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Dmitriy Nekrasov
Dmitriy Nekrasov

Abrasive Material


An abrasive is a material, often a mineral, that is used to shape or finish a workpiece through rubbing[1] which leads to part of the workpiece being worn away by friction. While finishing a material often means polishing it to gain a smooth, reflective surface, the process can also involve roughening as in satin, matte or beaded finishes. In short, the ceramics which are used to cut, grind and polish other softer materials are known as abrasives.




abrasive material


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Abrasives are extremely commonplace and are used very extensively in a wide variety of industrial, domestic, and technological applications. This gives rise to a large variation in the physical and chemical composition of abrasives as well as the shape of the abrasive. Some common uses for abrasives include grinding, polishing, buffing, honing, cutting, drilling, sharpening, lapping, and sanding (see abrasive machining). (For simplicity, "mineral" in this article will be used loosely to refer to both minerals and mineral-like substances whether man-made or not.)


Files are not abrasives; they remove material not by scratching or rubbing, but by the cutting action of sharp teeth which have been cut into the surface of the file, very much like those of a saw. However, diamond files are a form of coated abrasive (as they are metal rods coated with diamond powder).


Abrasives generally rely upon a difference in hardness between the abrasive and the material being worked upon, the abrasive being the harder of the two substances. However, is not necessary as any two solid materials that repeatedly rub against each other will tend to wear each other away; examples include, softer shoe soles wearing away wooden or stone steps over decades or centuries or glaciers abrading stone valleys.


Typically, materials used as abrasives are either hard minerals (rated at 7 or above on Mohs scale of mineral hardness) or are synthetic stones, some of which may be chemically and physically identical to naturally occurring minerals but which cannot be called minerals as they did not arise naturally. (While useful for comparative purposes, the Mohs scale is of limited value to materials engineers as it is an arbitrary, ordinal, irregular scale.) Diamond, a common abrasive, for instance occurs both naturally and is industrially produced, as is corundum which occurs naturally but which is nowadays more commonly manufactured from bauxite.[2] However, even softer minerals like calcium carbonate are used as abrasives, such as "polishing agents" in toothpaste.


These minerals are either crushed or are already of a sufficiently small size (anywhere from macroscopic grains as large as about 2 mm to microscopic grains about 0.001 mm in diameter) to permit their use as an abrasive. These grains, commonly called grit, have rough edges, often terminating in points which will decrease the surface area in contact and increase the localised contact pressure. The abrasive and the material to be worked are brought into contact while in relative motion to each other. Force applied through the grains causes fragments of the worked material to break away, while simultaneously smoothing the abrasive grain and/or causing the grain to work loose from the rest of the abrasive.


Abrasives may be classified as either natural or synthetic. When discussing sharpening stones, natural stones have long been considered superior but advances in material technology are seeing this distinction become less distinct. Many synthetic abrasives are effectively identical to a natural mineral, differing only in that the synthetic mineral has been manufactured rather than mined. Impurities in the natural mineral may make it less effective.


Some abrasive minerals (such as zirconia alumina) occur naturally but are sufficiently rare or sufficiently more difficult or costly to obtain such that a synthetic stone is used industrially. These and other artificial abrasives include:


Abrasives are shaped for various purposes. Natural abrasives are often sold as dressed stones, usually in the form of a rectangular block. Both natural and synthetic abrasives are commonly available in a wide variety of shapes, often coming as bonded or coated abrasives, including blocks, belts, discs, wheels, sheets, rods and loose grains.


A bonded abrasive is composed of an abrasive material contained within a matrix, although very fine aluminium oxide abrasive may comprise sintered material. This matrix is called a binder and is often a clay, a resin, a glass or a rubber. This mixture of binder and abrasive is typically shaped into blocks, sticks, or wheels. The most common abrasive used is aluminium oxide. Also common are silicon carbide, tungsten carbide and garnet. Artificial sharpening stones are often a bonded abrasive and are readily available as a two sided block, each side being a different grade of grit.


