Initial knowledge 1

Current working knowledge 2.5

Prior to undertaking the course the most commonly used finishing technique I had in engaged with was sanding in its various guises.  Throughout the year I have had to do this process numerous times, in fact I seem to have spent a lot of time sanding and finishing at one stage or another.  This was not purely to hide mistakes! although sometimes my work has needed a little ‘tweaking’ in order to obtain a better quality aesthetic.  I needed to use glass papering for my plate rack in order to obtain smooth edges on the acrylic.  The process was started by using a  course low grit glass paper such as 80 or 120 and then moving up to the finer grit paper such as 400 where a truly smooth finish begins to be be obtained.  To get an even better finish the highest grade paper I could find was the 1200 grit and this was best used when wet.  I obtained extremely smooth edges and although quite a drawn out process I feel it is worth the extra time to get the desired effect.  To completely finish my edges I used the static buffing wheel.  Although a useful tool and well worth spending the extra 5 minutes to get a truly polished end product my piece of plastic was slightly large and awkward and so the buffing wheel is probably best used with smaller hand held items.  Such as the acrylic key ring I made in year 7 my first ever DT project!

masked off face to avoid scratching

We had a small metalwork tutorial and were introduced to filing as a finishing technique and I had to utilise this when trying to remove some excess material from my aluminium shell.  I marked the area that needed to be removed, unfortunately it turned out to be about 5mm and so I needed to use quite heavy cross filing initially.  This then progressed to a lighter cross filing using a second cut file.  The temptation is to go as quick as you can when filing although it was pointed out that long smooth strokes are much more efficient and this turned out to be the case.  To finish the edge I used the technique of draw filing with an even smoother file and I was able to turn what was a bit of an uneven jagged edge into a much safer smoother finish.  Like with most finishing techniques I found filing fairly long winded but to obtain the finish I desired it was an important process and certainly worth spending the time doing.

Different types of file:

HAND FILE: Used for general filing of metals such as steel. They are rectangular in section and are the most common type of file used in workshops.


HALF ROUND FILE: Used for filing curved surfaces. A normal hand file with its flat cutting edges is unsuitable for filing curved surfaces. However, the half round file has a curved surface which is especially useful for filing internal curves.


THREE SQUARE FILE: Is triangular in section and very useful when filing ‘tight’ corners / angles. The sharp edges allow the file to fit into corners when filing.


KNIFE FILE: Knife files are very useful when filing where there is little space. Knife files are very thin and can fit into small gaps.


SQUARE FILE: The square file is quite thin and fits into corners well. They can be used to file slots in metal or for filing where there is little space.


Files are often graded according to the roughness / smoothness of cut. The file that has the least harsh teeth is graded as ‘very smooth’. The most abrasive of files is graded as ‘rough’. Some of the grades of cut are shown below.

Types of Metal Finishing 

Metal finishing is used to treat the exterior of a metal product by applying a thin complimentary layer to its surface.  There are numerous types of metal finishing processes that can be used for a variety of purposes. In this guide, we will review the major finishing methods, as well as applications and considerations for choosing a metal finishing process. Some of the general advantages of applying this finishing treatment to a metal product include:

  • Increased durability
  • Improved decorative appeal
  • Enhanced electrical conductivity
  • Higher electrical resistance
  • Higher chemical resistance
  • Higher tarnish resistance
  • Potential for vulcanization

Metal Plating

metal plated watchMetal plating machines use a chemical bath to coat or alter the surface of a substrate with a thin layer of metal, such as nickel or Teflon. The electroplating method generates an electric current to coat the substrate, while electroless plating employs an autocatalytic process in which the substrate catalyzes the reaction.

Metal plating provides a number of advantages as a finishing process. It can improve a product’s durability, corrosion resistance, surface friction, and exterior appearance. It is also a useful option for coating other metals. In high-volume production runs, a barrel-finishing machine is a fast and efficient plating solution. However, plating machines are generally not suited for smoothing out surface defects.

brushed metal lockBrushed Metal

Unlike plating, brushed metal finishing is an effective method for removing surface imperfections. These finishing machines create a uniform, parallel grain surface texture to smooth out a product’s exterior. An abrasive belt or wire brush is usually employed to achieve this effect. In addition, the singular direction of the belt or brush can create slightly rounded edges perpendicular to the grain.

Buff Polishing

If your project requires a smooth, non-textured finish, then a buff polishing machine may be your answer. This machine uses a cloth wheel to buff the product’s surface, resulting in a high, glossy sheen. The process is often used for decorative products that benefit from luster and smoothness.

