An abrasive is a material that shapes or finishes a workpiece by repeated rubbing. The repeated rubbing action wears away the workpiece due to friction. The abrasive helps to provide a smooth and polished finish to the workpiece. Alternatively, it can also be used to roughen a surface to give it a beaded, matte or satin finish.
In a nutshell, minerals that are used to polish, grind and cut other soft materials are known as abrasives.
Abrasives are generally minerals, that are a hard crystal. They can either be found in nature or manufactured in a facility. The most common materials that are used as abrasives include:
Other less common materials that are used as abrasives include glass, zirconium, garnet and walnut shells.
Abrasion is the process of scratching the surface of a material with another stronger and harder material. As per the Mohs scale of hardness, only materials that are stronger than the workpiece can be used as abrasives. Abrasives have hardness values ranging from 6 to 10 on the Mohs scale, and they are used to smooth, polish, clean or reduce other less harder materials.
During abrasion, the abrasives penetrate the work material and cause tearing of the surface. The ease with which the abrasive tears the surface of the abraded material depends on several factors like the strength, toughness and hardness of both materials. Another crucial factor is the resistance of the work material to abrasion.
The two major types of abrasives include:
Abrasives can also be classified as coated or bonded.
Abrasives play a key role in several industries. From small-scale units to large industrial complexes, abrasives are used in a wide variety of applications. Abrasives are classified into the following categories based on its uses:
Over the last several decades, synthetic abrasives have replaced natural abrasives. Manufactured abrasives like aluminium oxide and silicon carbide are used in place of natural abrasives like diamonds. One of the main reasons why synthetic abrasives are preferred over natural ones is that they are cost-effective. Manufactured abrasives like silicon carbide and aluminium oxide are significantly cheaper than diamonds used as abrasives.
Another reason for the success of manufactured abrasives is that they are superior, controllable and uniform. Aluminium oxide and silicon carbide are extremely hard and brittle, having sharp edges. These sharp edges act as an abrasive helping to cut the surface of the work material and reduce the heat generated during the abrasion. Brittle abrasives like silicon carbide and aluminium oxide are primarily used in finish grinding and precision applications. Tough abrasives, on the other hand, are used for rough grinding as they resist fracture and last longer.
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