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Tumble finishing

Metal tumbling is used to burnish, deburr, clean, radius, de-flash, descale, remove rust, polish, brighten, surface harden, prepare parts for further finishing, and break off die cast runners.[citation needed] The process is fairly simple: a horizontal barrel is filled with the parts which is then rotated. Variations of this process usually include media, water, or other lubricants. As the barrel is rotated the material rises until gravity causes the uppermost layer to landslide down to the other side. The barrel may also have vanes, typically made of rubber, which run along the inside of the barrel.[citation needed] As the barrel turns the vanes catch and lift the parts, which eventually slide down or fall.

In a wet processes a compound, lubricant, or barreling soap is added to aid the finishing process, prevent rusting, and to clean parts. A wide variety of media is available to achieve the desired finished product. Common media materials include: sand, granite chips, slag, steel, ceramics, and synthetics. Moreover, these materials are available in a wide variety of shapes. Usually different shapes are used in the same load to reach into every geometry of the part.

Tumbling is an economical finishing process because large batches of parts can be run with little or no supervision by the operator. A full cycle can take anywhere from 6 to 24 hours with the barrel turning at 20 to 38 RPM.[citation needed] Tumbling is usually most efficient with the barrel half full.[citation needed] Some processes also use a filter system to allow parts or other materials in the cylinder to be separated.

The disadvantages of this process are that the abrasive action cannot be limited to only certain areas of the part, cycle times are long, and the process is noisy.

Specific types
Barrel burnishing is a type of barreling where no cutting action is desired. The goal is to reduce minute irregularities and produce a clean, smooth surface. The parts are usually tumbled against themselves or with steel balls, shot, rounded-end pins, or ballcones to achieve this. It is also usually a wet process that uses water and a lubricant or cleaning agent, such as soap or cream of tartar. The barrel is not loaded more than half full and if media is used then a 2:1 ratio of media to parts is maintained to keep the parts from rubbing.

Centrifugal barrel tumbling uses a tumbling barrel at the end of a rotating arm to add centrifugal forces to the barreling process. This can accelerate the process 25 to 50 times.

Spindle finishing mounts the workpieces onto spindles that rotate the parts opposite that of the media flow. This prevents the parts from interacting with each other and accelerates the cycle time, but extra time and cost are required to fixture the workpieces.

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