Ceramic Abrasives, are they the future?

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What is an abrasive disc?

Abrasive discs are an essential piece in the refinishing arsenal to be able to use a fixed or portable tool. They help us to cut, abrade or sand any material, through friction. Its design, shape and composition will vary according to the use it will be given. In general, its composition is based on a series of crushed abrasive grains. Joined together by a binding agent, anchored and fixed to a support material. These grains can be made of natural or synthetic aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, zirconium, ceramic or diamond. Below we go into more detail on some of these grains including ceramic abrasives.

Types of Abrasives used?

Aluminum oxide is resistant and adapts well to roughing high strength materials such as carbon steel, alloy steel, bronze and hardwood.

Regardless of the substrate you are sanding, aluminium oxide is the most frequently used grain in the industry because it does a pristine job on a number of materials including bare wood, painted surfaces, and metal. Additionally, aluminium oxide is reasonably durable. The combination of a very good shelf life and lower cost is what makes aluminium oxide stand a popular abrasive choice.

Silicon carbide is the hardest and sharpest mineral. It is suitable for sanding non-ferrous metals: aluminium, brass, bronze, magnesium, titanium, rubber, glass, plastics, fibrous wood and enamel. Silicon carbide outperforms any other abrasive in terms of its ability to penetrate and cut faster with little pressure.

Silicon carbide is a sharper and harder grain compared to aluminium oxide, but silicon carbide is less durable because it is brittle and has a narrower shape that wears down at an increased rate. Due to its razor-sharp grains, silicon carbide will have no problem easily cutting glass, plastic, and metal under light pressure. However, hard woods and metals will present more of a challenge. Regardless of sanding wood or metal, silicon carbide and aluminium oxide can be effectively paired together on the same sanding project, especially in woodworking applications.

Zirconium has the quality of self-sharpening that gives it a long service life in hard work of material removal. It is ideal for heavy metal roughing and wood calibration.

Ceramic abrasives are a durable, resistant and dense abrasive. Its grain microstructure allows it to break during abrading, generating multiple new cutting edges. It is normally used in medium-high pressure jobs. It is recommended for carbon steels, forged steels and alloys containing nickel and cobalt. Its life expectancy during use is far better than Alumunium Oxide.

Benefit of going ceramic?

Zirconium & Ceramic are both considered High Performance grains. Both will last several times longer than aluminium oxide (3-5 times longer is quite common, while some customers have reported as much as 15 times the life). Longer life, however, is only part of the advantage. These premium grains will “self-sharpen” during use, which allows them to continue cutting effectively until the grain is worn out. Ceramic grains are the newest technology; their micro grain structure allows for smaller pieces to break away during the grinding process which makes them last longer than Zirconium. Aluminium oxide on the other hand gets dull as it wears; the stock removal rate drops dramatically as the grains dull. As they continue to dull, more pressure is needed to continue removing material, which leads to excessive heat & operator fatigue.

Is Zirconia or Ceramic Better?

Both zirconia and ceramic will last longer and remove metal faster than aluminium oxide. However, when you are deciding on what to use it is important to consider the heat of the project and the pressure needed for the project. Ceramic is more sensitive to such and is best for lower pressure projects. Whereas if you need higher pressure, zirconia is the best choice for those applications.

Although ceramic does last longer than zirconia, they are both excellent choices. Both abrasive grains are self-sharpening as they wear, and both are primarily used on metal applications. In the end it is important to revert back to whether it is a high or low pressure as a great starting on your decision-making process.

The team here at Fisher Motor Factors would love to talk to you about the full benefits of any abrasive applications you require and the options out there.

Call us on 01522 690902 or email us on sales@fmfcoatings.co.uk