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Deburring/Finishing

No rough edges

By Tom Klemens

Above: Plasma cut steel, before and after grinding the slag.

Highly versatile machine meets a variety of finishing needs

September 2013 - It’s far from being the norm, but sometimes a machine is so versatile that it meets a wide variety of needs equally well. One such device is the Steelmaster, which in true German machine-building tradition, offers many configurations to suit a wide variety of applications.

Developed about 18 years ago, Steelmaster machines are produced in Beckum, Germany. The product line was acquired by Lissmac Maschinenbau GmbH, Beckum, in April 2012, expanding its existing line of metal processing machines. The company’s U.S. subsidiary, Lissmac Corp., is headquartered in Waterford, N.Y.

Cutting metal produces sharp edges, often with burrs when punched or sawn, or slag when cut with a laser or torch. Deburring and slag removal by hand are difficult and inefficient operations. Although a variety of machines are available to deburr and remove slag from cut metal pieces, the Steelmaster line offers the ability to deburr and apply a grain finish in a single pass.

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Smoothing imperfections

The primary call for Steelmaster machines comes from precision sheet metal shops that produce attractive and safe finished fabricated metal products, according to Brett Mandes, Lissmac Corp.’s national sales manager for Steelmaster.

“In deburring and finishing operations, there’s often a need to apply a nice straight-line grain finish to the surface of the part, like what you see on a stainless steel refrigerator in a restaurant or your home,” Mandes says. “That’s where Steelmaster comes in. It can put a very nice aesthetic finish on the part while deburring.”

Because it can be used in so many different ways, Mandes says, each Steelmaster has to be configured for the particular application. To begin with, it’s available for either wet or dry grinding. According to Mandes, most of the Steelmaster machines sold in the U.S. are wet.

The next configuration question is what the finishing process requires. If it’s deburring or finishing only, that’s done in a different manner than if the process requires both deburring and finishing. In any case, the machine can have two, three or four heads arranged in any order.

Three types of heads provide rotational drive either about a horizontal axis, parallel to the material surface (R and B heads), or rotating about a vertical axis (T heads). R heads are equipped with an abrasive belt driven and supported by a contact drum whose hardness figures into the resulting effect. B heads drive barrel brushes, also known as drum brushes, that extend across the width of the machine and can contribute to both deburring and finishing. T heads are the heart of the machine’s edge contour system and use a system of top brushes, primarily for deburring.

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“On any of our brush heads, the oscillation can be turned on or off and they also are bi-directional – you can rotate the brush either clockwise or counterclockwise,” Mandes says. Exercising these options in different ways results in different appearances on the finished product, something Steelmaster users take advantage of.

Steelmaster brushes easily can be swapped out to accommodate changes in surface treatment requirements. Because the machine can both deburr and finish the material in a single pass, the grit sequence for the desired finish is yet another parameter to be considered.

Just as the same paint brush in the hands of different artists yields a variety of results, so too the Steelmaster’s application to metal finishing produces a plethora of effects. For example, Steelmaster machines are used to finish all of the interior metal parts for two German luxury auto makers, Mandes says. However, because one uses oscillation and the other does not, the finished parts for each have a distinctive look.

A less cosmetic application

Don Gibbs, who in the 1970s became an accomplished motocross racer, today uses a wet Steelmaster machine to produce his line of Ricochet Offroad Armor. Located in Salt Lake City, the company manufactures motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle accessories including skid plates and other supplemental reinforcement and protection to fit many popular brands.

Serious and experienced dirt bike and ATV riders often protect their investment by replacing the plastic guards supplied as original equipment with Ricochet lightweight aluminum skid plates. Ricochet dirt bike skid plates, for example, are made from 5⁄32 in. or 3⁄16 in. aircraft aluminum.

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Gibbs purchased a Steelmaster about five years ago to deburr and apply a grain finish to his products, which previously had been deburred by hand. “The deburring brushes knock all the sharp edges off, then the belt puts on the grain finish,” he says.

Because the machine is only used for aluminum, Gibbs uses the same brushes all the time. “There’s not much to it. You just feed the part through and that’s it. It’s a pretty slick setup,” he says.

Although Lissmac offers its own line of Steelmaster brushes, it has teamed up with a leading abrasives manufacturer to ensure the machines are always providing optimal performance, Mandes says.

In addition to being versatile, the Steelmaster is designed to be a heavy-duty workhorse. “It’s not a light-duty machine, like so many of the others on the market,” Mandes says. “We pride ourselves on the fact that the Steelmaster is a 24-hour-a-day, multishift operation machine.” FFJ

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Sources

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