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Megan Ray Nichols

No matter what project you're working on, the finishing process is the most significant part. Each step in this process is critical to the outcome. Do your research, so your production holds up to the standards your customers and government entities require.

Research Requirements

You'll never know where you are if you don't have a destination in mind. Research any governmental requirements for your products, including the requirements by international groups that seek to standardize the integrity and safety of all goods manufactured.

For instance, the European Union has regulations to restrict hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Mercury, lead and similar metals must make up less than 0.1 percent of a product's weight, while cadmium must be less than 0.01 percent. If you do business with companies in the EU and use any materials covered under that law, you may need to make changes. If you don't properly research the requirements of the localities you sell to, you could lose business or incur hefty fines.

Surface Preparation

Surface preparation is critical to ensuring the coating will adhere properly. Though many use sandblasting to describe any form of abrasive finishing, it is not the same process. While the type of material you use depends on whether you need harsh or soft blasting, you should also think about the environmental impacts. You discovered during your research that many countries require environmental consciousness during production. But even if you’re not under a requirement to reduce your waste, it's still prudent to be conscious of how your finishing process affects the environment.

Sandblasting is the least environmentally friendly way to abrasively prepare a surface. Other options like glass beads and aluminum oxide are recyclable. Crushed glass is a fully recycled material that gets consumed during blasting. Consider these options if you want to make an environmentally conscious decision in the abrasive finishing you choose.

Image credit: The Finishing Company

Evaluate Finish Types

The type of finish you select will be based on its intended use. Metals may require fine or sanitary finishes. These create nonporous surfaces that allow for sterilization. Completely sanitizing a surface makes these finishes best for medical facilities, food preparation sites and labs. Mirror finishes create a reflective surface in metal. These are typically used for decoration or as design features.

The type of finish is based on the roughness the customer requires. Sanitary finishes have the largest roughness values of 30 to 35 microinches, while mirror finishes are only four to eight microinches. The finer the surface, the less likely it is to corrode, and the easier it is to sanitize. With a finer finish, there are no crevices where bacteria can hide after cleaning.

Environmental Considerations

Whether painting or powder coating, prepare your finishing environment. For most finishing, the area must be clean and dry. Have respirators or face masks on hand to protect workers’ lungs. Eye protection is also useful when dealing with spray-on coatings or paints. Have plans in place for the proper disposal of any waste from the finishing process. Follow up with the local authorities for any specific laws in your area.

Some places have local, state and federal laws governing waste. Look these up during your research and inform your employees about them. Proper training can prevent you from paying fines for improper disposal of hazardous products produced from finishing.

Cleaning

In many cases, you'll have to clean up either the products you've finished or your work area. Just as environmental concerns should reign when choosing your finishing type and during the process, they should also come into play during cleaning. Train employees about the safe use and disposal of any cleaning supplies.

The timing of cleaning is also important. For certain processes, cleaning may occur before finishing. Electroplating requires carefully cleaning the surface first. Without a pristine surface, the electroplating will not adhere. Again, train your employees to ensure their compliance in this area. Make certain they are following the proper procedures and not compromising the finishing process.

Completing the Finishing Process

The finishing process customizes products to their final use. With the right research and preparation, your finishing process will go smoothly, and the results will look perfect. Every step of the process is critical. Don't overlook any of these easy-to-miss parts of the finishing process.

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