Buff polishing machines tend to round out a product’s edges, and due to the cloth wheel’s range limits, the process is less effective for applications requiring intricate, fragile, or recessed features.

Metal Grinding

Metal GrinderGrinding machines use friction, attrition and/or compression to smooth out a metal product’s surface. There are several types of grinding machines designed to deliver different levels of finite smoothness. For example, a ball-grinding mill is an excellent fine grinder for cement products, but may not work for more extensive smoothing projects.

Most metal grinding machines consist of a substrate within a rotating drum. Rod mills are used to make metal rods, while semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mills and autogenous grinding mills smooth copper, gold, platinum, and silver.

Metal Vibratory Finishing

Vibratory finishing machines are used to deburr products and remove sharp edges. They position material inside a drum filled with abrasive pellets and a substrate, then apply tumbling vibration to create a uniform random texture. The machine’s cycle speed and magnitude of vibration are usually variable, allowing effective treatment for a range of small- to large-sized parts.

worker sandblastingSand Blasting

Sand-blasting machines are typically employed in projects requiring a uniform matte texture. The process (also known as beadblasting) forces sand, steel shots, metal pellets or other abrasives into a substrate at high speed. This results in a smooth, clean product texture, particularly in soft metals.

Powder Coating

Powder coating applies a decorative finish that is similar to paint, but with greater durability. The process involves melting dry plastic powder onto the metal to produce a textured, matte, or glossy coating. A textured powder-coating machine is also highly effective in removing surface defects.

Hot Blackening

Hot blackening machines spread a thin layer of black oxide onto a product’s surface to create a matte black finish with high abrasion resistance. It is a high-temperature process in which the product is inserted into a series of tanks containing cleaners, caustics, and coolants. Hot blackening is most commonly used in the production of automotive parts, tools, and firearms.

Choosing a Metal Finishing Process

There are a few considerations that can help you narrow your choices in selecting a metal finishing technique suitable for your project. Some helpful things to keep in mind are:

  • Production speed: How quickly does the technique apply finish to the product?
  • Cost-effectiveness: Certain finishing machines (such as vibratory tumblers) can be expensive, but may compensate for their price by delivering faster cycle rates
  • Metal hardness: harder metals usually require more intense finishing techniques, like grinding, or may need tougher abrasives than those used on softer materials
  • Potential for vulcanization
Basic metal finishing, Von Fraunhofer, 1976
I seem to have found a friend in the orbital sander,  I found using this tool my preferred weapon of choice when faced with a large amount of sanding to do for my space saving furniture project .  Again it was a case of starting with the  more abrasive paper and working up in grades to obtain a smoother finish.  I liked using this machine as it is able to cover a larger surface area than I could have done by hand in a quicker time, but it is more suited for sheets of material and for more intricate areas you certainly have more control sanding by hand.  There have been times where I have thought  ‘I’ll just use the orbital sander’ to tidy things up but really it should only be used for getting a smooth finish not to hide any sins that may have occurred in production.  By producing substandard work it only leads to more  work in the long term so the key really is to apply quality control to every aspect of the manufacturing process to ensure that time is not wasted having to try and cover up errors.  Fortunately  it was more a case of smoothing the surface of the wood rather than spending hours trying to make my joints look like they fit as regards the space saving unit.  One instance where I nearly reached for the orbital sander was for the tops of my drawers.  After clamping and gluing them I did have one edge that was slightly raised so the temptation was there.  Instead I chose to use a plane and in particular a jack plane.  This tool was by far the best for the job and after being shown how to set up the cutting blade I was able to get a far neater even finish than I would have done by simply holding the orbital sander down in the corner of the drawer!

After a bit of arm twisting I was also let loose on the belt sander to aid with the finish of my dovetail joints, although they were neat, when clamped and pulled in they sat a little proud but the belt sander helped remove the little bit of excess and made the joints look really nice.  I understand why it is locked as I can see it being slightly erratic and it certainly travels at some speed, fortunately though I managed to keep a tight grip and not turn my work into, and I quote Joe ‘ a dogs dinner’.

