Improve Surface Roughness and Achieve a High Polish in Minutes on Additive Components


Additive manufacturing is quickly becoming a feasible option for full-scale manufacturing. The combination of modern software, new materials and printer technology is allowing additive manufacturing or AM to bring efficiency and flexibility to manufacturing operations. The parts created using these processes are often left with very rough surfaces and scale and other imperfections. Companies using additive manufacturing need to come up with a quick solution for smoothing and polishing their parts.

3D Printing of models is often referred to as “Rapid Prototyping.” Using traditional hand polishing methods to improve the extremely rough surfaces of these parts is anything but “Rapid.” An operator can spend days to get all of the surfaces smoothed out by hand. Mass Finishing Centrifugal barrel tumblers can achieve a polish on several parts at once (Like the ones featured here) in just two hours.


Achieving a polish on a 3D Printed part depends greatly on the material and the initial roughness and scale left over from the printing process.

On relatively clean (no heavy heat scale or atmospheric discoloration) titanium or stainless steel 3D printed parts with an initial surface roughness of 300-400 Ra here is an example process MFI has used in our High Energy Barrel Tumblers:

  • Step One: Heavy grinding with aggressive plastic or ceramic media for 60 Minutes
  • Step Two: Pre-Polish with lighter plastic for 30 Minutes
  • Step Three: High Polish with dry corn cob media or porcelain for 30 Minutes
  • Total process time Two Hours (Not including loading)

Equipment Recommendation

3D printed parts that have a high production volume to justify tumbling equipment tend to be smaller in size. For this reason the HZ-40 is a popular option. It’s small footprint (roughly 3′ x 4′) makes it ideal for fitting into tight lab operations.

For parts that are too large to fit in the HZ-40 barrel (longer than 10 inches and wider than 5 inches) a larger machine like the HZ-120 or HZ-160 with a bigger processing chamber is needed.

If the part doesn’t require a high energy finish, a vibratory tub like our PV-Series Tubs make a nice ancillary option. They are relatively inexpensive, but will take a much longer time to perform surface finishing on parts.

Free Sample Processing

If you have additive parts and are looking for a high polish, you can send them to the MFI testing lab for free test processing.

ATTN: Sample Processing Dept.
Mass Finishing, Inc.
1060 Commerce Blvd
Howard Lake, MN 55349