceramic Media

Ceramic media has a relatively high density, making it ideal for hard and heavy metals such as titanium and stainless steel. It is used for general-purpose polishing and rust removal. Plastic and aluminum parts are also polished using ceramic media. Porcelain, a type of ceramic media, is commonly used to achieve a higher gloss finishing. 

Plastic Media 

Plastic media is typically used for softer or malleable metals, such as aluminum, brass, and zinc. It is used for general deburring, precision deburring, polishing, and burnishing of softer metals. With its relative ease to manufacture, durability and water-resistant properties, plastic media is a cost-effective option. 

Abrasives are mixed with ceramic and plastic media during the finishing processes. Common abrasive types such as silica and sand are used to help deburr and deflash softer metals. Abrasive media typically wear down more slowly.

Steel Media

Steel media is known for its ability to effectively burnish. Steel media is made from hardened carbon and stainless steel. It is used to apply heavy pressure to deburr steel parts, as well as shining, polishing, and burnishing materials. Steel media offers a longer lifespan because of its reduced lodging properties. 

Organic Compound Media 

Organic media, including corn and walnut shells, are used to dry parts after wet vibratory finishing. When mixing organic media with a polishing paste, it can also be used to produce a high gloss finish on stainless steel, aluminum, and other metal parts. 

Determining the Shape and Size of Media

Finishing media comes in a range of shapes and sizes including cylinders, spheres, ovals, cones, stars, pyramids, and wedges. Media shape and size are chosen based on the function needed and will determine a specific finishing outcome. 

The size of the media is determined by the project needs and specifications. 

  • Smaller media size offers a more detailed and smoother finish but takes longer to complete.
  • A larger media size offers a quicker turnaround for the deburring process but creates a rougher surface.  

The shape of the part determines the shape of the finishing media.

  • Sphere, oval and cylindrical media wear evenly, chipless frequently, and have a lesser chance of getting lodged into parts with sharp edges.
  • Cones, stars, pyramids, and wedges are ideal for complex parts with hard-to-reach sections. Though these shaped media offer more detail, they do wear and chip at a higher rate.

Providing Uniform Results for Surface Finishing 

Vibratory finishing is highly customizable based on the desired finish. Each part requires a specific media type and process to meet and exceed its unique set of finishing requirements. Our skilled operators at ISO Finishing know exactly how to adjust the machine’s frequency and amplitude and will determine the appropriate media type. Regardless of whether it’s stainless steel, titanium, or cobalt deburring, our researched methods provide reliable and uniform results.

ISO Finishing is known for quality metal finishing expertise on titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, brass, and copper. We also have the proven ability to offer customized finishes on plastic, rubber, silicone, and ceramic parts. ISO Finishing is committed to providing unsurpassed customer satisfaction by maintaining the highest quality finishing solutions. Get in touch with the team at ISO Finishing today. 

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