electropolishing-work-003Electropolishing is an electrochemical process in which contaminants, imperfections, and burrs are removed from the exterior of a metal part or component. This process is also known as electrochemical polishing or electrolytic polishing; also, electropolishing is often called “reverse plating,” since many industry professionals describe it as the opposite of the electroplating process.

Electropolishing as a process has been evolving since the mid-20th century, when scientists first started commercially treating metals with the combination of electricity and industrial chemicals. Since then, the process has grown more sophisticated, and now it can be used to make microscopic changes to metal parts.

Electropolishing is accomplished by immersing a metal part into an electrolyte bath, where it is charged with an anode (positive voltage). The electric current passes from the anode to the cathode (negative voltage), and during that time the surface of the part becomes oxidized. As more ions are drawn from its surface, the part gradually becomes cleaner and more polished than before.

Once the process is completed, the part is run through a series of cleaning and drying steps to remove clinging electrolyte. The resultant surface is clean and bright. In fact, the bright surface is the most identifiable trait, and the one that helped coin the name “electropolishing.”

electropolishing-tankWhile the process is best known for the bright polish left on the surface, there are some important, often overlooked benefits of this metal removal method. These benefits include deburring, size control, microfinish improvement and others that can offer great promise to design and production engineers looking to lower costs and still provide a better product.

The process of electropolishing offers several notable advantages to metal components:

• Enhanced durability and corrosion resistance
• Reduced part adhesion
• Structurally improved surface
• Removes impurities
• Easier cleaning and maintenance
• Aesthetic polished appearance

electropolishing-work-001Additionally, electropolishing is also known for its versatility; this process can be used on metal components with virtually any complex shape and intricate features. Electropolishing also can be used to improve the service life of components by removing heat affected zones (HAZ), and recasting layers, micro-cracks, and rounding edges.

electropolishing-work-004Since electropolishing removes surface metal, all surface impurities are removed as well. Heavily contaminated surfaces such as machined parts, welded or brazed assemblies or other similar components are good candidates for electropolishing.

Electropolishing is widely recognized as a critical step in the finishing of medical implants and other devices that must be free of contaminants of any kind. Eurosonics has successfully engineered the multifaceted electropolishing process to meet the most stringent requirements of numerous medical and industrial applications.

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