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anodizing aluminum finishes custom part

Top 7 Types of Aluminum Finishes To Elevate Your CNC Parts

Aluminum finishes are crucial in enhancing the performance and aesthetics of CNC parts made from this versatile metal. Designers and manufacturers widely favor aluminum for its remarkable strength-to-weight ratio, good thermal and electrical conductivity, and excellent corrosion resistance.

However, aluminum parts often require additional finishing procedures to ensure optimal functionality in various applications. By selecting the right aluminum finish for your products, you can elevate their cosmetic appearance, performance, and wear resistance, among other benefits.

This guide explores the importance of aluminium finishes, the common types, and helpful tips for choosing the ideal finish for your aluminum products. Read on to learn more about the topic!

The Importance of Aluminum Finishes

powder coat steel parts
Powder Coating

The aluminum finish choice significantly affects the overall performance, appearance, and durability of aluminum parts in various industries. Below are some of the importance of aluminum finishes:

Corrosion Resistance

Aluminum is innately corrosion-resistant because of its oxide layer. However, you can further improve this attribute with finishes, including powder coating, painting, and anodizing. These aluminum surface finishes form a protective barrier that guarantees the extended lifespan of the aluminum products subjected to corrosive substances and harsh environments.

Ultraviolet Resistance

Aluminum surface finishes, including specialized coating, anodizing, and powder coating, offer extra protection against UV radiation. Aluminum surface finishes are ideal for exterior applications, including architectural elements involving extended exposure to sunlight, which causes aluminum components to fade and deteriorate.

Aesthetic Appeal

beadblst and gold anodized aluminum custom part
BeadBlst and Gold Anodized Aluminum Custom Part

An aluminum finish enhances the physical appeal of aluminum products and structures. Different surface finishes have options for varying colors, textures, and gloss levels. Therefore, you can achieve particular aesthetic qualities to meet customer requirements and brand preferences.


Manufacturers and product designers often employ different aluminum surface finishes to significantly improve corrosion resistance in aluminum extrusions, making them more durable. For example, anodized aluminum has a scratch-resistant surface, enhancing its surface quality. Anodized aluminum lasts longer when exposed to abrasion, friction, or regular use.

Improved Lubricity

Surface finishes are suitable for reducing friction and enhancing the surface lubricity of aluminum alloys. Improved lubricity is essential in applications such as automotive manufacturing, where aluminum must slide or move smoothly.

Mechanical Finishes

aluminum sandblasting
Aluminum Sandblasting

Mechanical finishes comprise a variety of processes used to enhance the surface of aluminum components for varying surface textures. These mechanical finishes differ from chemical finishes because they involve using abrasive media to improve the surface of an aluminum part.

Below are the typical ways of achieving mechanical finishes with aluminum:


Sandblasting is a common aluminum finish used to remove debris from the surface of aluminum parts, providing an extensive range of textures. This abrasive blasting type helps to achieve finite shaping by blasting the aluminum surface using a pressurized fluid mixed with sand material. Likewise, you can use sandblasting to shape the surface of aluminum profiles or eliminate surface contaminants.


Aluminum polishing involves using a profile polishing machine to achieve a smooth and remarkably reflective surface. The method employs a soft cloth filled with abrasive grains to wipe across the aluminum profiles’ surface, revealing its shine.

This process provides a shiny and smooth finish that is perfect for decorative purposes. However, parts with recessed details or fragile parts are incompatible due to constraints on the wheel’s cloth reach.

Satin Brushed

aluminum satin brushed finish
Aluminum Satin Brushed Finish

Satin brushed finish is suitable for eliminating any imperfection from the surface of aluminum components, providing a soft, non-reflective, and fine-grained surface with a fine shine.

This process involves brushing the aluminum surface with abrasive belts or brushes in a uniform linear pattern to achieve the desired results. This surface finish improves durability and allows easy customization.

