A Guide To Abrasive Blast Work

Worker doing an abrasive blast

The term ‘abrasive blast’ is a general term that refers to a type of finishing process that involves blasting surfaces with abrasive materials. There are a lot of different reasons to use abrasive blast technology, including removing contamination from a surface, stripping back coatings or materials, altering the size or shape of a surface and smoothing out imperfections.

There are a lot of different options if you’re looking to abrasive blast a surface. Different applications and types of materials will render different effects. Below is a general guide to the different types of abrasive blast applications you may come across and what they might be used for.

One important thing to remember is that the term ‘sandblasting’ is often used a lot in place of ‘abrasive blast’ but the terms are not actually interchangeable. Using actual sand as a material can be cost-prohibitive and often less efficient than using other materials. Sand can also be dangerous to the health of the person performing blast work and if inhaled can result in serious illness.

Here are a few of the common types of abrasive blast materials you may come across.

Glass beads

Glass is a relatively mild material that is often used when surfaces need a softer finish. It’s popular for use on stainless steel and the glass beads can be recycled time and time again.

Aluminium Oxide

This material is hard and strong and is usually used when an anti-slip surface is required or to prepare glass, granite, steel or marble surfaces before they are painted or finished with a coating.

Plastic

When plastic is used to abrasive blast it is usually acrylic or polyester. It varies in terms of particle size and hardness. It’s most often used to clean or prepare the surface of other plastic parts. It will generally be used the most in industries like the automotive or aviation industry, in electronics and for certain industrial applications.

Silicon Carbide

This is the go-to choice for very challenging and heavy-duty projects as it is the hardest material available. It is usually used to polish, etch or remove impurities.

Steel grit

Steel grit is a very cost-effective option as it can be recycled time and time again and it can be used on many different surfaces. It is tough and is often used to prepare surfaces before they are coated with another material.

Walnut shells

Walnut is a natural and very hard type of abrasive material. It is most often used on wood, plastics, stone or fibreglass because they are soften materials. It’s used quite often to polish gems in jewellery making.

Corn cobs

Corn is another naturally occurring product that is often used on soft materials. It is most commonly used in jewellery making and to remove graffiti.

How does abrasive blasting work?

The basic idea behind it is usually that material will be forcibly propelled against the surface of your choice in order to change or prepare the surface in some way. Equipment is usually mobile in order to make it easy to get to the surface that requires preparations, but sometimes it is performed in workshops. This is often the case when work is being performed on individual parts such as in the automotive and boating industries.

This type of work comes with a lot of different hazards. Primarily that blasting materials can enter the lungs of workers after being inhaled and can cause respiratory issues. It can also produce a lot of noise and often requires sound dampening measures and other safety precautions to prevent injury.