Initial knowledge 1

Current working knowledge 3

Sustainability issues can affect environmental, social and economic aspects of the world.  They can affect individuals, groups and communities and businesses and organisations.  Sustainability issues can influence energy and water consumption as well as  everyday things like transport or simply our own health and well-being.  The way we consume fuel and recycle our goods can change pollution levels and waste and have a broader impact on things such as climate change and is a key initiative for other countries as well as our own government with advertising campaigns such as a recent one telling us to think about our carbon footprint.  On a broader scale this leads us to looking at things such as globalisation, consumerism and ethical trade.The truth is many activities, problems and solutions in the issues of sustainability are integrated.

In my first 2 projects I have had a look at the materials I chose to use for the projects and what happens to them when they are finally finished with, I used acrylic in each project so I had to take a closer look at the sustainability and recyclable issues with this plastic.  In each of the projects I featured a small piece of information on the wider impacts of producing and recycling acrylic this is extracted from my ambience light project.

”  The manufacturing process of acrylic involves many toxic chemicals and requires a lot of energy and so it does have a significant impact on the environment. If it is not recycled acrylic is non biodegradable and so will not break up well over time. The highly toxic substances used when manufacturing acrylic require careful storage, handling and disposal. The polymerization process can even result in an explosion if it is not monitored properly and it also produces toxic fumes. Recent legislation states that the polymerization process be carried out in a closed environment and that the fumes be cleaned, captured or otherwise neutralised before being released into the atmosphere.

As acrylic is a group 7 plastic amongst other recyclable plastics it is not collected for recycling in most communities. Large pieces can be reformed into a number of useful objects if they have not suffered too much stress, crazing or cracking but this actually accounts for only a small portion of the acrylic plastic waste.
Acrylic can be depolymerised by heating it to around 400 degrees Celsius, it then decomposes back to its original monomer , Methyl Methacrylate which can then be used to make more acrylic sheet amongst other things.
As I will not be tampering too much with the acrylic sheet I will be using other than re-shaping it, I would hope that in the future it could be melted to make more acrylic sheeting for other peoples future products, currently the majority of the acrylic recycled is formed into bottles or plastic lumber but after doing a little bit of research on the web I found some really interesting alternative uses further displaying its versatility and the benefit of recycling it.

recycled acrylic jewellery
recycled acrylic display cases
even recycled acrylic furniture

The average annual increase in the rate of consumption of acrylic plastics has been about 10%. A future annual growth rate of about 5% is predicted. Despite the fact that acrylic plastics are one of the oldest plastic materials in use today, it still holds the same advantages of optical clarity as a substitute for glass and has a good resistance to outdoor environments as well as in-door applications such as my light, due to its good machine-ability. I remain confident that acrylic will continue to be many peoples choice of plastic so secure, responsible recycling is paramount to ensure that people, not least myself and my classmates continue to benefit from it in the future. ”

Likewise in ED216:

However reflecting on this I have looked at the wider impact of using these materials after I have already decided to include them in my designs.  In order to demonstrate a true awareness, I should have looked at these factors at an earlier date and then I could have looked at whether ecologically these were the most suitable materials or whether there was a more environmentally friendly solution.  This is certainly something I will have a closer look at in ED320 as the project set is aimed at having an impact on the world as a whole.  I did not just look at sustainable materials for ED320, there are many factors that can be considered when actually designing for a sustainable future.  I included these quotes and research in my latest project and it was interesting to read not only about materials but sustainable design principals too.


I have chosen to grade myself throughout the course of the year to assess and mark my progress and engagement within the various areas of the audit.  This should also give me an indication of the areas I need to concentrate on so that I am working at a competent equal level on all fronts.  The grading will start with a the number I feel I deserved at the start of the course followed by the number I feel I am working at currently.  This will give me an indication of the progress  I have made throughout the course of the year.  The system is as follows:

0 = No previous knowledge of  or experience within the subject.

1 = I have heard of the area but have not experienced dealing with the subject matter first hand.

2 = I have actively researched and demonstrated practical knowledge of the subject and work to a competent level.

3 = I feel competent within the subject area and have a good command of various techniques and strategies and I am able to demonstrate these to a high standard.

4=  I feel I have exercised all areas of the specified subject and have no more to learn.

Ideally I want to at least be at a level of 2 -3 in all sections by the end of the year working towards a 3-3.5 by the end of the course.  Learning is an ongoing process that will continue throughout my career so a level 4 is near enough impossible as the areas of the audit are extremely broad although I can but try.

