Roughness Reduction of Additively Manufactured Steel by Electropolishing

  • Pawan TyagiEmail author
  • Denikka Brent
  • Tyler Saunders
  • Tobias Goulet
  • Christopher Riso
  • Kate Klein
  • Francisco Garcia Moreno


Improving surface finishing is the critical step in the application of an additively manufactured (AM) component in high fatigue and corrosion-sensitive fields. This paper provides insights into surface properties of electropolished AM component made up of 316 stainless steel with > 6% carbon. We performed surface analysis with profilometer, scanning electron microscope, and AFM to investigate the electropolished and unpolished AM components. The first major discovery of the present work is that our optical profilometry study provided an estimate of the amount of material to be removed to achieve a shiny and smooth surface on 316 stainless steel AM part. One needs to remove more than 200 μm thick layer from the surface to make a mirror-smooth surface. Such estimation can enable researchers to incorporate requisite tolerance during the design stage itself. The second important finding of our work is that ultrasmooth microstructure on the AM surface appeared when preferential material removal occurred along the boundary of the hexagonal microscopic features. Additionally, our optical profilometry studies provided an analysis of several roughness parameters on the electropolished surface. Electropolishing was effective in reducing the surface roughness below ~ 0.1 μm RMS over microscopic regions. Observation of sub-μm RMS roughness was consistently observed with the optical profilometer, SEM, and AFM. SEM study revealed a significant change in the microstructure of the electropolished samples in a medium and highly smooth state. We also conducted a water contact angle study and spectroscopic reflectance study on electropolished and unpolished AM component surfaces. Our study revealed that electropolishing is a highly promising route for improving the surface finishing of AM components.


Additive manufacturing Roughness Electropolishing 3D printing SEM 


Funding information

We gratefully acknowledge the funding support from National Science Foundation-CREST Award (Contract # HRD- 1914751) and Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Agency (DE-FOA-0003945). This work is supported by the Department of Energy’s Kansas City National Security Campus. The Department of Energy’s Kansas City National Security Campus is operated and managed by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, LLC under contract number DE-NA0002839. We also thank Sebastian and Matt Jobins of Nanoscience Instrument for the assistance with SEM imaging. We appreciate assistance from Jim Elmen of Filmetrics for optical profilometry.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of the District of ColumbiaWashington DCUSA
  2. 2.Department of Energy’s National Security CampusHoneywellKansas CityUSA

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