South West Metal Finishing Case Study

Company Background

South West Metal Finishing, who are the largest division within the EIC Group, specialise in the surface treatment of metals, application of coatings and electroplating of metals and began over 80 years ago. They work with a number of large international corporations such as Airbus, BAE, GE, Rolls Royce and Triumph. They work in a wide range of sectors, including aerospace, automotive, energy, marine, medical and electronics. The images shows an example of before (left) and after (right) SWMF's Almbrite surface treatment process

What Did They Want?

SWMF were in the process of submitting a new patent for a post-production surface modification process for additive manufactured components and wanted an objective analysis to be able to support their application. Along with ‘regular’ micrographs, SWMF wanted high resolution micrographs to use for promotional purposes, such as the Farnborough Air Show.

Agreed Analysis Plan

It was agreed that PEMC would analyse four different samples in the FIB-SEM, which included one as-received sample and three samples with varying levels of surface treatment. Along with a general comparison of surface topographies, the samples were tilted in-situ to enhance the visualisation of the surface topography.

Results

Initial observations of the as-received sample showed that the surface had extreme topographical variations. The surface also appeared to contain spheres, which would have been due to the production process. The aim of the SWMF’s surface treatment was to improve the surface finish and reduce the topographical variations. Micrographs were obtained at both 0 ° and 54 ° stage tilt for all samples and were used for SWMF’s patent application. A stage tilt was used to clearly observe the topographical variations.

Company Feedback

"The results from PMCP have aided SWMF in developing a better understanding of the process aided by experts and access to specialist equipment. This has enabled SWMF to achieve its original objectives, by submitting the patent, marketing activities and technical discussions with customers.”