surface finis chart

Surface Finishes Used in CNC Machining – A Complete Guide

Table of Contents

Surface finishes are crucial in CNC machining, influencing machined parts’ aesthetics, functionality, and performance.

Achieving the desired surface finish requires carefully considering material type, machining process, tooling, and cutting parameters.

Various surface finish options are available, each serving specific purposes. Furthermore, the Surface Finishes Chart for CNC Machining provides a comprehensive guide of surface finish symbols and units, aiding in the selection process.

Understanding basics knowledge of CNC machining and surface finishes ensures machined parts meet the required specifications and satisfy customer expectations.

This article will explore all the workarounds and content you need to know about surface finishes for CNC Machining.

surface finis chart

What is Surface Finish?

Surface finish describes the features of a material’s surface after it has been manufactured or machined. It relates to the surface’s texture, smoothness, roughness, and general quality.

Achieving the desired surface finish involves careful control of machining parameters, tool selection, cutting techniques, material properties, and post-processing operations.

The level of precision and control during the manufacturing process directly affects the final surface finish.

It is often quantified using parameters such as roughness average (Ra), which measures the average deviation of the surface profile from its mean line.

What is Surface Roughness?

Surface roughness refers to the texture and irregularities present on the surface of a machined part.

It quantifies the deviations from the ideal or smooth surface, providing a measure of the quality and finish of the surface.

Surface roughness is typically measured and specified using parameters such as Ra (average roughness), Rz (mean roughness depth), or Rt (total roughness).

These parameters indicate the height and frequency of the surface irregularities, such as peaks and valleys, and provide information about the texture and smoothness of the surface.

Achieving the desired surface roughness is essential in CNC machining as it directly influences factors like friction, wear resistance, aesthetics, and functional performance of the machined part.

machined parts surface treatment workshop 

Factors that Affect Surface Finish

Various factors influence the surface quality of CNC-machined items, which can considerably affect the result.

These elements influence the surface finish quality and features. Understanding these variables is critical for good surface finishes during CNC machining operations. They include:

1. Material Properties

Material properties play a significant role in determining the surface finish of CNC machined parts.

For example, materials with higher hardness and brittleness tend to produce a smoother surface finish compared to softer or more ductile materials.

The machinability of a material, which refers to how easily it can be cut, also affects the surface finish.

Materials with poor machinability may result in a rougher surface due to excessive tool wear or chip formation.

Additionally, variations in material composition, grain structure, and surface treatments can influence the final surface finish achieved during machining processes.

2. Sharpness of Tools

The sharpness of the cutting tool is a critical factor that significantly affects the surface finish of machined parts.

A sharp cutting tool can achieve cleaner and more precise cuts, resulting in a smoother surface finish.

A dull or worn-out cutting tool, on the other hand, can cause excessive tool-chip friction, leading to poor surface quality, increased tool wear, and potential surface defects.

A sharp tool reduces cutting forces and minimizes vibrations, reducing tool marks and improving surface finish.

Regular maintenance, including sharpening, is essential for optimal surface finish quality during machining operations.

3. Type of Cutting Fluids

Cutting fluids serve multiple purposes, including cooling, lubrication, and improving surface quality.

Different cutting fluids, such as oils, emulsions, or synthetics, have varying properties that impact the surface finish.

Proper selection and application of cutting fluids can help dissipate heat, reduce friction, prevent tool wear, and improve chip evacuation.

The right cutting fluid can minimize built-up edge formation, reduce surface roughness, and enhance the surface finish.

Factors like viscosity, lubricity, and chemical composition of the cutting fluid play a significant role in achieving the desired surface finish during machining processes.

4. Cutting Parameters

Cutting parameters, such as cutting speed and feed rate, significantly influence machined parts’ surface finish.

The cutting speed, or the rate at which the cutting tool moves along the workpiece, impacts surface roughness.

Higher cutting speeds often result in a smoother surface finish by reducing tool vibrations and producing smaller, more manageable chips.

The feed rate, or the distance the cutting tool travels per unit of time, affects surface quality. A lighter feed rate can lead to improved surface finish by minimizing tool pressure and reducing the occurrence of surface defects.

The depth of cut, or the amount of material removed in each pass, also affects surface roughness.

Smaller depths of cut generally yield smoother surface finishes by minimizing tool deflection and reducing the chances of irregularities.

Proper optimization of these cutting parameters is crucial for achieving the desired surface finish during machining operations.

5. Post-processing operations

Post-processing operations play a crucial role in determining the final surface finish of a machined part.

