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Masking irregular shaped parts during metal finishing

Masking Irregular Shapes during metal finishing

Masking plays a crucial role in metal finishing, especially for irregular-shaped parts. It involves covering specific areas of a part to prevent them from being exposed to the finishing process. Masking is important for two main reasons:

Protecting Specific Areas

During metal finishing, some areas of a part may need to be protected from the process. For example, threaded holes, mating surfaces, or bearing surfaces may need to be kept free of any coating or plating. Masking ensures these areas remain unaltered during the finishing process.

Ensuring Consistent Finishing

Masking also helps achieve a consistent and uniform finish on the surface of a part. By protecting specific areas, the finishing process can be applied evenly, resulting in a high-quality final product.

Types of Masking Techniques

There are several masking techniques available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The most common techniques include tape masking, and custom masking solutions.

Tape Masking

Tape masking involves using adhesive tapes to cover the areas of a part that need to be protected. These tapes are specifically designed for masking purposes and can withstand the chemicals and temperatures involved in metal finishing processes.

Advantages of Tape Masking

  1. Easy to apply and remove, making it suitable for small-scale production or prototypes.
  2. Provides a reliable seal when applied correctly.

Disadvantages of Tape Masking

  1. Can be challenging to apply on irregular or complex shapes.
  2. May not provide a tight seal on parts with sharp edges or tight corners.

Custom Masking Solutions

Custom masking solutions involve designing and manufacturing masks specifically for a particular part or application. These masks can be made from various materials, such as silicone, rubber, or metal, and are designed to fit the part precisely.

Advantages of Custom Masking Solutions

  1. Provides the best fit and seal for irregular-shaped parts.
  2. Can be more efficient for high-volume production.

Disadvantages of Custom Masking Solutions

  1. Higher initial cost due to the design and production of custom masks.
  2. Longer lead times for mask production.

Selecting the Right Masking Technique for Irregular-Shaped Parts

To choose the best masking technique for irregular-shaped parts, several factors need to be considered.

Masking irregular shaped parts: Factors to Consider

Shape and Size of the Part

Complex shapes, tight corners, and intricate features may require custom masking solutions for the best fit and protection. In contrast, simpler parts with fewer geometric complexities may be suitable for liquid or tape masking.

Metal Finishing Process

The specific metal finishing process being used can influence the choice of masking technique. For instance, some processes may require higher temperature resistance, necessitating the use of specialized masking materials.

Production Volume

The volume of parts being processed can also impact the choice of masking technique. For high-volume production, custom masking solutions may be more efficient and cost-effective in the long run. However, for low-volume production or prototyping, liquid or tape masking may be more appropriate.

Tips for Effective Masking of Irregular Shaped Parts

  1. Carefully assess the part’s geometry to determine the best masking technique.
  2. Test the masking materials to ensure they can withstand the chemicals and temperatures involved in the metal finishing process.
  3. Make sure the mask is applied and removed carefully to prevent damage to the part or the mask itself.
  4. Inspect the parts after the finishing process to ensure the masked areas are free of any residue or damage.


Masking is a crucial aspect of metal finishing, especially for irregular-shaped parts. By selecting the right masking technique and following best practices, manufacturers can achieve a consistent, high-quality finish on their products while protecting critical areas from the finishing process. The choice between liquid masking, tape masking, and custom masking solutions depends on factors such as part geometry, the specific finishing process, and production volume.


