Micro-abrasive blasting offers a powerful solution for a wide variety of situations. For instance, dentists use precision blasting to drill cavities in teeth. Artists use blasting to etch delicate glass, while mechanics blast auto parts to remove rust and old paint. Choosing the proper abrasive blasting media for the job and the type of surface makes all the difference.
For example, in the 1980s, a committee was formed to restore the Statue of Liberty for Lady Liberty’s centennial celebration. Faced with the task of removing several layers of paint and coal tar from the interior surface of the statue, technicians needed a gentle, yet effective blasting media that would not produce harmful dust. They found the solution in simple baking soda.
No single abrasive blasting powder will meet all needs. Consequently, technicians and hobbyists need to understand the properties and common uses of the various abrasive blasting media available.
Cutting vs. Non-Cutting Abrasive Blasting
Typical uses for abrasive blasting include cleaning parts and tools, removing rust and other pollutants and preparing a surface for painting or adhesion. In addition, blasting offers an extremely effective method for precision work such as etching or drilling. But an abrasive powder that works well for delicate cleaning will perform poorly for drilling.
In general, blasting media can be considered either non-cutting or cutting. Non-cutting media like glass beads or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) provide chemical-free cleaning, coating removal and surface preparation.
Cutting media, on the other hand, offer a variety of solutions for etching, cutting, drilling and deburring. Abrasive media of this type include aluminum oxide and silicon carbide. For example, silicon carbide will cut through stone and glass quickly and precisely. But for cleaning wooden furniture, sodium bicarbonate or crushed glass provide a safer (and cheaper) option.
Understanding Your Abrasive Blasting Media Options
When choosing the abrasive blasting media, consider the hardness of the surface being blasted, the amount of precision required and the desired finish. You may also factor in cost and environmental concerns. The following outline of some of the most common media options will give you a start.
- Aluminum oxide – Consider aluminum oxide for cutting, etching, drilling, abrading, deburring and aggressive cleaning, depending on the media size. It works particularly well on metals and other hard materials. For instance, you might use aluminum oxide to etch steel or achieve a fine, matte finish on brass and glass.
- Silicon carbide – Like aluminum oxide, silicon carbide works well for cutting, etching, drilling, abrading and deburring. Harder than aluminum oxide, it cuts faster, and it may prove your best choice for challenging applications. But it also costs more.
- Crushed glass – Both economical and effective, crushed glass provides a good alternative for aggressive cleaning jobs. For example, you might use crushed glass to cut through rust or to restore limestone.
- Glass beads – Glass beads prove particularly effective in peening metal and in applications that require light abrading or a smooth finish. For instance, technicians often use glass bead media in stainless steel fabrication or to polish castings.
- Sodium bicarbonate – Sodium bicarbonate works well for delicate cleaning operations and conformal coating removal, as well as surface preparation for painting. As a bonus, the sodium helps prevent rust from developing. Because it is soluble, it cleans easily, making it ideal for use with electronics and medical devices.
- Organic media, such as walnut shells or corn cobs – Walnut shells and corn cobs offer additional environmentally-friendly options for cleaning soft surfaces.
- Plastic – An extremely soft abrasive medium, plastic works well on fiberglass and plastic parts. Like sodium bicarbonate and organics, plastic media will clean without damaging the substrate.
Quality Powders with Proven Performance
Airbrasive offers a wide selection of high-quality abrasive blasting media, double screened and sieve tested to ensure purity. In addition, we offer solutions for all of your micro-abrasive blasting needs. Whether you need abrasive powder, a replacement blasting nozzle or a fully-customized industrial solution, we have you covered.