Complete Guide to Surface Finish Symbols, Charts, Ra, Rz, Measurements

Welcome to our Complete Guide to Surface Finish Symbols, Charts, Ra, Rz Measurements, and More! Whether you’re delving into the world of engineering, manufacturing, or design, understanding surface finish is paramount. It’s not just about aesthetics; it plays a crucial role in functionality, performance, and even the lifespan of your products.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll navigate through the intricate world of surface finishes, providing you with a detailed understanding of surface finish symbols, charts, and measurements like Ra and Rz. But we won’t stop there. We’ll also explore why surface finish matters, offering practical insights into how it can impact your projects and products.

From deciphering the cryptic symbols to demystifying the complex measurements, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, this guide is designed to equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to make informed decisions about surface finishes.


What is Surface Finish?
Surface finish symbols
Surface finish charts
Ra, Rz measurements
How to measure surface roughness
Tips for improving surface finish
Examples of surface finishes

What is Surface Finish?

Surface finish is a term describing the texture of the surface of a printed object. It is typically defined in terms of its roughness, waviness, and lay. Roughness measures the average height of peaks and valleys on the surface, while waviness addresses longer-wavelength variations, such as uneveness in successive layers. Lay is when streaks or bands appear on the surface, usually due to improper printer calibration or material properties. The combination of these factors determines a print’s overall surface finish and how closely it matches its original design specifications.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has published Y14.36M Standard for Surface Texture Symbols, which describes the correct specification and use of surface texture symbols on technical drawings, and ASME has also published B41.6 Standard for Surface Texture, which contains a definition and measurement of surface finish.

What is Surface Finish

Surface finish symbols

Surface finish symbols are used to indicate the degree of precision of the surface in a print. The symbols represent various levels of roughness, waviness, and lay, and can be used to analyze the quality of the 3D printed parts’ surface. For instance, a symbol with three short lines indicates a Class 3 surface finish, with medium roughness and moderate accuracy. Knowing these symbology standards can help determine how well your prints will match their original design specifications.

Depending on the part, this can range from a Class 2 finish, which is characterized by a smooth finish and minimal waviness, to a Class 5 finish which has low roughness but high accuracy.

Terminology explanation

surface finish Terminology explanation

Symbols indicating target surface and the position of these symbols

Symbols indicating target surface and the position of these symbols

This surface roughness indication method pictorially displays information such as the surface roughness value, cutoff value, sampling length, machining method, crease direction symbol, and surface waviness on the surface indication symbol as shown below.

surface roughness indication method

  • a: Passband or sampling length and surface texture parameter symbol and value
  • b: Indications of the second and subsequent parameters when multiple parameters are required
  • c: Machining method
  • d: Crease and its direction
  • e: Machining allowance

The descriptors shown below are used to graphically represent surface roughness. However, in general, the standard conditions shown in red are omitted and the indications shown in blue are included only when necessary.

The descriptors v for surface finish

Surface finish symbols

Surface finish charts

The table below shows the conventional roughness of the different processes

Surface finish charts

Ra, Rz measurements

Ra and Rz measurements measure two distinct parameters of surface roughness: RA (Ra) is the arithmetic mean of the absolute profile height deviations from its mean line, while RZ (Rz) is the difference between the maximum peak and minimum valley on a single scan. Both are typically used to describe the roughness of surfaces in terms of their average surface heights. For instance, a high Ra value indicates that there are high peaks and valleys on the print’s surface, whereas a low Rz value suggests that there is minimal peak and valley variation. By understanding these variables, you can ensure your printed objects meet their desired design specifications.

What does 63 surface finish mean?

63 surface finish is a type of finish that is common in the metalworking industry. It typically refers to an abrasive machining process such as polishing or buffing. The number 63 indicates that the surface should be smooth, with a maximum peak-to-valley height of 63 micro-inches. This surface finish can provide a wide range of benefits, including improved aesthetic appeal, enhanced corrosion resistance, and better lubrication retention.

What is Ra 0.8 surface finish?

N7 surface finish is a type of super-smooth finish found on metal surfaces. It has an average roughness (Ra) value of 0.05 micro-meters, making it one of the most precise finishes available. This smooth finish provides superior corrosion resistance, longer part life, and higher lubricity as compared to other finishes. It is widely used in applications such as automotive components, medical instruments, and precision machinery parts.

