Any number of devices, materials, and assemblies used to eliminate burrs from materials and finished products. A burr is any unwanted raised point or piece of material attached to a piece after a modification. Most commonly, burrs arise as a result of machining processes such as grinding, drilling, or engraving.
Deburring equipment varies wildly in method of action, appropriate materials, scale, automation, and other factors, but all serve the same basic purpose: to remove rough edges, pultrusion, chips, shavings, and splinters from metal, wood, plastic, or anything else. Often overlap with finishing, polishing, surface finish, and descaling equipment.
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The History of Deburring
Due to the nature of deburring, it's difficult to pinpoint an exact origin or inventor for the concept. A wide range of deburring tools likely go back as far in time as the first metal weapons, parts, and jewelry, though they've evolved significantly since then. We know Egyptians had grinding wheels before 2000 BC, for example.
Much of early deburring likely relied upon simple hand files, brushes, grindstones, and similar manual deburring equipment to achieve a finish. There is some suggestion that blacksmiths of the medieval era used the concept of tumbling for metal chain mail and similar metal equipment, adding components to casks filled with small jagged stones then rolling the casks around. We can also note specific key developments, such as the early invention of abrasive paper by the Chinese in 1225, or its first noted application in France, in 1769.
The modern history of deburring probably begins around the same period of time as that application of abrasive media; throughout the 1700s and 1800s, deburring would have become increasingly important alongside widespread industrialization and the development of machining tools. By the late 1800s, early automated deburring technology and modern-style manual deburring equipment and processes were appearing across the world. It was only in the 1900s, and forward, that many of the staple deburring and finishing methods of today truly arose. To record the development of each of these various technologies, from sand blasting in 1935 to cutting-edge cryogenic deburring methods.
Advantages of Basic Deburring Systems
Vibratory tumblers offer a consistent treatment of your work pieces, even in the difficult-to-reach spaces such as hollow spaces or interior surfaces or edges, i.e. the inside of a pipe or ring. Frequently, you'll have more versatility for adjusting intensity with vibratory finishing than with other tumblers, allowing superior control over your metal finish. Cost, noise, and high energy are the primary problems with using vibratory bowl deburring systems.
Rotational tumblers or rotary tumblers, in contrast to vibratory tumblers, can be acquired for much cheaper than a comparable vibratory tumbler, with that price advantage only growing as the cubic foot and weight of your workpieces and abrasive media increases to heavier stainless steel. Furthermore, a rotary tumbler machine operates much more quietly while still achieving respectable results in many applications. Lack of uniform results on the surface due to unidirectional force is the primary problem with rotary systems, and can result in problems with the metal finish on unusually shaped pieces.
Electrochemical deburring systems offer a number of benefits in applications where they are viable, thanks to the reduction in mechanical and thermal wear and tear on the machinery, high precision in the deburring process, and minimized risk of secondary burr production. Your biggest challenge with electrochemical deburring is the limitation to electrically conductive materials and the risk of corrosion in the machine and parts due to electrolytes without proper care.
Manual deburring systems offer a high level of control and accuracy in the right hands, and allows for immediate inspection and adjustment on the fly when compared with other approaches to deburring. The specific advantages of manual deburring will depend on the tools at hand and the skillset of your workforce, while difficulty handling a large volume of workpieces and lack of uniformity will be your biggest limitations.
Thermal deburring offers similar benefits to electrochemical deburring, but with a different set of limitations as thermal deburring only works for products which can be safely exposed to intense heat for the purpose of burning up burrs and flash. In many cases, you'll need to inspect a particular part to determine whether thermal deburring will be an option; for this reason, it's rarely viable for systems which need to machine a wide variety of component types but works quite well for sheet metal and products made of stainless steel sheet metal.
Effective use of deburring machines begins with a thorough understanding of the deburring process, your target goals, and your options. While you can gain efficiency through optimizing your use of a particular piece of deburring equipment, the greatest gains will always arise from choosing the right approach to deburring from step one.
There are any number of factors which can shape your ideal approach to deburring machines; the material and product you're working with, available manpower, product standards, system installation costs, floor space, existing automation in your workspace, etc.
You may also need to determine how much flexibility and variation you need in your system; if you regularly work on polishing or finishing different materials, with different tolerances, or on components of different sizes, your needs will be significantly different from a company which works exclusively on the same component day in and day out.
