Roller burnishing is a surface finishing technique in which hardened, highly polished steel rollers are brought into pressure contact with a softer piece part.

As the pressure generated through the rollers exceeds the yield point of the piece-part material, the surface is plastically deformed by cold flowing of sub-surface material. The result is a mirror-like finish and a tough, work-hardened surface with load-carrying characteristics which make the burnished surface superior to finishes obtained by abrasive metal-removal methods.

A roller burnished surface is smoother and more wear-resistant than an abraded surface of the same profilometer reading. Profilometers measure roughness height. Abrasive finishing processes remove metal by cutting or tearing it away, and while this usually lowers the roughness profile, it leaves sharp projections in the contact plane of the machined surface.

Roller burnishing displaces metal, rather than removing it. Material in microscopic “peaks” on the machined surface is caused to cold flow into the “valleys,” creating a plateau-like profile in which sharpness is reduced or eliminated in the contact plane. A burnished surface is therefore smoother than an abraded surface with the same roughness height measurement. The burnished surface will last longer under working conditions in contact with a mating part

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