Sandblasting is the process of propelling abrasive materials onto a surface using high pressure to remove contaminants, alter the texture, or prepare it for subsequent coating or painting. It is also an efficient way to get surfaces clean and ready for further processing. Thus, the technique has various applications in different industries, such as automotive, construction, marine, and aerospace.
The term “sandblasting” implies that sand is the predominant abrasive material utilized. However, this is not entirely accurate. While sand could be used as an abrasive material, it presents considerable risks to the operator and the environment.
This article explores the misconception surrounding using sand and the alternate abrasive compounds that can be utilized for optimal outcomes.
What Is Sandblasting?
Sandblasting — also called air blasting — involves preparing the surface, selecting suitable abrasive material, and blasting the surface with high-pressure air or water containing abrasive materials. The final step is surface inspection, ensuring it has been properly cleaned and prepared.
The abrasive blasting equipment needed for a particular task depends on the surface size and work volume. Here are some of the most common machines:
- Robotic sandblasters
- Automated blast systems
- Blast rooms
- Manual blast cabinets
- Modified blast cabinets
- Portable sandblasters
Breaking the Misconception
In modern sandblasting practices, sand is rarely used and often illegal due to its danger to the operator and the surrounding environment. The operation produces a large amount of dust, which the machine operator and others nearby can inhale. Moreover, sand contains silica dust, causing chronic lung ailment silicosis. Due to these, using sand has been strictly regulated in many countries.
Sand, as an abrasive, is also harmful to the environment. The dust produced can become airborne, creating air pollution and negatively impacting the health of everyone in proximity. Instead, other materials that are safer for everyone concerned are utilized.
Types of Abrasive Materials for Sandblasting
Sandblasting utilizes different types of abrasive materials that have unique qualities and applications. Selecting the right abrasive compound is crucial in achieving the desired texture or finish and effectively removing unwanted materials.
Aluminum oxide is a popular and versatile abrasive material due to its durability and high cutting power. It is ideal for removing tough materials — such as rust and paint — from metal surfaces, making it a go-to option in the automotive, aerospace, and construction industries. Moreover, it is highly recyclable and cost-effective for large-scale projects.
Silicon carbide has a strong cutting ability, exceptional toughness, and excellent heat resistance. It is produced by heating a mixture of silica sand and petroleum coke to a high temperature in a furnace. This results in a hard, crystalline material suitable for the aerospace and automotive industries, where precision is paramount.
Glass beads are solidified glass objects with smooth, glossy, and satin-like surfaces. They are available in various sizes and shapes, making them suitable for plastic and metal surfaces. Moreover, they are a sustainable alternative because they are created from recycled glass and can be reused multiple times.
Steel grit is an abrasive substance comprising cast steel particles. It is frequently employed in airblasting for surface preparation, rust removal, and surface texturing. Furthermore, it is recyclable, making it an eco-friendly alternative for cleaning and texturing large surfaces like ships and bridges.
Partner With Empire Abrasive Equipment for Your Sandblasting Needs
As a forerunner in air-blast technology, Empire Abrasive Equipment provides a wide selection of equipment and systems to meet our customers’ specific requirements! Our blast systems, rooms, and cabinets offer unrivaled performance and durability, guaranteeing optimal efficiency and customer satisfaction.
To explore our standard and customized lines of abrasive blast cabinets, please contact us today.