Note that you'll also want to discuss logistics for any components or consumables which will be used up in the polishing process; regardless of what form of deburring you use, you'll be going through chemicals, abrasives, grindstones, etc. on a regular basis. You'll need to set up an appropriate supply.
Manual and Automated Deburring
Deburring equipment can largely be divided into two categories based on how they are used: manual and automated.
- Manual Deburring Equipment
- May be as simple and low-tech as a worker using an abrasive brush to grind away small burrs for a finish, or may be modern machining equipment outfitted for high-precision grinding accurate to the millimeter. Manual deburring equipment can only operate on a single workpiece at a time, making it non-viable for many high-volume applications.
- Automated Deburring Equipment
- On the other hand, encompasses the wide array of deburring approaches in which components are deburred without much if any human intervention. These are usually high-volume machines, with large numbers of components being deburred at a time through a process of tumbling, vibration, etc. To achieve precision with automated high-volume deburring can require highly advanced, often expensive equipment, with the cost dropping off sharply alongside the specific standards of the component.
- This dichotomy largely explains the huge cost of deburring in many forms of manufacturing, as any project where deburring which cannot be automated requires significantly more manpower—even with the best manual deburring tools on the market.
Deburring Equipment Types
There are a huge number of machines, systems, and tools encompassed by the deburring equipment category, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Some may overlap or work in conjunction with other categories of deburring, while others stand alone as a complete independent system.
- Barrel Finishing
- Or Tumbling is a process that produces a low-pressure abrasion action by tumbling work pieces in a hexagonal or octagonal barrel together with an abrasive media.
- Brush Deburring
- Utilizes abrasive brushes that rub items which remove unwanted bumps and edges while adhering to exact specifications and tolerances.
- Centrifugal Disc
- Essentially barrel machines and the name describes the spinning disc at the bottom of the machine that spins the part and abrasive media together.
- Continuous Processing Equipment
- Able to process high volume parts on a constant basis through in-line production.
- Corn Cob Media
- Type of dry deburring media that consists of a treated corn cob ring that has been pulverized into powder form, although the particle size can range from fine to moderate dimensions.
- Deburring machines
- Remove burrs from metal and plastic parts.
- Deburring Media
- Refers to materials used to remove unwanted materials, called burrs, from various parts.
- Finishing Equipment
- Refers to a variety of machinery that perform actions that affect the surface characteristics of parts or materials, such as polishing, coating, burnishing and deburring.
- Oval Vibratory Systems
- Versatile machines that can be set up for either continuous processing or batch processing for extended time cycles.
- Parts Tumbler
- Used for the finishing, polishing and deburring of both plastic and metal parts.
- Polishing Equipment
- Used in many types of deburring. Examples range from the barrel or vibratory tumbler as well as non-enclosed options like Nylon Abrasive Filament (NAF) brushes or standard hand held sandpapers and filers.
- Sand Blasting Equipment
- A type of deburring machinery which produces a desired effect. Rather than the metal part being immersed in polishing media, as in the case of vibratory or barrel tumblers, the part surface is blasted from the outside by the appropriate media which is often small ceramic pieces or even walnut shells in the case of softer plastic parts.
- Have two main types: rotary tumblers and vibratory tumblers.
- Tumbling Barrels
- Type of deburring machinery typically used on hard metals such as steel and stainless steel for the removal of heavy burrs.
- Tumbling Media
- The abrasive material used in deburring.
- Vibratory Finishing
- Burr removal process in which an appropriate number of parts, depending on part size and abrasive material, is accelerated and decelerated by mechanical means inside of a drum-like enclosure.
- Vibratory Tumblers
- One type of deburring machinery. Often similar in shape and technology as the barrel machines, but are open at the top allowing the ability to view the progress of the deburring without stopping the machine.
Used extensively to finish machine components and various completed products in applications where burrs and other protrusions or roughness would introduce risk of injury, inefficiency due to friction, or any number of other problems. Also used for aesthetic purposes.
Due to the universal applicability, deburring equipment in one form or another shows up to finish metal parts in nearly any industry. It's of particular interest to companies operating in these specific fields:
- Industrial Manufacturing
Safety and Compliance Standards for Deburring Equipment
Safety and compliance requirements will depend on the type of deburring equipment at hand. For obvious reasons, deburring equipment utilizing grindstones and other machine tools will have different requirements for safety and regulatory compliance than systems leveraging chemical solutions, or thermal solutions, or vibrations.
