Industrial processes are rarely neat and clean, and that’s clearly seen in fields that work with metal. When metals get worked by stamping, cutting, welding, laser cutting, or waterjetting, they leave behind rough edges and tiny, finger-like projections known as burrs. Not only do burrs look unprofessional and complicate assembly due to small alterations in the metal’s dimensions, but they also stand a chance of causing injury as individuals attempt to work with the cut metal. That’s where metal deburring machines come into play. These devices remove the burrs from all kinds of preworked metal.
This Metal Deburring Machines Buying Guide will discuss the various types of popular deburrers, explain their differences in operation, list several real-life applications, and tell you what you should know prior to buying metal deburring machines.
Mechanical Burrs vs Thermal Burrs
Before we begin to discuss sheet metal deburring machines and even what deburring metal is, we should talk about how burrs occur and their different types. We’ve already mentioned that burrs occur during the production or shaping process of a piece of metal. Most people in metalworking or some similar industry understand that, but what’s less obvious is that burrs can be caused by different industrial processes — and those processes lead to very different kinds of imperfections.
Mechanical burrs will appear when some sort of physical force is involved in the shaping of a piece of metal. This may involve stamping, shearing, folding, sawing, or cutting. The deformations caused can typically be placed into one of four categories:
- Poisson Burr: A perpendicular burr occurring in the direction of the force
- Roll-Over Burr: A burr caused with the metal rolls up and moving in the same direction as the tool used to work it
- Tear Burr: Plastic deformation will cause tear burrs when metal gets cut with great force (e.g., punching).
- Cut-Off Burr: Burrs sometimes form at the end of the metal as the cutting process concludes.
Thermal burrs present themselves differently and are a result of using heat-based cutting methods. They assume somewhat drop-like forms because they’re essentially leftover slag that’s hardened onto the surface of the metal.
Removing these burrs might seem like a simple process, but it actually requires technical attention, particularly when dealing with mass quantities of a specific manufactured product. Why? Well, to start with, there’s no single definition for when something has been deburred. Producers must decide what that term will mean for their unique operations, and the way in which they definite it will have a significant impact on expended effort. The following list will show the range of meanings that “deburr” can have from the process requiring the least effort to those requiring the most:
- Remove all sharp edges (which doesn’t necessarily include burrs)
- Remove all burrs visible to the naked eye
- Remove all burrs visible at a certain magnification
- Break, slope, blunt, or chamfer edges to a certain minimal measurement
- Round edges to a certain minimal radius
While some manufacturers will simply choose to not deburr their products, burrs don’t benefit anyone, no matter their cause or shape. In the next section, we will talk about the types of deburring machine for sheet metal, small parts, and everything in between.
Popular Types of Metal Deburring Machines
Most deburring machines get categorized according to their deburring method, and as we explain them, we’ll see that the best deburring tool for steel, aluminum, and other kinds of metal will depend on your product.
Some popular types of metal deburring machines include:
- Hand Deburring. Yes, this technically isn’t a machine, but one of the most popular methods for removing burrs is to grind them off by hand. For hundreds of years, manufacturers and technicians employed this method, and it still finds use today. Yes, manual deburring requires significant expertise and time, so it won’t work well for operations requiring high efficiency. However, a deburring machine for small parts may not be able to handle small burrs, and the finished pieces could still require hand deburring.
- Punch Deburring. Punch deburring uses technology similar to that employed in the initial working stages of metal. However, instead of simply punching a pattern out of sheet metal, punch deburring uses a series of dies to gradually plane away burrs. Examples of these dies include rough blanking dies, fine blanking dies, and sizing dies. While this kind of edge deburring machine works well with simple designs, it cannot deburr more complex metal products.
- Brushing. Brushing may sound like a relatively gentle process, but it actually involves metal-wire brushes attached to machine tools. These abrasive brushes come in different grit gradients similar to sandpaper. Brushing can either be done manually or automated depending on the machinery involved. It has the advantage of being a flexible approach, allowing for multiple grades of deburring, but it does require manual or automated changing of cutting heads, which can slow the process.
- Hole Deburring. Sometimes burrs jut out of the interior of a hole cut in metal, and to cut them, a spindle-mounted cutter extends into the hole. It spins, removing the burrs, and it can have multiple kinds of heads for different grades of deburring. When people think of a pipe deburring machine, this is generally what they’re conceptualizing. While hole deburrers are usually highly efficient, their functionality is extremely limited due to their hole-centric design.
- Abrasive Blasting. This sort of machine works by projecting an abrasive material at a piece of metal that has been placed within some sort of enclosure. These machines come in varying degrees of complexity and with different finish options available. Many can be automated, offering greater degrees of speed and efficiency
- Grinding and Rolling. This method attaches a grinder to a rolling head and uses it to deburr the appropriate edges of a piece of metal. Functionally, its end result mimics that achieved by manual deburring, but these automatic deburring machines remove the lower-efficiency output of manual labor. Grinding and rolling machines aren’t without drawbacks, though. They may require additional processing after a first pass through these sheet metal edge deburring machines.
