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Abrasive Blasting 101: An Industry History

Abrasive Blasting 101: An Industry History

It is highly likely the first abrasive blasting “machines” were fast-moving rivers or dry desert windstorms. (If you have ever driven in a sandstorm, you understand first hand the power of a particle to remove paint and or etch glass.) Somewhere in history, someone noticed the results and an idea was born.

The first man-made abrasive blasting cabinets utilized “wet blasting” with the abrasive media suspended in water. Wet blasting cabinets provided simple abrasive containment that eliminated the dust and enabled the abrasive to be easily recycled over and over.  Without frictional heat, the wet blasting process was slow and could not accommodate the many different types of abrasives.

Next to be developed were dry blasting cabinets, Siphon and Direct Pressure, which eliminated the water mess and simplified the process of changing abrasives.  Importantly, dry blasting cabinets were much faster than wet machines — about 6 times faster for most normal applications.  But much like the desert windstorm before it, the dry blasting process resulted in poor cabinet visibility and a dusty mess in the immediate area.

The solution to tidying dry cabinets came with the addition of exhaust blowers to remove the dusty air and replace it with clean air from outside the cabinet.  Larger and larger exhaust blowers were developed to further improve visibility by quickly removing more dirty air from the cabinet.  Larger exhaust blowers increased the airflow out of the cabinet but they also removed the abrasive as well as the dust.  This quickly plugged the filter used to clean the air being removed from the cabinet.

These new, more powerful dry blasting cabinets were only efficient if the abrasive could be recycled and used over and over again.  The invention of the dust collector removed dust, blasted material and spent abrasive from the cabinet. The separator reclaimer was then developed to separate out usable abrasive for recycle and reused from the mixture of dust and part surface being removed during blasting – remember some abrasives types can be recycled more than 100 times! This made it possible to use a wider range of more expensive abrasives even industrial diamonds!

In fact, Sandblasting Cabinets use almost anything for abrasive but SAND! Sand is too soft, almost always explodes upon contact with the part and plugs all existing dust collectors. Sandpaper uses no sand and hamburgers don’t contain any ham…  just saying!