Chemical Finishes

Chemical finishes utilize chemical treatments to enhance aluminum extrusions’ corrosion resistance and aesthetic appeal. Below are typical examples of chemical finishes for aluminum parts:


beadblast and clear anodized aluminum
BeadBlast and Clear Anodized Aluminum

Anodizing is a popular electrochemical process used to enhance aluminum parts’ resistance to corrosion and wear. Also, this inorganic surface finish offers other desirable advantages, including improved heat dissipation and excellent abrasion resistance. Similarly, anodized aluminum exhibits better adhesion for primers, glues, and paints.

The electrochemical process thickens the natural oxide film to form a dense film on the surface of anodized aluminum for additional protection. This oxide film protects the aluminum beneath from its working environment. Also, you can achieve an aluminum oxide film of varying thicknesses.

However, anodized aluminum parts accept vibrant colors although it has a limited color range than powder coating. The electrolytic bath makes the aluminum surfaces porous and filled with micro-pores suitable for dye application.

Chrome Plating

al7075 cnc milling chrome plating
Aluminum 7075 CNC Milling Chrome Plating

Chrome plating is a commonly used finish in different applications and industries. It provides a shiny luster and protective film when applied to aluminum extrusions. Chrome plating is ideal for enhancing the desirable properties of aluminum components and decorative purposes. Below are the two types of chrome plating that offer these benefits:

  • Hard Chrome Plating

Hard chrome plating or industrial or engineered chrome plating is a commonly embraced finish in various applications because of its excellent corrosion resistance, strength, and other remarkable properties. This chrome plating process provides a highly thick film through an electroplating process that involves submerging aluminum extrusion in a chromic acid solution.

The common types of hard chrome plating include porous chromium, micro-porous, and crack-free chromium. Hard chrome thickness typically varies between 0.02mm and 0.04mm. Hard chroming boosts aluminum components’ durability, making them chemically resistant.

  • Decorative Chrome Plating

Decorative chrome plating is usually thinner than hard chrome plating since it is commonly used for aluminum parts’ surface protection and aesthetic appeal. This chrome plating type begins with electroplating nickel and then chrome plating. Moreover, you can substitute copper for nickel since they offer similar levels of smoothness and reflectivity.

Besides, decorative chrome plating is inferior to hard chrome plating since it is thinner. Its standard thickness range is between 0.002mm and 0.2mm. Enhanced visual appeal, easy cleaning, wear and corrosion resistance are typical benefits of decorative chrome plating.

Alodine (Chemical Conversion Coating)

aluminum alodine chromate conversion coatings
Aluminum Alodine Chromate Conversion Coatings

Alodine or chemical conversion coating strengthens the passivating oxide layer on the aluminum parts’ surface, ensuring better corrosion protection. Chromium acid and chromium salt react with an aqueous compound to form a durable adhesive coating.

Chemical conversion coating offers high electrical conductivity required in certain applications even though it is not as dense or resistant to wear as anodized aluminum. Similarly, alodined aluminum applies to military, precision machining, and aerospace industries. However, it would help to note that this process provides an aluminum finish with low abrasion resistance.

Paint & Powder Coatings

al5083 h111 conversion coating powder coating
Al5083-H111_Conversion Coating_Powder Coating

These coatings are color-finishing techniques and offer high-gloss-, semi-gloss, gloss, matte, and satin finishes. Powder coating finish is strong, durable, attractive, and applicable to different surfaces. Powder coating is environmentally friendly since it doesn’t contain toxins or produce waste during a particular application. The aluminum coating forms a smooth surface with uniform thickness and without visible application marks.

Liquid painting is an attractive choice whenever your product requires a particular color and high resistance to fading. These paints provide a thin film with a smooth texture that lasts longer on the surface of aluminum parts. Likewise, liquid paint provides extensive color possibilities and can be combined in varying quantities depending on your product requirements, especially in signage applications.

