Micro-abrasive blasting works well in a lot of different work and hobby situations. For example, college laboratories use precision blasting to machine complex parts. Hobbyists use blasting to restore vintage furniture, while the semiconductor industry reclaims old silicon wafers to cut costs and deal with shortages. In each case, blasting pros also choose the perfect abrasive blasting powder for the job to get the best results.
No single abrasive blasting powder meets every need. But if technicians and hobbyists understand the properties and common uses of the available abrasive blasting powder types, they’ll make the right choice.
Here’s the perfect example. About 38 years ago, the government formed a committee to restore the Statue of Liberty for Lady Liberty’s centennial observance. Finding several layers of paint and coal tar on the interior surface of the statue, they needed a gentle, but effective blasting media that would safeguard the environment. Simple baking soda provided the perfect solution.
Cutting vs. Cleaning Abrasive Blasting Powder
Operators use abrasive blasting to clean parts and tools, remove rust and other pollutants and to prepare a surface for painting or adhesion. Blasting also offers an extremely effective method for etching or other precision work such as drilling. But an abrasive powder that works well for delicate cleaning may perform poorly for cutting or drilling.
To simplify, consider blasting media to be either cutting or non-cutting. Cutting powders offer a variety of solutions for cutting, etching, drilling, and deburring. Abrasive media of this type include aluminum oxide and silicon carbide. Thus, silicon carbide cuts through stone and glass quickly and precisely.
In contrast, non-cutting media like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) or glass beads facilitate eco-friendly coating removal, cleaning, and surface preparation. And for cleaning wooden furniture, crushed glass or sodium bicarbonate provide a safe (and inexpensive) option.
A Quick Rundown of the Abrasive Powder Options
To choose the perfect abrasive blasting media for your job, think about the hardness of the surface to blast, the level of precision needed and the finish you want. Also consider cost and environmental factors. Here’s a review of the most common blasting media options (listed alphabetically).
- Aluminum Oxide. Used in sandpaper, consider aluminum oxide for cutting, drilling, etching, deburring, abrading, and heavy cleaning. It works quite well on metals and other hard materials. For example, use aluminum oxide to etch steel or to produce a fine, matte finish on brass and glass.
- Crushed Glass. Providing a suitable alternative for aggressive cleaning jobs, crushed glass is both economical and effective. Thus, you might use crushed glass to cut through rust or to restore limestone.
- Glass Beads. Glass beads work very well for peening metal or for light abrading and producing a smooth finish. Operators often use glass beads in stainless steel fabrication or to polish castings.
- Organic Media (such as walnut shells or corn cobs). As you would expect, walnut shells and corn cobs provide two more environmentally friendly options for cleaning soft materials.
- Plastic. Extremely soft as an abrasive medium, plastic does the job on fiberglass and plastic parts. Like sodium bicarbonate and organics, plastic media will clean without damaging the object.
- Silicon Carbide. Harder than aluminum oxide, silicon carbide cuts faster but it also costs more. However, it may be the best choice for challenging applications. Like aluminum oxide, it works well for cutting, drilling, etching, abrading, and deburring.
- Sodium bicarbonate – Blasting with sodium bicarbonate works well as surface preparation for painting and for delicate cleaning operations and conformal coating removal. As a happy extra, the sodium helps to prevent rust. Since it’s soluble, it cleans readily, making it perfect for use with medical devices and electronics.
Achieve Performance Perfection
Airbrasive offers pure, double screened, and sieve tested abrasive blasting media in several options. In fact, we offer solutions for all your micro-abrasive blasting projects and problems. Whether it’s abrasive powder, an abrasive blast cabinet, a precision blasting nozzle or the perfect custom designed industrial automation solution, just give us a call.