  1. What is the purpose of masking in metal finishing? Masking protects specific areas of a part from being exposed to the finishing process, ensuring a consistent and uniform finish.
  2. What are the common masking techniques used in metal finishing? The most common masking techniques include liquid masking, tape masking, and custom masking solutions.
  3. How do I choose the best masking technique for my irregular-shaped parts? Consider factors such as part shape and size, the metal finishing process being used, and production volume to determine the best masking technique for your specific application.
  4. Are there any disadvantages to using custom masking solutions? Custom masking solutions can have higher initial costs due to the design and production of custom masks, as well as longer lead times for mask production. However, they often provide the best fit and protection for irregular-shaped parts.
  5. Can masking materials be reused? Some masking materials, such as custom masks made from silicone or metal, can be reused multiple times if they are properly cared for and not damaged during the finishing process. However, liquid masking and tape masking materials are typically single-use.
  6. How can I ensure that the masked areas are properly protected during the metal finishing process?To ensure the masked areas are well-protected, follow these steps: a. Choose the appropriate masking technique and material based on the part’s geometry and the specific finishing process. b. Properly clean and prepare the part’s surface before applying the mask. c. Apply the mask with care, ensuring a tight seal and full coverage of the areas to be protected. d. Inspect the masked parts before and after the finishing process to ensure that the masking material has remained intact and the protected areas are free from residue or damage.
  7. How does the choice of masking technique affect the overall cost of metal finishing?The choice of masking technique can impact the overall cost of metal finishing in several ways. While custom masking solutions may have higher initial costs due to design and production, they can offer long-term cost savings through increased efficiency and reduced rework for high-volume production. On the other hand, liquid and tape masking techniques may be more cost-effective for small-scale production or prototyping, but they can be time-consuming and less reliable for complex or irregular-shaped parts.
  8. What factors should be considered when choosing a masking material?When selecting a masking material, consider the following factors: a. Compatibility with the specific metal finishing process, including resistance to chemicals and temperatures involved. b. Ease of application and removal. c. Ability to conform to complex or irregular shapes. d. Reusability, if applicable.
  9. How can I ensure that the masking material does not damage the part during the metal finishing process?To prevent damage to the part during the metal finishing process, make sure to: a. Choose the appropriate masking material that is compatible with the specific finishing process. b. Properly clean and prepare the part’s surface before applying the mask. c. Apply the mask carefully, avoiding excessive pressure or stretching that could cause damage. d. Remove the mask gently after the finishing process, following the manufacturer’s guidelines for removal.
  10. Is it possible to automate the masking process for irregular-shaped parts?
    Automating the masking process for irregular-shaped parts can be challenging due to the complex geometry of the parts. However, some advanced automation systems, such as robotic arms with machine vision, can be used to apply masks with high precision. The choice of masking technique and material, as well as the specific requirements of the metal finishing process, will influence the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of automation for masking irregular-shaped parts.
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Manufacture silicone rubber parts | 10 Step Production Schedule

Manufacture Silicone Rubber Parts

Manufacture silicone rubber parts

Custom Parts (Moulded) Production Schedule

Producing custom made silicone parts is something we’ve been doing for decades. We manufacture silicone rubber parts both in the UK and overseas. It’s not just silicone rubber parts we have moulded either.

All our customers have very specific needs and to maintain our zero-returns record, AFAC operates a stringent set of rules to manufacture silicone rubber parts. As you’d expect there’s a formal process we run through to ensure quality of service and solution.

From initial enquiry through to managing ongoing volume needs, AFAC will satisfy, and attempt to exceed, your expectations.

1. Parts defined

  1. It’s perfectly normal for us to expect to sign NDAs at this point.
  2. Whether you wish to manufacture silicone rubber parts that are a modification of an existing design or require a design creating from scratch, AFAC will assist you in proposing a solution to suit your requirement.
  3. To manufacture silicone rubber parts it is useful at this stage to provide .STEP files of the application required to AFAC’s design team for analysis.
    Est. 3-4 days.

2. Drawing created

  1. Our design team will create the necessary files for production to manufacture silicone rubber parts.
    Est. 48 hrs

3. Drawing approved

  1. You will be provided with PDFs clarifying design and dimensions.
  2. It’s important to check all details at this stage to ensure design meets requirements.
    Est. 48 hrs – Customer dependent

4. Drawing sent to production

  1. Acknowledgement of drawing receipt from production.
    24 hrs

5. Prototype tool created

  1. Initially a single impression prototype tool is machined from steel.
  2. Once tool is machined, prototype parts are produced to enable customer approval.
    5 days

6. Prototype parts received

  1. With production being on the other side of the world, you’ll have to wait for a plane to arrive before you receive your prototype parts.
  2. AFAC inspection takes place before forwarding the parts to you.
    5-7 days

7. Prototype parts approved

  1. You’ve now got your prototypes in your hand.
  2. These are fully testable prototype parts. You can take your time to ensure the product is fit for purpose.
    Est. 7-14 days – Customer dependent

8. Production tool created

  1. Ok, the prototypes worked, so now we need your approval.
  2. You’ll have signed the drawing off and paid for your goods in full at this point.
  3. Your multi – impression production tool is then machined from steel.
    21 days

9. Production parts manufactured

  1. Tool made, parts coming out of the mould in volume.
  2. You will have specified colour and shore value earlier in the process.
    21-28 days

10. Shipping

  1. You have a choice here but with choice comes price. It all comes down to how urgent your parts are.
  2. For volume customers we normally recommend only using air to satisfy the 8-10 week requirements until sea shipment arrival.
    Air – 5-7 days
    Sea – 8-10 weeks

Supporting quality manufacturing and metal finishing companies requiring price conscious precision masking supplies. Leading companies from the Automotive, Aerospace, Switchgear & Lighting sectors choose AFAC for reliability, service and price.