The use of solvent marks the difference between these finishes. Traditional paint maintains its liquidity with the help of a solvent, and then it becomes solid as it dries. Conversely, powder coating doesn’t need solvents since it retains its solid form during application. Solvents often include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making them toxic. Meanwhile, powder coating doesn’t produce harmful VOCs. Therefore, powder coating is safer and eco-friendly than painted finishes.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Aluminum Finish

custom anodized aluminum parts
Custom Anodized Aluminum Parts

This section discusses the essential considerations to determine if a surface finish matches your product requirements. Below are typical factors to consider:

Intended Application and Environment

Identify if the aluminum components will be used indoors or outdoors. Exterior applications often require a specific finishing process for improved resistance to corrosive substances, temperature fluctuations, and UV radiation.

More so, it is advisable to use a finish that offers chemical resistance if the aluminum component is subjected to corrosive substances. Additionally, consider if the components will be subjected to considerable wear and tear, including impact or abrasion. Choose the ideal finish to ensure excellent durability and resistance to abrasion.

Desired Visual Appearance

car wheels
CNC Machined Parts Anodized Aluminum Automotive Wheels

Examine the aesthetic requirements of your aluminum products to choose the ideal finish that suits your design requirements. Various aluminum finishes provide a preferred visual appearance with an extensive color range, textures, and gloss levels. For instance, a mill-finish aluminum surface is usually dull and has tooling marks.

However, you can give your extruded aluminum parts a mirror-like appearance finish, such as bright dipping. Also, some finishing treatments may provide variation in texture or vibrant colors depending on your project requirement. Therefore, decide if the intended application requires a consistent appearance.

Maintenance Requirements and Durability

Evaluate the expected lifespan of the aluminum parts and employ a finish that provides the desired durability. For instance, anodizing extruded aluminum ensures long-term protection.

However, evaluating the maintenance level a particular aluminum finish will need is advisable. Aluminum finish, such as powder coating, generally have low maintenance requirements. Additionally, certain finishes allow easier cleaning and maintenance of aluminum surfaces. Therefore, ensure you examine this when deciding the ideal finish for your application if cleaning ease is a priority.

Cost Implications

The upfront costs of aluminum finishes vary significantly. Hence, it would be best to consider your budget limitations and pick a finish that fits your project’s budget. Examine the overall cost of ownership, including the maintenance and possible part replacement costs. Choosing a more durable finish may compensate for high initial costs if it reduces long-term expenses.

Harnessing the Full Potential of Aluminum Finishes

AT-Machining Anodizing Factory

It would be helpful to understand the different surface finishing techniques to exploit the full potential of aluminum finishes. These processes are undoubtedly perfect for enhancing your products with attributes such as aesthetic appeal, paint adhesion, durability, lubricity, electrical insulation, and resistance to wear and corrosive substances.

Since aluminum is a highly adaptable material, manufacturers and product designers use it for various purposes. Consequently, you can furnish your aluminum products with the desired protective, functional, and aesthetic qualities by fully utilizing the potential of aluminum finishes.


There are many surface finishing treatments compatible with any aluminum alloy. Therefore, using the appropriate finish is ideal for elevating your aluminum products, considering all the factors involved. Aluminum product finishing is a cost-efficient strategy for preventing frequent replacement of unprotected aluminum components. This guide has discussed different surface finishes suitable for your product design. Therefore, depending on your preferred results, you can choose the ideal finish for your products. Aluminum finishes serve as both protective armor and a decorative showcase for products.

at machining surface finishing services 1
AT-Machining Surface Finishing Services

As you embark on your next project, consider which finish best encapsulates your product’s essence. At AT-Machining, we’re more than just machining experts; we’re your guide in the nuanced world of aluminum finishes. Reach out to discover how we can elevate your products together.

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From AT-Machining, I’m a CNC Machining Expert in this field for more than 20 years.  We offer cost-effective machining services from China. Ask for a quote for your ongoing or upcoming projects now!

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