What is a 32 surface finish?

A 32 surface finish is a type of semi-smooth finish found on metal surfaces. It has an average roughness (Ra) value of 3.2 micro-meters, making it a good choice for applications that require a balance of corrosion resistance and lubricity. This finish is often used in automotive components as well as medical instruments and electrical parts.

What is Ra 0.8 surface finish?

Ra 0.8 surface finish is a type of microscopic finish found on metal surfaces. The Ra value indicates the average roughness, with higher numbers indicating a rougher surface and lower numbers indicating a smoother surface. A Ra 0.8 finish has an average roughness of 0.8 micro-meters, making it one of the smoothest finishes available. It can provide benefits such as improved lubricity, better corrosion resistance, and longer part life.

How to measure surface roughness

Surface roughness can be measured in a variety of ways, including manual methods such as a profilometer and automated techniques such as optical microscopy. Manual methods involve manually measuring the surface’s peak-to-valley heights directly, while automated methods calculate the surface’s average height measurements based on continuous scanning. These readings are then used to calculate accurate surface roughness values. More advanced techniques include using laser scanning technology to measure Rz or Ra values based on interferential fringes that are generated by light reflecting off the surface. By combining multiple measurements, you can gain an accurate understanding of a print’s overall surface roughness.

Tips for improving surface finish

Improving surface finish in various manufacturing processes requires optimization of the process parameters. Here are some tips:

When casting or forming, use a mold with a higher surface quality and decrease any gaps or overlaps to avoid any irregularities in the final product.

When milling, adjust the cutting feed rate and depth to achieve an even cut surface.

When grinding, select the correct type of grinding wheel and regulate the speed, pressure and moisture levels to produce a uniform finish on the product’s surface.

For welding applications, make sure that the electrode is correctly adjusted according to the filler metal being used to obtain the desired smoothing effect.

For turning operations, make sure that each tool has been designed specifically for achieving a high-quality finish.

When 3d print, use the right printing material and temperature settings for your printer to ensure a smooth surface finish.

Inspect your printing parameters regularly and adjust as needed, such as nozzle pressure or extrusion speed, to maintain an ideal layer height.

Make sure you use the correct type of support structures to prevent any unwanted ridges or bumps in your prints’ surfaces.

Clean your build plate before each print to remove any contaminants which can cause irregularities in your prints’ surfaces.

When sanding or polishing, start with a rough grain grade and progress to finer grades until you achieve the desired finish.

Examples of surface finishes

There are many different types of surface finishes achievable through various manufacturing processes. Some examples include:

Anodizing – An electrochemical process that increases the thickness of a natural oxide layer on the surface of metals like aluminum, titanium and magnesium.

Hard anodizing is a type of electrochemical process used to give metal surfaces a harder, thicker coating. It typically applies to aluminum alloys and provides corrosion resistance, increased durability, and improved wear resistance. In the hard anodizing process, the metal is immersed in a solution composed of sulfuric acid and water while an electrical current is passed through it. The resulting oxide layer has a thickness that can range from 10-300 microns depending on the desired outcome.

Mirror finishes – Produced by careful polishing with abrasives to create a reflective surface.

Painting – The application of a protective coating using spray painting or brushing techniques.

Plating – A process in which layers of metal are applied over the surface for decorative or functional purposes.

Bead blasting is a process using compressed air to blast media onto a surface in order to achieve a matte finish. It can be used to remove contaminants, coatings and residues from the surface, as well as providing an even and consistent texture. The media used can range from sand, glass beads or plastic beads depending on the intended outcome.

Passivating treatment is a process used to increase the corrosion resistance of stainless steel and other metals. The passivation process involves treating the metal surface with a chemical solution, usually an acid, to remove free iron particles that can create rust or tarnish. The treatment also helps to restore the metal’s chromium oxide layer, which prevents further rusting.

Modo Rapid is the perfect choice for any project requiring a high-quality surface finish. We offer post-treatment services that comply with ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 quality system standards, so you can rest assured that your product will get the best possible finish. Our experienced staff takes pride in delivering superior results and consistently meeting customer requirements for roughness parameters. Get a flawless surface finish with Modo Rapid!