  • C1  Work with design briefs and specifications     2———-2———-3
  • C2  Conduct effective research     2———-2———-3
  • C3  Use of product analysis and disassembly procedures 1———-1———-2.5
  • C4  Create innovative and functional designs     2———-2———-3
  • C5  Familiarity with computer aided design and modelling     1———-2———-3
  • C6  Command of visual communication techniques     2———-2.5———-3
  • C7  Construction of working drawings     1———-2———-3
  • C8  Familiarity with product modelling techniques   1———-2———-2.5
  • C9  Understanding of packaging design     2———–2———-2
  • C10  Application of quality control and quality assurance     1———-2———-2.5
  • C11  Awareness of sustainability issues and wider impact     1———-2———-3
  • C12  Track project budgets and costs     1———-2———-2.5
  • C13  Use of ergonomic and anthropometric data     1———-1———-2.5
  • C14  General use of ICT     1———-2———-3
  • C15  Knowledge of history of design     1———2———-2.5
  • Systems and Control
  • S1  Using a systems approach to circuit design     0———-1———-2
  • S2  Create and interpret circuit diagrams     1———-2———-2.5
  • S3  Design basic circuits using discrete components     0———-2———-2.5
  • S4  Design basic digital circuits     0———-1———-2.5
  • S5  Use software for circuit simulation     0———-2———-2.5
  • S6  Use prototyping techniques for testing circuits     0———-1———-2.5
  • S7  Use software to design pcbs     0———-1———–1
  • S8  Small scale production of functional circuits          0———-2———-2.5
  • S9  Use and combine commercial modules          0———-0———-1.5
  • S10  Create and interpret flow charts     0———-2————2
  • S11  Work with programmable systems     0———-2———-3
  • S12  Create fault-finding, test and calibration procedures     0———-1———-2.5
  • S13  Design and analyse basic mechanical systems          0———-1———-2
  • S14  Design and analyse basic structures     0———-1———-2
  • S15  Health and safety     0———-2———-2.5
  • Resistant Materials
  • R1  Classification and structure of materials     1———-2———-2.5
  • R2  Working properties of materials     1———-2———-2.5
  • R3  Effects of combining materials     1———-1———-2
  • R4  Components     1———-1———-2
  • R5  Marking out techniques     1———-2———-3
  • R6  Joining techniques     1———-2———-3
  • R7  Shaping techniques     1———-2———-2.5
  • R8  Finishing techniques     1———-2———-2.5
  • R9  Machining     1———-1———-2
  • R10  Heat treatment     1———-1———-1
  • R11  Computer aided manufacture     1———-2———2.5
  • R12  Integration of smart and modern materials     0———-1———-2
  • R13  Health and safety     1———-2———-3
  • Extension (KS4/5)
  • X1  Awareness of industrial processes
  • X2  Awareness of new and future developments
  • X3  Knowledge of micro/molecular principles
  • X4  Use of detailed data to aid in designing

For ED320 it was absolutely vital that I obtained and used all the data available to me to assess sizing the space saving unit and ensuring it was stable, durable and functional.  I endeavored to in depth research on ergonomics and anthropometrics by obtaining as many books as I could on human sizing, designing for humans, and designing for humans in the office.  It was by looking across all the data that I was able to compare averages, view sizes that were considered universally sound and obtain recommended sizings from everything from knee clearance to the correct height of the backrest to support the lower back so as not to cause discomfort.  With estimations on what you think are  the correct sizings it can lead to all manner of problems when you think that something like the leg itself is split into around 5 sections that need monitoring in order to produce a height that is not going to cause discomfort.  Measurements need to be accurately cumulated for things like foot space, calf height, knee clearance, back of the thigh length and hip width as these are all factors that trans-duce to forming a comfortable seating position.  It underlines the importance of not only gathering the data but using the findings to come up with solutions that will be beneficial for anybody wishing to use your item.  At the start of the year we were warned against making chairs and in all honesty had I not accumulated the data prior to manufacturing the unit then it could have been a bit of a car crash.  I had an idea of what I thought would be appropriate measurements, so much so that in my initial designs I actually detailed the measurements in annotation.  However it was not until I did the in-depth research that  I realised how wide of the mark these guestimations were.  Add to that a desk also included within the design and you realise the lengths of accuracy you need to go to as to not producing a product that can actually lead to causing pain in the future by not correctly supporting the back or leading to users arching their spine to lean over and actually be able to practically use the product.  Designing for humans is certainly not an easy area to judge because as a species we are growing in height average all the time so I feel that it is important that the data used is not only detailed but also up to date.