Founded over 35 years ago, AFAC has designed, adapted and developed substantial ranges of standard parts supported by a comprehensive bespoke bureau. Engineering backgrounds and family roots give AFAC that competitive edge on service.

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What’s different about rubber moulding and rubber extrusion?

What’s the difference between a moulding and an extrusion?

The differences between rubber moulding and rubber extrusion are really simple. The are different manufacturing methods for producing shaped rubber components.

The easiest way to know the difference between extrusions and mouldings is simple.


Rubber extrusions

Extrusions are moulded items such as tubes which can be produced in endless lengths. Extrusion involves forcing uncured rubber through a shaped tool and curing immediately afterwards. Extruding rubber is like turning a tap on that produces whatever 2 dimensional profile you require in continuous length.

Tubing is by far the most common type of extrusion but extrusions are commonly found in seals and

Shop for extrusions

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Rubber Mouldings

Mouldings are the opposite. Mouldings are 3 dimensional shapes. Mouldings are produced by forcing uncured rubber into a mould with no exit. The mould is then emptied and the cycle repeated. Mouldings are always numbers of parts produced.

Plugs, caps, o-rings, seals & gaskets are more common mouldings used in industrial applications.

Shop for mouldings





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Manufacturing using 3D Printing – Roll on the Revolution!

How will manufacturers benefit from 3d printing?

Most of us have known about the advent of 3D printing for a while now. But what the inventors haven’t so far been able to show us is how its application is going to revolutionise certain industrial manufacturing processes. However, forward thinking businesses, such as AFAC, are starting to explore its potential—and now that it’s possible to 3D print in rubber, we can see a great future ahead!

3D printing – what is it and how does it work?

If you’ve seen a 3D printer at work, it’s an extraordinary sight to behold. A template in the form of a computer generated .cad file gives the printer its template. Press ‘PRINT’, and a stream of plasticising powder is fused with a bonding element to form a 3D plastic reproduction of the template. Furthermore, the technology has the ability to recreate complex objects, complete with moving parts—and all to an incredible degree of accuracy. But it’s not just plastic creations that can issue forth from the latest 3D printers. New printers have been unveiled that can create complicated multi-coloured sweets from sugar and chocolate. Just what the world has been waiting for!

To see an amazing 3D print out, take a look at this QI clip.

New 3D printing applications in manufacturing

However, more useful applications might not have the novelty value of spun sugar but they may revolutionise manufacturing as we know it. For AFAC, the eureka moment came when Ryan Mullins discovered that 3D printing in rubber is also available.

Rubber? What’s the big deal?

To date, most 3D printing has used plastic. For AFAC, plastic prototypes are not ideal for demonstrating a wide range of products which are generally made from rubber. The rigid nature of plastic doesn’t adequately show how the rubber and silicone plugs and covers will perform.

However, using a 3D printer to create rubber prototypes represents a game-changer for two reasons:

  • For AFAC, the properties of rubber are an integral aspect to the product design and effectiveness of proving concept for the vast majority of its products. In future, we will be able to utilise 3D rubber printing to produce rubber items with varying shore values as a way to provide the fastest and most efficient prototyping service for our clients. Lead times in bespoke product development will be slashed.
  • As 3D printing technology advances, costs will fall and its use will become widespread in all areas of mass production. 3D printing in rubber will reduce the cost of custom mouldings production. Tooling costs will exchanged for cheaper printer set-up charges and bespoke rubber prototypes will become available overnight. We’re not there yet, but with advances in the technology to increase the variety of materials and colours available, we will be soon.

3D Printing for designers and product development

For product designers and developers, this represents a massive leap forward. It’s conceivable that one could move from idea to full production in just a matter of hours. And with your own in-house 3D printing facilities, fears about product protection and pirating simply evaporate.

The UK has built its reputation on the extraordinary skill of its niche designers and product developers. 3D printing will hopefully allow more of the subsequent manufacturing to be based once again on British soil. And hopefully, AFAC will be one of the companies leading the way.