As a general rule, it's important to make sure you've carefully vetted all relevant regulations, safety concerns, and standards for a particular system and communicated all relevant information to your employees. You may want to take these standards and risks into consideration when choosing your deburring equipment.
Other Considerations for Deburring Equipment
Depending on the deburring solution you select, maintenance may be a consideration. Some systems may require consumables, others may wear through parts and require replacements on a regular basis, etc. More complex systems may have stringent maintenance requirements, demanding the attention of someone more familiar with heavy machinery, while simple manual equipment may be used and maintained by relatively low-skill labor.
Upkeep can also be a consideration outside of pure maintenance, as you may need to consider replacement components for standard wear-and-tear of machine parts, a common trait to all deburring methods. Whether you're using brushes, belts, chemicals, heat, or other systems, all must experience some degree of degradation of the machine parts along with the processed parts.
Finally, it's worth keeping in mind expansion, growth, or upgrades to efficiency in the future when making your choice of deburring equipment today. A large investment in a system which you cannot expand may create a serious bottleneck in your production pipeline down the line. Similarly, spending money today on a system which isn't strictly necessary may make more sense if you have expansion in mind.
Choosing a Deburring Equipment Manufacturer
Selecting a manufacturer for your deburring equipment needs can be a bit difficult, as there are so many factors which go into not only the final product, but your experience as a whole. To ensure a superior experience with a minimum of wasted time, money, and resources, look to these key points:
- While someone needs to be the first customer of a new company, it probably shouldn't be you. And even a new deburring equipment manufacturer should have some history in manufacturing or staff with the requisite expertise.
- Perhaps more important than general experience and success with deburring equipment is experience with your specific requirements; a company which works mostly to supply customers with one-off deburring solutions may not be suitable to outfit a major industrial customer with a full suite of mass volume deburring machines.
- The product or products you receive only make up a small component of your overall experience with a company, so keep a close eye on your experience with support, sales, customer services, etc. You want clear, reliable communication as a new customer, a returning customer, or a customer with a problem. It shouldn't be a struggle to get someone to answer a call, nor should it be a struggle to get actionable information from that call.
- And of course, good support is a strong indicator of what to expect from a company as a whole. Transparency, professionalism, and efficiency in the support systems almost always goes hand in hand with superior manufacturing quality.
- If you're only looking to make a single order from a manufacturer, this may not be particularly important, but any company that expects to make adjustments or additional orders down the line should take note of the flexibility of a deburring equipment manufacturer. If you need to change to a different solution, experience a change in order volume, or need orders made at short notice delivered quickly, flexibility will be crucial to the experience you have with a manufacturer.
- When choosing a deburring equipment manufacturer, it's important to keep in mind the difference between a good manufacturer in general and the right manufacturer for your needs. A perfect manufacturer from a general viewpoint may not be a good fit if they rarely work with the equipment type you need, work primarily with companies with volume demands much larger or much smaller than yours, or struggle to match your specific logistical expectations.
Deburring Equipment Terms
- Technically any material that can be used to abrade another material. In industry however, abrasives are minerals from a select group of very hard minerals used to shape, finish, polish or deburr another material.
- Polishing method using a soft cloth and very fine polishing compounds.
- Undesirable protrusions and metal edges that result from machining operations.
- Coated Abrasive
- Often referred to as sandpaper. This is used on machines such as disc sanders and is often used by hand. Often a synthetic mineral is coated on the paper or fiber rather than actual sand.
- The texture of groups or masses of minerals is said to be crystalline when distinct crystal faces are present.
- Disc Grinding
- Refers to grinding machines and a process using the face of a large wheel to produce flat and parallel surfaces in high volume production.
- The intersection of two surfaces.
- A measurement of surface characteristics of a workpiece.
- A characteristic of abrasive grains that describes their tendency to fracture or break apart then hit or placed under pressure.
- A natural abrasive that contains aluminum oxide and small amounts of iron oxide. Once used extensively in the finishing industry, it is used today mostly in home workshops for deburring by hand.
- Mass Finishing
- A group of processes that use abrasives to remove burrs or apply a finish to small workpieces.
- The abrasive pellets, stones or other materials used in mass finishing and deburring. Examples are silicon carbide, ice, plastic, sand and walnut shells.
- A process using very fine abrasive minerals for little or no material removal. The step of finishing that often comes just after deburring when needed. Surface appearance is the primary purpose of polishing.
- Silicon Carbide
- This synthetic mineral is one of the abrasives used extensively in the finishing industry. It is harder than aluminum oxides.