Grinding wheels are cylinders that are rotated at high speed. While once worked with a foot pedal or hand crank, the introduction of electric motors has made it necessary to construct the wheel to withstand greater radial stress to prevent the wheel flying apart as it spins. Similar issues arise with cutting wheels, which are often structurally reinforced with impregnated fibres. High relative speed between abrasive and workpiece often makes necessary the use of a lubricant of some kind. Traditionally, they were called coolants as they were used to prevent frictional heat build up which could damage the workpiece (such as ruining the temper of a blade). Some research suggests that the heat transport property of a lubricant is less important when dealing with metals as the metal will quickly conduct heat from the work surface. More important are their effects upon lessening tensile stresses while increasing some compressive stresses and reducing "thermal and mechanical stresses during chip formation".[3]


Bonded abrasives need to be trued and dressed after they are used. Dressing is the cleaning of the waste material (swarf and loose abrasive) from the surface and exposing fresh grit. Depending upon the abrasive and how it was used, dressing may involve the abrasive being simply placed under running water and brushed with a stiff brush for a soft stone or the abrasive being ground against another abrasive, such as aluminium oxide used to dress a grinding wheel.


Truing is restoring the abrasive to its original surface shape. Wheels and stones tend to wear unevenly, leaving the cutting surface no longer flat (said to be "dished out" if it is meant to be a flat stone) or no longer the same diameter across the cutting face. This will lead to uneven abrasion and other difficulties.


A coated abrasive comprises an abrasive fixed to a backing material such as paper, cloth, rubber, resin, polyester or even metal, many of which are flexible. Sandpaper is a very common coated abrasive. Coated abrasives are most commonly the same minerals as are used for bonded abrasives. A bonding agent (often some sort of adhesive or resin) is applied to the backing to provide a flat surface to which the grit is then subsequently adhered. A woven backing may also use a filler agent (again, often a resin) to provide additional resilience.


Coated abrasives may be shaped for use in rotary and orbital sanders, for wrapping around sanding blocks, as handpads, as closed loops for use on belt grinders, as striking surfaces on matchboxes, on diamond plates and diamond steels. Diamond tools, though for cutting, are often abrasive in nature.


Sand, glass beads, metal pellets copper slag and dry ice may all be used for a process called sandblasting (or similar, such as the use of glass beads which is "bead blasting"). Dry ice will sublimate leaving behind no residual abrasive.


Cutting compound used on automotive paint is an example of an abrasive suspended in a liquid, paste or wax, as are some polishing liquids for silverware and optical media. The liquid, paste or wax acts as a binding agent that keeps the abrasive attached to the cloth which is used as a backing to move the abrasive across the work piece. On cars in particular, wax may serve as both a protective agent by preventing exposure of the paint of metal to air and also act as an optical filler to make scratches less noticeable. Toothpaste contains calcium carbonate or silica as a "polishing agent" to remove plaque and other matter from teeth as the hardness of calcium carbonate is less than that of tooth enamel but more than that of the contaminating agent.


Cleaning products may also contain abrasives suspended in a paste or cream. They are chosen to be reasonably safe on some linoleum, tile, metal or stone surfaces. However, many laminate surfaces and ceramic topped stoves are easily damaged by these abrasive compounds. Even ceramic/pottery tableware or cookware can damage these surfaces, particularly the bottom of the tableware, which is often unglazed in part or in whole and acts as simply another bonded abrasive.[4]


Metal pots and stoves are often scoured with abrasive cleaners, typically in the form of the aforementioned cream or paste or of steel wool and non woven scouring pads which holds fine grits abrasives.


Human skin is also subjected to abrasion in the form of exfoliation. Abrasives for this can be much softer and more exotic than for other purposes and may include things like almond and oatmeal.[5] Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are now rather commonplace cosmetic procedures which use mineral abrasives.


The shape, size and nature of the workpiece and the desired finish will influence the choice of the abrasive used. A bonded abrasive grind wheel may be used to commercially sharpen a knife (producing a hollow grind), but an individual may then sharpen the same knife with a natural sharpening stone or an even flexible coated abrasive (like a sandpaper) stuck to a soft, non-slip surface to make achieving a convex grind easier. Similarly, a brass mirror may be cut with a bonded abrasive, have its surface flattened with a coated abrasive to achieve a basic shape, and then have finer grades of abrasive successively applied culminating in a wax paste impregnated with rouge to leave a sort of "grainless finish" called, in this case, a "mirror finish". 041b061a72


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