Back arrow key in circle

Surface Grinding: What it is and When to Use it

Surface Grinding: What it is and When to Use it
June 24, 2022
Sustainment Team

Various industries and institutions use surface grinding for multiple purposes. Some of the most common of these purposes include the following:

  • Grinding and sharpening industrial tools and cutters
  • Semi-finishing flat and cylindrical surfaces for achieving required surface roughness
  • Abrasive milling on workpieces (the materials being finished)

What is Surface Grinding?

Surface grinding is a process that uses abrasion to produce smooth finishes on flat surfaces. Of the different grinding methods in manufacturing, it’s the most common.

Using an abrasive machining process, surface grinding employs a spinning wheel, also called a grinding wheel or grit wheel. The wheel is covered with rough particles to cut bits of metallic or non-metallic substances from a surface. When finished, the process creates smooth and/or flat surfaces.

How Surface Grinding Works

There is the grinding wheel, of course. Commonly used materials for producing its abrasive surface include aluminum oxide, diamond, silicone carbide, cubic boron nitride (CBN), ceramic alumina, and zirconia alumina. Materials that respond well to surface grinding include cast iron, mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and some plastics.

To start, an operator mounts the material to be cut or smoothed (known as ‘the workpiece’) onto a reciprocating table. For keeping the material in place, something called a chuck is required. There are two different ways a chuck can hold the workpiece in place:

  • With ferromagnetic pieces; the chuck is magnetic.
  • If the workpiece is non-ferromagnetic or nonmetallic, then the chuck works by vacuum or mechanical means. When only a magnetic chuck is available, it’s possible to place a machine vice (made from cast iron or ferromagnetic steel) onto the magnetic chuck.

Once the workpiece is secured to the reciprocating table, the grinding process can begin. With the grinding wheel spinning, the reciprocating table passes the workpiece back and forth beneath its surface until it has achieved the desired finish.

Making Adjustments During The Grinding Process

It’s possible to readjust the workpiece relative to the grinding wheel during the process. Sometimes, though, if there’s a specific precision value required, a practice called “spark out” comes into usage. This involves never resetting the cut depth and passing the workpiece under the wheel multiple times until there literally are no more sparks because there is no longer any contact with the wheel.

Excessive heat is generated during the process of material removal, especially when working with hard materials like steel. This can affect the surface finish, which is why coolants are used. This keeps the machining surface cool, and also helps to carry the machined metallic particles away from the grinding surface to avoid scratching the surface.

Results depend on the types of materials in the cutting wheel and in the workpiece. Ensure the machinery and materials are compatible with the desired results before getting started.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Surface Grinding

Like anything else, surface grinding machines have their benefits and drawbacks.

  • Advantages:
    • It’s possible to produce a high surface finish.
    • Smooth finishes are attainable on both metallic and non-metallic surfaces.
    • The work is easy to perform, and it can be manual or automated. When run manually, the machinery doesn’t require a highly-skilled operator.
    • Surface grinding machines deliver high productivity.
  • Disadvantages
    • It isn’t possible to grind in reverse direction.
    • The nature of the work is always wearing the grinding wheel down, and it requires a great deal of spindle power.

Finding a Surface Grinder Near You

Do parts you’re using or supplying require grinding? Need to find a surface grinder near you to produce a very smooth, flat surface, whether desired or required? Do you have a specification for a very precise thickness tolerance? Or do you just need to sharpen cutting tools?

Sustainment doesn’t perform surface grinding, but we use our industry knowledge and networks to find reputable companies near you, saving you time, expense, and stress.

Join us to find surface grinding companies on Sustainment!

You May Also Be Interested In...

Bring Sustainment to Your Supply Chain in Minutes

Start for free with unlimited supplier management, up to 3 active projects and 5 users, then upgrade from $245/month.

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.