Safety, Productivity, Reliability: Keys to High-Performing Abrasive Blasting Media


By Ed Reitz and Rafi Herskovits, Saint-Gobain

The abrasive blasting market is constantly changing, with increased focus on the safety of heavy metals and crystalline silica in blasting media and the relentless pursuit of more cost-efficient, higher-performing grains. For most, the safety, productivity and reliability of their abrasive blasting media is of utmost importance.

Operator Safety: Always First Priority

On June 23, 2016, OSHA introduced the new Silica Rule, which limits the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable silica to 50 µg/m3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). Previous exposure limits were based on a formula used to estimate exposure based on the percentage of silica in an air monitoring sample. The new, stricter PEL forced those in the abrasive and sand blasting markets to make a change. The regulation outlined the negative health effects of crystalline silica dust and the necessary protection needed to avoid these dangers:

  • Engineering Controls: Use less toxic blasting material that is low-dusting. Provide barriers, curtains, blast cabinets or blast rooms for all blasting operations. Utilize exhaust ventilation systems to capture dust.
  • Administrative Controls: Conduct routine cleanup to minimize accumulation of toxic dusts.
  • Respiratory Protection: Use NIOSH-approved respirators (Type CE NIOSH-certified blasting airline respirator with positive pressure blasting helmet) during abrasive blasting operations.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wear gear such as hearing protection, eye/face protection and safety shoes.
  • Worker Training

Figure 1. Blasting operations can produce significant amounts of dust. This dust can contain crystalline silica or other harmful heavy metals that can have significant negative health effects for the operator and those around the operation. Photo: istockphoto.com / GlenJ

It is important to understand your abrasive media and their chemical composition. Care should be taken to provide operators with low-dusting, 0-percent crystalline silica media with no heavy metals. In addition, proper PPE should always be used to further decrease any hazards involved in the blasting process.

Productivity: Understanding Abrasive Media Recycling

Recycling is the process of gathering spent abrasive through a closed collection system and reusing the blasting media. This process can be repeated until the media is no longer able to efficiently blast the surface. Understanding the recyclability level of your abrasive blasting media will give you deeper knowledge about the effectiveness and efficiency of your process.

Three key factors should be considered when budgeting for a blasting project: 1) blasting speed per hour, 2) consumption per hour and 3) cost of disposal. Both consumption per hour and cost of disposal are directly impacted by the recyclability of the product. With higher recyclability, both of these values are decreased, which lowers the overall project cost.

Typically, only hard abrasives are recycled, although it depends on the surface being blasted. Soft abrasives such as walnut shells, corn cob media and baking soda are usually not recycled. Harder abrasives, such as Spartan Blasting Media can typically be recycled up to five times during a single application (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. The chart shows the typical number of recycles (with range included) for leading abrasive media. Spartan Blasting Media can be recycled an average of three times, with a range of two to five times. Courtesy of Saint-Gobain Specialty Grains & Powders

Reliability: Long-Term Domestic Supply vs. Imported

The majority of abrasive blasting media used in the U.S. today is imported, with very little domestic supply for several common types of media. A product that is fully made and manufactured in the U.S. can bring significant cost savings to end users in the country, due to reduced logistics costs.

In today's market, the majority of abrasive media used in the U.S. is imported from China, Australia, India and South Africa. Logistics costs typically amount to as much as 50 percent of the total product cost. Significant planning time is invested in importing products, as shipments can take weeks to arrive. In addition, shipments coming in on barges are at the mercy of weather conditions and other natural phenomena. With a domestic supply, logistical issues are reduced with shorter ship times and less reliance on weather conditions.

Figure 3. To achieve best-in-class performance, the producer of Spartan Blasting Media focuses on safety, productivity and reliability. COURTESY OF WALTERS MEDIA & DESIGN, LLC

Strong, angular product, engineered to provide top performance at comparatively low cost
Safe for all blasting applications:
  • 0% Crystalline Silica
  • Low-Dusting
  • Safer Work Conditions
  • Reduced Cleanup Costs
  • Minimal Environmental Risks
Made in the U.S., ensuring long-term domestic supply for U.S.-based customers
Available in ANSI table III sizes, as well as group and spherical sizes

Learn more about Spartan Blasting Media.

Spartan Blasting Media is a trademark of Saint-Gobain. Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.


Ed Reitz and Rafi Herskovits, Saint-Gobain

Ed Reitz (left) is the global market manager for Saint-Gobain Specialty Grains & Powders. He has 23 years of experience with Saint-Gobain as well as a number of years with distribution in the coatings prep industry. Rafi Herskovits (right) is a market & business systems analyst with Saint-Gobain Specialty Grains & Powders. He is responsible for developing and executing technical & commercial marketing strategies, including new product launches.