14 Most Common Abrasive Blasting ProjectsUpdated: February 14, 2022
When you need to finish or clean a surface or item, you must first prepare it by eliminating build-up and smoothing imperfections. Abrasive blasting is one method for surface preparation, cleaning and maintenance that you can adapt to suit a variety of industry-spanning applications, including food service products, marine components, warehouse interiors and equipment parts.
Learn more about abrasive blasting, including the top blasting applications and materials.
What Is Abrasive Blasting?
Abrasive blasting involves directing highly pressurized air or water, mixed with an abrasive material, onto an item to alter its surface. You’ll find abrasive blasting in numerous industrial and commercial applications and even some residential projects.
Common uses for abrasive blasting include:
- Removing imperfections, like rust or stains.
- Thoroughly cleaning the surface layer of an item.
- Creating a smooth finish before applying paint or powder coating.
- Eliminating possible contaminants.
- Adding a specific texture to a surface.
Abrasive blasting is similar to sandblasting but eliminates the need for dangerous silica sand — a substance that is toxic when inhaled. Abrasive blasting uses different materials and methods to achieve the desired finish. Abrasive blasting with alternative materials also provides a more thorough, detailed application than sandblasting.
The Abrasive Blasting Process
Abrasive blasting can achieve different results, depending on which methods and materials the operator uses. Two methods include dry and wet blasting. Dry blasting utilizes a stream of pressurized air and abrasive materials, often performed inside an enclosed space. Wet blasting involves mixing your chosen material with water to create a slurry that you can use to blast and clean the item simultaneously.
Here’s how the blasting process works:
- The operator prepares the blasting space by erecting temporary walls or a roof if dry blasting outdoors to minimize environmental impact. They will cover exposed areas or furniture with a tarp if necessary.
- The item being blasted must be cleaned and dried before undergoing blasting to eliminate excess debris or moisture.
- The operator puts on their personal protective equipment (PPE) and performs blasting, stopping frequently to inspect progress.
- After the project is complete, the operator might choose to apply a special layer of coating or finish to the product.
- The operator will then clean up the blasting space by sweeping up the floor and wiping surfaces. If they wish to recycle the abrasive material, they may filter it through a mesh screen to reuse later.
Abrasive blasting equipment includes a blaster with a propelling device and blasting nozzle, an abrasive material, a pressure gauge, compressed air or high-pressure water and PPE to protect the operator from residue. At a minimum, PPE should include a mask, respirator, goggles and gloves. Some abrasive blasting projects also require temporary roofing, walls or a blast cabinet.
14 Most Common Abrasive Blasting Projects
These are some of the most common abrasive blasting projects you’ll find in the industrial and commercial sectors.
1. Painting Preparation
Abrasive blasting is used to manufacture and prepare steel components before painting. Blasting away debris and smoothing the surface helps prepare it for better, longer-lasting paint adherence. It also helps achieve a more even finish.
2. Food Process Maintenance and Cleaning
Abrasive blasting is essential in the food service industry, as it aids in thoroughly cleaning and maintaining stainless steel food processing equipment and baking components. Because the process must be safe for use around food, operators often choose natural or organic abrasive materials, like dry ice. Abrasive blasting is often the best way to clean baked-on food stains or grease deposits.
3. Architectural Component Preparation
Architectural components, like beams, columns and design pieces, require the utmost attention to detail and quality. Abrasive blasting cleans and prepares steel and aluminum surfaces for coatings, if applicable. It can also aid in architectural restoration.
4. Concrete and Wooden Surface Restoration
Gentler materials, like wood, concrete and brick, require soft restoration practices. Mild forms of abrasive blasting, like soda or dry ice blasting, will help restore these surfaces and prepare them for painting, staining or finishing.
5. Warehouse Cleaning
Deep clean warehouse interiors, including structural struts and joists, with dry and wet abrasive blasting techniques. High speed blasting with things like glass beads or dry ice allows the operator to control abrasion levels while removing residue from equipment, walls and machinery.
6. Railroad Car Maintenance
Railroad cars transport various hazardous and non-hazardous materials, which may lead to spills and leaks. Abrasive blasting is an integral part of railway maintenance, as it keeps cars clean and free of potentially dangerous residue in between shipments. You can also use abrasive blasting to prepare railroad cars for painting.
