Glass beads vs. sand blasting

Written by matthew mclaughlin
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Glass beads vs. sand blasting
Metals are typically stripped and cleaned using either glass bead blasting or sand blasting. (rusty metal image by Michel Essiambre from Fotolia.com)

Sand blasting and glass bead blasting are two ways to effectively clean a hard metal surface. These cleaning methods are typically used to strip paint, corrosion and abrasive materials. Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages.

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Glass Bead Blasting

When glass bead blasting a surface in order to clean or strip it, tiny glass beads are forced on to material under lower air pressure than sand blasting. Additionally, blasting with glass beads is a slower process than sand blasting but is much gentler on the material and effectively strips it without causing damage to the material itself. This leads to a fresh, shiny and more polished appearance.

Sand Blasting

Sand blasting is achieved by blasting sand on to a metal surface through very high air pressure. Sand blasting is a much quicker process but is also harsher on the underlying metal material. While glass bead blasting does not compromise the metal, sand blasting, similar to sand paper, has the capability of shaping and smoothing the underlying material.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

Sand blasting is much more dangerous to workers than typical glass bead blasting. The after-product of sand blasting is called silica dust and can cause silicosis in workers after prolonged inhalation. Because of this, sand blasting is heavily regulated. Conversely, glass bead blasting is much safer because the beads do not produce a silica dust and are lead free.

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