Choosing the Correct Abrasive Products

The abrasives market is a complex one, especially considering the vast range of cutting and grinding discs available for specific applications. At the same time, this complex mix of products can be easily navigated if asking the right questions.

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What makes a cutting disc suitable for a specific application? When do we use what product for a specific material type?  How do I know this product is safe? And what happens if I use these products for anything other than its intended purpose and how much of a difference does this make? 

When it comes to working with hand tools for abrasive discs, powered or manual, safety protocols should be the starting point. Before using any abrasive disc, the label should be read, and a visual inspection of the abrasive should be done to establish if it is suitable for use.  

Understanding Safety Certifications on Abrasive Product Labels 

Certified abrasive products carry the international OSA mark (Organisation for Safety of Abrasives) on their label, having fulfilled very strict measures, ensuring operator safety and traceability back to the manufacturer of the product, providing peace of mind. If the label also displays the EN and ISO marks, it further indicates that the product is manufactured according to local and or international standards.  

Guidelines for Safe and Effective Use of Abrasive Discs 

Finding a suitable abrasive product is quite easy as both material application and application type like angle grinding or free hand cutting, is indicated on the disc label. It is important to use abrasive discs only for their intended purpose. Cutting discs for instance, are designed to be used perpendicular to the surface and are not intended for grinding. Deviation from the correct usage may result in product failure and may cause harm to the operator or others. High quality, premium abrasives manufactured to the above standards are engineered to ensure safety, however incorrect usage of the product can still cause failure of the product and or harm to the operator.   

Although material application is usually clearly marked, it is important to note when a disc label is marked for “Steel” or “Metal” that it is suitable for “ferrous metals” and not ideal for “non-ferrous metals”.  Aluminium, being a non-ferrous metal, has very different characteristics to mild or normal carbon steels. Using a steel cutting disc on Aluminium will result in the edge of the disc becoming clogged and heating up, causing stress and possible disc failure and breakage. Another important factor to consider is material contamination, especially when working with Stainless Steel and Aluminium. The label should identify a product as being suitable for this material but should also indicate that it is contaminant free.   

Abrasive cutting discs are manufactured using Aluminium Oxide, Silicon Carbide, Zirconium or Ceramic grains where each grain type suites a specific material application and if used incorrectly, may be completely ineffective or dangerous. 

Key Considerations for Selecting and Using Abrasive Discs Safely 

The standard range of products may contain normal manufacturing additives like Iron, Sulphur, and Chlorine, which can cause unwanted oxidation and “rusting” in both Stainless Steel and Aluminium. If working with multiple materials, great care should be taken to not use the same disc on all materials – either use one disc per material or move from Stainless Steel to mild steel to avoid cross contamination. 

 Another important factor on abrasive disc labels to consider though often overlooked, are the safety pictograms displaying the required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like safety goggles, ear and eye protection as well as gloves to be worn when using these products. 

In any application, when in doubt, we recommend you contact the manufacturer for guidance on making the correct choice when it comes to abrasives. 

Courtesy of Grinding Techniques | +27 11 271 6400 | |  

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