These operations can significantly affect the surface’s texture, smoothness, and overall quality. Factors such as deburring, polishing, grinding, or surface treatments like coating or plating can improve the surface finish.

Surface treatments like coating or plating can provide additional protection, aesthetics, or specific functional properties.

Deburring removes sharp edges and burrs while polishing and grinding can enhance the smoothness and achieve specific surface textures.

Proper selection and execution of post-processing operations are essential to meet the desired surface finish requirements and enhance the overall quality of the machined part.

Surface Finishing Processes/Types

Surface finishing processes encompass a variety of techniques used to modify and enhance the surface of machined parts. Let’s discuss some of the common processes.

types of surface finishes

1. Bead Blasting

Bead blasting is a surface finishing process that involves propelling fine abrasive beads at high velocity onto a workpiece’s surface.

The beads influence the surface, removing contaminants, imperfections, and oxidation layers, resulting in a uniform and textured surface.

The technique cleans, deburr, and prepares surfaces for subsequent processes like coating or painting.

It is particularly effective for materials such as metals, ceramics, and composites, providing a matte or satin finish while maintaining the dimensional accuracy of the workpiece.


  • Bead blasting effectively removes contaminants.
  • The process creates a textured surface finish.


  • Affects Material Smoothness.
  • Requires specialized equipment and safety precautions.

2. Anodizing (Type II and Type III)

Anodizing is applying a thin ceramic coating to the surface of metal objects.

Type II anodizing involves an electrolytic process forming a controlled oxide layer thickness, improving corrosion resistance, and enhancing the aesthetic appearance through various color options. This layer provides corrosion and wear resistance.

Type III anodizing, also known as hard anodizing, creates a thicker and harder oxide layer, offering enhanced wear resistance and durability.

Anodizing processes can be customized to achieve specific surface finishes, making it widely used in the automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics industries.


  • It is durable.
  • Enhanced Corrosion Resistance


  • Limited on Certain Metals (Aluminum and its alloy).
  • Vulnerable to Solvents and Alkalis.

3. Powder Coating

Powder coating is a popular surface finishing process used to apply a protective and decorative coating to various materials, including metals, plastics, and wood.

It involves electrostatically applying a dry powder onto the substrate, and then cured in an oven to form a durable and even coating.

It offers excellent adhesion, corrosion resistance, and various color options.


  • Durable Finish.
  • It has a higher impact resistance than anodizing.


  • Limited Thin Coating Options.
  • Internal surfaces are difficult to apply.

Learn More: Top 10 Surface Finishes And Post-Processing Options For Aluminum

Surface Finishes Chart Symbols

The Surface Finishes Chart Symbols are standardized symbols used to represent different surface roughness parameters.

These symbols represent how a surface appears after it has been machined. Each of these symbols represents a distinct meaning and may be used to express various features of a surface finish:

  • Ra: This symbol represents the arithmetic average of the absolute values of surface roughness within a specified measurement length
  • Rz: The symbol Rz represents the average maximum peak-to-valley height within a specified evaluation length. It measures the maximum height difference between the highest peak and the lowest valley on the surface.
  • Rmax: It provides information about the extreme variations in surface roughness and is useful for applications where ensuring a specific maximum roughness limit is critical.
  • PE (Profile Roughness): A material’s profile roughness measures the magnitude and distribution of surface imperfections.
  • PT (Profile tolerances): It defines the allowable variation in a surface or feature’s shape, contour, or profile. They specify the acceptable deviation from a surface or feature’s ideal form or design intent.


In conclusion, surface finishes play a critical role in CNC machining as they directly impact machined parts’ functionality, aesthetics, and performance.

Achieving the desired surface finish requires careful consideration of various factors. Each of these factors influences the surface’s texture, smoothness, and overall quality.

Proper selection and optimization of these factors can result in improved surface finishes that meet the specific requirements of the intended application.

Additionally, understanding surface parameters and utilizing surface finish chart symbols and units can aid in effectively communicating and achieving the desired surface finish goals.

By carefully managing these factors and utilizing appropriate techniques and processes, CNC machining can produce high-quality, visually appealing, and functional components.

Recommended: A Complete Guide To Surface Finish Of CNC Machined Parts

Hi there, I'm Gavin Yi

From Yijin Hardware, I’m a product manager and founder with over 10 years of experience in precision manufacturing. We specialize in providing on-demand machining solutions and customized parts. Ask for a quote for your current or future projects now!

Best Regards, Gavin, Founder & Product Manager


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