- Mass Finishing. Mass finishing combines abrasive blasting, grinding and rolling, and sophisticated automation to process many pieces of metal with high speed and high efficiency. Though expensive, they allow for many different configurations, metal types, shapes, sizes, and deburring amounts. Mass finishers can serve as general flat metal deburring machines, sheet metal edge deburring machines, or aluminum deburring machines.
- Thermal Deburring. Thermal deburring involves removing burrs through heat. Pieces get placed in a combustion chamber and a quick burst of heat causes the burrs to melt off. This method requires careful fuel calculations to remove the burrs without damaging the body of the end product. This method has the advantage of being able to process multiple pieces simultaneously, but it requires a specialized environment and a skilled operator.
- Electrochemical Deburring. These deburrers use sodium chloride or sodium nitrate solutions, an electrode, and electricity to remove difficult-to-access burrs. Typically used solely for small pieces, electrochemical deburring requires a cathode guide similar in shape to that of the metal edge requiring deburring. This method has the advantage of allowing for the simultaneous processing of multiple pieces and runs no risk of generating excess heat. However, electrochemical deburring can sometimes remove more metal than intended.
- Tumbling. One of the oldest forms of deburring and polishing, tumbling involves using a centrifugal or vibratory deburring machine to agitate a container filled with your product parts, some sort of abrasive material, and a liquid. Just like brushes, the abrasive used in tumbling can come in varying grades that will remove different amounts of metal. A specific form of tumbling is abrasive flow polishing, which uses a pair of pumps to force an abrasive slurry around metal parts.
Wet vs Dry Machines
You may have noticed as we described these types of metal rolling machines, thermal deburrers, tumblers, and mass finishers that they break down into two very broad categories: those that process metal with liquid and those that do not. These are called wet and dry deburring machines, and they have different advantages and disadvantages.
One of the great advantages of dry deburring machines is that they are significantly less expensive. They also excel at rougher forms of metal removal, such as grinding and oxidation removal, and if your business only processes something like carbon steel, dry machines will work well for you. However, they do not automatically collect the metal scraps they produce, so you’ll need to bag them. It also produces a significant amount of heat. This can prove problematic if you’re processing aluminum because its scraps can be flammable.
Wet deburring machines are more expensive, and they do introduce the issues associated with managing a liquid. All deburring machines require regular cleaning, and you’ll need a connected hose and a place to drain the liquid when it becomes too dirty. However, wet machines don’t require a collection container, which means they can often take up less space than dry units. They produce far less heat, and because the liquid washes constantly back and forth, it doesn’t allow metal scraps to accumulate.
What to Look for When Buying Metal Deburring Machines
The most important thing for you to know when considering metal finishing deburring machines is the nature of your product and how it fits with the available deburring options. Some of the factors you need to know are:
The number of sheet metal parts to be deburred. If you have just a handful of items that need to be deburred at a single time, you can likely get by with brushing or punch deburring. But factory-level production will likely require an automated process such as mass finishing.
The type of sheets to be deburred. As mentioned in the previous section, deburring some kinds of metal can cause safety problems if you don’t employ specific procedures. Similarly, you will select certain deburring options if you need to process multiple kinds of metal than if you only deburr a single type.
Single or double-sided deburring. While double-sided deburring is more efficient, it also requires more advanced and expensive equipment.
Real-Life Applications for Metal Deburring Machines
Everyday applications for metal deburring machines obviously include deburring itself. Still, they can be used for multiple other kinds of operations, such as:
- Oxidation Removal
- Slag Grinding
- Edge Rounding
- Paint/Surface Preparation
- Finishing/Polishing for Combustible Metals
What Industries use Metal Deburring Machines?
Metal deburring machines of all types are used in most manufacturing processes. Some of the more common industries include:
- Automobile Manufacturing and Repair
- Architecture and Construction
- Pharmaceutical Production
- Computer Manufacturing
- Toy Manufacturing
- Sheet Metal Manufacturing
Accessories for Metal Deburring Machines
Accessories for deburring machines are primarily spare parts and equipment to facilitate specific configurations. Some types of accessories include:
- Deburring Wheels
- Abrasive Slurry
If you’re considering purchasing a metal deburring machine or any related accessories, search Surplus Record to see what we have available. Just type “deburring machines” in the search box at the top of Surplus Record’s website and select it in the drop down to see the available selection.
Popular manufacturers of metal deburring machines include Burrmaster, Almco, Falls, Lissmac, and Timesavers.