Abrasive blasting is an all-purpose term used to describe any surface treatment in which a blasting medium is propelled by high pressure onto a surface. This process is most commonly used to remove unwanted surface coatings, but it also may be used to apply coatings or create decorative patterns.
Most people are familiar with the term sandblasting; however, the practice of using sand as a blasting medium is all but extinct. Read on to learn more about the abrasive blasting process sand blasting.
Sandblasting: The Term that Won’t Go Away
In the distant past, all abrasive cleaning procedures were referred to as sandblasting, simply because sand was the only medium available for this process. Today, sand is rarely used. From a practical perspective, sand is much too harsh for most projects. It can cause damage to all but the most durable surfaces. Because the grains are so diverse in size, this product isn’t particularly reliable either. Sand also contains a high level of moisture and a variety of impurities that can damage today’s finely tuned blasting equipment.
But the most important reason that sand fell out of favor is its inherent health risks. Sand contains a high percentage of silica, which if inhaled, can cause permanent respiratory damage to anyone exposed to it.
Modern Blasting Media Provide Safe and Effective Alternatives
As sand gradually stopped being used as a medium for abrasive blasting, baking soda (calcium carbonate) became the next big thing. A specially formulated type of baking soda is used in this application; however, even this medium is used less today in favor of more effective products.
Soda is friendly to the environment, but so is walnut shell, corncob and fruit seed blasting. Other common media include crushed glass and glass beads, crushed ceramic and hard plastic beads.
Professional technicians determine the right product for the job based on the medium’s size, hardness, density and the rate at which it breaks down. The price for blasting varies based on the medium used and how much of the product can be reclaimed and reused for future projects.
Determining the Right Approach for Your Project
The most important consideration in determining the best product to use as a blast medium is the purpose of your project. You may require surface preparation in advance of applying paint or another type of finish. You may wish to remove an unwanted substance such as old coats of paint or pervasive rust. You may have more industrial needs, such as deburring metal components.