In an ever changing more technologically minded society it is of no suprise that we are already engineering functional systems on a molecular level.  This is otherwise known as nanotechnology.  It can cover both current work and concepts that are altogether more advanced. Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary science that looks at how we can manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic level. To do this, we must work on the nanoscale.

Truly revolutionary nanotechnology products, materials and applications, such as nanorobotics, are years in the future some say only a few years yet others believe it will be longer.  What that shows me is not if such technology will happen but when. What qualifies as “nanotechnology” today is basic research and development that is happening in laboratories all over the world. “Nanotechnology” products that are on the market today are mostly gradually improved products using revolutionary nanotechnology where some form of nanotechnology enabled material (such as carbon nanotubes, nanocomposite structures or nanoparticles of a particular substance) or nanotechnology process (e.g. nanopatterning or quantum dots for medical imaging) is used in the manufacturing process. In their ongoing quest to improve existing products by creating smaller components and better performance materials, all at a lower cost, the number of companies that will manufacture “nanoproducts” (by this definition) will grow very fast and soon make up the majority of all companies across many industries. Evolutionary nanotechnology should therefore be viewed as a process that gradually will affect most companies and industries.

Manufacturing methods:

Forming- Liquid state, plastic state, solid state

Cutting- Sheet cutting, chip forming, nonchip forming, flame/laser

Joining- Solder/braze, weld, adhesive, mechanical

Finishing- formed, abrasive/cut, coatings

Metal can be cast in liquid state where it is heated above melt temperature, then pored or injected into a mold, or as a powder in the fluid state.  Casting is an efficient way to get metal where it is required usually eliminating the need for machining or assembly.  New castings processes are in fluid state forming.  In squeeze forming or thixomolding, magnesium is heated to near melt temperature, it is then squeezed into a mold under high pressure.  In metal injection molding, metal powder is mixed with a binder, then heated and injected into a mold.

Metal cutting:  In nonchip forming, chemical/electrical, chemical, mechanical and/or thermal processes are used to cut metal.  Sheet metal punching or shearing is important in industrial design especially in office products and equipment design.  Punching is done by a CNC sheet metal machining center with limited contouring and forming abilities, these machines are extremely accurate and fast and perform rapid tool changes.  Nonchip forming cutting machining includes lathe turning, mills, grinding, broach drilling and boring.

Metal joining can be done through thermo joining such as welding and soldering, adhesives and mechanical methods such as screws, bolts, nuts, studs, inserts which are all threaded.  Special purpose methods such as, stamped spring steel, quick operating, stud clips, wire twist and plastic.  Also there are non threaded methods such as rivets, pins, retaining rings and washers.

Finishings and coatings

Finishings and coatings are important because appearance is one of the prime responsibilities of an industrial designer.  Appearance, form and finish are determining aspects of a product.  Appearance can play a deciding factor in the success or failure of a product in both the consumer market and the industrial market.  While the finish is a key aspect of appearance, the protective and functional aspects of the finish are equally important.  The options available will have to be chosen through the same sort of cost benefit analysis is utilized in all design decisions.  All aspects of finish must be considered including cost, compatibility, colour, gloss, texture and durability.  The final choice should not be made after the product has been designed.  The finish is one of the factors that must be taken into account when a decision is made to begin the design process.

Appearance finishing and coatings

Formed textures – molded textures, rolled textures, woven screen

Cut textures and abrasive finishing

Machined patterns- milled textures, perforated finishes and expanded patterns.                                                                                                                     Abrasive finishing- finishing operations, deburring, wire brush,grinding fluids.

Protective and decorative coatings –

Interim – conversion, and anodic.   Durable – organic, inorganic.  Permanent – hot dip, mechanical plating, electroplating, electroless plating, vacuum metalizing, sputtering and flame spraying                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Plastics

Liquid state thermoset forming

Part forming- Casting, foam molding, contact molding, spray-up process, reaction injection molding, transfer molding, compression molding, reinforced plastic molding, injection molding

Stock sheet and shape forming- Extrusion, pultrusion, laminating

Thermoplastic forming liquid state

Part forming- Casting/potting, rotational molding, compression molding, transfer molding, injection molding

Stock sheet/shape forming – extrusion, calendering, pultrusion

Joining plastics

Chemical bond- Adhesives, solvent

Welding – Friction- ultrasonic, spin,vibration.

Applied heat – Hot plate, induction, stake/swedge.

Mechanical – Displacement – snap fit, pop on.

Molded – Threads, interlock, press fit

Fasteners – Rivets, screws, inserts