7. Bridge Maintenance
The nature of bridge construction, cleaning, maintenance and painting require a fast, thorough abrasive blasting technique to minimize downtime and keep critical components intact. Abrasive blasting is most common on concrete and steel bridges, though applicable for other materials as well.
8. Component Surface Preparation and Etching
Abrasive blasting is used to prepare surfaces, such as glass, before etching textures or designs. You can also use the abrasive blasting technique to prepare steel products for powder coating, which requires a smooth surface for optimal bonding.
9. Plastic Injection Mold Cleaning
Plastic injection mold cavities gather a lot of build-up after continuous use. This build-up contains hardened debris and materials that threaten to deform the mold mechanism or interfere with machine performance. Abrasive blasting is a gentle and effective method for cleaning and removing this residue.
10. Casting Application Sanding
You can use foundry sand to create, clean and maintain sand casting molds.
11. Bearings, Shafts and Gears Lifetime Improvement
Businesses and warehouses hoping to prolong the lifespan of machine and equipment bearings, shafts and gears can use abrasive blasting for shot peening, a type of highly controlled blasting for metal parts.
12. Graffiti Removal
Many property owners seek organic abrasive blasting methods, like those that use corn cobs or walnut shells, to remove graffiti and clean surfaces. These natural abrasive materials provide a safer, public-friendly alternative to other blasting methods. They may also help preserve the integrity of certain materials and are ideal for commercial use.
What to Know Before Your Next Abrasive Blasting Project
Now that you know where you can apply abrasive blasting techniques, here’s what you need to know before your next project.
To create a more productive blasting process with minimal material waste, always measure your air pressure behind the nozzle holder on your blaster. Ideally, the pressure should be steadily 110 pounds per inch (PSI), but anything above 100 should do the job. Pressures below 100 PSI will cause projects to take longer, wasting time and resources.
Always wear PPE, including masks or blasting-specific respirators, when handling abrasive materials. Avoid using silica sand, if possible. Never operate your blasting unit inside confined spaces without ventilation. Before you begin your project, be sure the area is free of bystanders, animals or vulnerable items that could get damaged by excess abrasive materials. Consider enrolling in formal blast training to learn the proper time-saving techniques. When blasting outdoors or disposing of materials, follow all local and federal environmental regulations.
Keep operational costs low by maintaining your blasting equipment. This includes replacing blast nozzle heads as needed or when they wear and expand. Clean the nozzle in between materials and projects to keep it free of build-up or cross-contamination. Should you have to replace any large parts of your blasting equipment, seek manufacturer recommendations for optimal results.
Set yourself up for abrasive blasting success by creating the ideal blasting environment and choosing the right blast hose. The area where you perform abrasive blasting should be well-ventilated. When sizing a blast hose, make sure it fits your equipment and projects. Undersized hoses will create a natural resistance that hinders performance and decreases pressure, leading to material waste.
Successful abrasive blasting relies on which materials you choose for your project. Different types include:
- Glass and ceramic: Ceramic grit and crushed glass create a softer finish, ideal for stainless steel. Glass beads are a popular blasting technique because they can clean, deburr and prepare surfaces without embedding anything into them. They’re also recyclable and reusable.
- Plastics and metals: Plastic and metal blasting materials include plastic grit, steel grit, steel shot, aluminum oxide, cut wire and copper slag. These materials are known for their strength and adaptability, perfect for heavy-duty industrial applications, granite and marble surfaces or deep etching. Some types are recyclable.
- Natural materials: Natural and organic blasting options include garnets, walnut shells, ground corn cobs and powder from ground apricot, peach and plum stones. Depending on the material and size of the pieces, these natural options can be softer alternatives for more sensitive surfaces.
- Specialty materials: Specialty materials, like dry ice and sodium bicarbonate, are suitable for projects like food service maintenance or rust and graffiti removal.
You might also consider specific blasting techniques for certain projects. For example, micro-blasting is the best method for detailed etching, wheel blasting is suitable for heavier materials and shot blasting helps operators achieve a deep clean.
Contact Finishing Systems to Learn More
Abrasive blasting is an effective, versatile method for cleaning, maintaining and preparing equipment and surfaces in a variety of industries and applications. Learn more about abrasive blasting solutions at Finishing Systems, the leading finishing solutions provider for companies across the United States. Contact a Finishing Systems representative to find blasting equipment or schedule your blast finishing project today.