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How to Choose the Right Abrasive Disc for Metalworking

Getting The Most Out Of Your Metalworking Abrasive Disc

In metalworking choosing the right abrasive disc for the job is not as easy as it sounds.  Careful consideration should be taken into account to optimize productivity, finish and cost. 

Every job is different.  What works for one grinding or finishing job may not work for another.  Issues like loading, cut-rate and operator fatigue will all impact the productivity of the operation.  Choosing the right disc is critical for success. 

Identify the application 

This can be simple, but sometimes key differences in requirements can be overlooked.  Some of the most common applications are stock removal, weld-prep, post-weld grinding, cutting, blending, and final finishing. 

Let's dive into the first three, stock removal, weld-prep, and post-weld grinding.  All these applications require a disc that can perform well under high-pressure use.  The minerals and construction of the disc must be such to give a good balance of durability while still abrading the metal for dimensioning purposes.  

With blending and final finishing the requirements expected from the disc are much different.  When blending a good cut rate while minimizing heat transfer from the disc to the material can be critical.  These applications are typically low pressure with less stock removal and a focus on refining a scratch pattern.  It all comes back to the mineral choice and disc construction. 

Types of Metalworking Abrasive Discs 

Metalworking discs come in all kinds of forms.  However, they can fall into two main categories, bonded, coated and non-woven. 

Bonded Abrasive Discs

Bonded discs are just like they sound.  The mineral, binding agent and some type of reinforcement material are fused together to form a hard disc. 

Coated Abrasive Discs

Coated discs are just like they sound as well.  The mineral is coated onto a backing using some sort of resin, much like a glue.  These combined allow for a durable but also flexible type of disc in many forms.  The flexibility of manufacturing coated abrasives allow them to come in many different forms.  Not just discs. 

Non-Woven Abrasive Discs 

Non-Woven or sometimes known by a trade name Scotch-Brite, which is proprietary to 3M.  These types of discs are made up of a fibrous material that the abrasive minerals are adhered to with a resin, similar to a coated disc, but in a more random pattern.  These offer great conform-ability, flexibility with minimal stock removal and work great for a cleaning action as well as adding a grain pattern to the work piece. 


What Are Metalworking Abrasive Discs Made Of?

Minerals are what make up the abrasive.  Abrasives are what do the work of creating the scratch and removing the stock.  Choosing the right mineral composition will drastically affect how the application is performed.  Also cost is a factor when selecting the type of mineral for the disc.  Below is some of the common abrasive minerals used in today's abrasives. 

Aluminum Oxide: Not the oldest, but probably the widest used abrasive mineral.  Its cost and availability makes it a good choice for most compositions.  One of its benefits is when the abrasive fractures during use it fractures into sharper pieces until it finally wears down. 

Silicon Carbide: Starts out very sharp and cuts well, but wears quickly and doesn't always fracture cleanly with sharp edges that do the cutting. 

Zirconia alumina: A mineral that combines the sharpness and cutting power similar to silicon carbide but fractures to a sharp edge as it wears. 

Ceramics: This is a technology that combines one or more mineral with ceramic bits to provide a very durable cutting combination and heat resistance.  They are typically designed to be the best of both worlds, long lasting, and high cut rates. 

Precision Shaped Grain: A fairly new invention of creating the abrasive that is a uniform version of a ceramic blend that also has characteristics to fracture into similar points throughout the discs life.  3M's proprietary Cubitron II mineral is a next-generation variant of this. 

The info-graphic below explains the differences between 3M's proprietary PSG and conventional ceramic abrasives in how they cut.

Cubitron vs Conventional Ceramic Abrasive grain 

Now that you understand some of the fundamentals of abrasives and their various forms.  Check out our great selection of products to find the right disc for the job! 

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