Since humanity began making weapons and rustic tools many centuries ago, natural abrasives became indispensable elements for sharpening and shaping the tools that would drive the civilization of the primitive human being.
Without natural abrasives, perhaps the evolution of human beings would have been slower. However, nowadays natural abrasives are hardly used, due to the creation of less expensive synthetic abrasives, which satisfy more optimally the industrial processes in which they are used.
Despite this change, which is due to increased productivity and efficiency, there is no doubt that the great relevance and contribution that natural abrasives had in the past, for the progress of humanity, is undeniable. But what are natural abrasives? Which are the most common and what are they used for?
As Abrasifs EA, industrial experts in the manufacture and supply of abrasives, with more than 50 years of quality, we explain in this article what natural abrasives are, which are the most common and their applications.
What are natural abrasives and what are they used for?
Natural abrasives are minerals or rocks of great hardness, which are born in the earth’s crust and are extracted and processed to manufacture abrasive tools. They are used to give shape or finish to a piece, or other materials of lesser hardness, through friction or rubbing.
Natural abrasives are common and are used in a wide range of industrial, domestic and technological tasks. Natural abrasives can be refined into a wide variety of shapes, physical or chemical compositions, and delineated according to the function for which they are designed.
Some conventional uses of natural abrasives include grinding, polishing, cutting, drilling, sharpening and sanding. These materials are really useful, since they allow to mold any other material, according to the industrial or technological needs.
How is a natural abrasive different from a synthetic abrasive? Which one is better?
Abrasives can be classified as natural or synthetic. In the case of natural abrasives, they are extracted and processed directly from the earth. On the other hand, synthetic abrasives are created through industrial physical-chemical technology and processes.
For many experts, natural abrasives are the best because of their nature and structural composition, while synthetic ones have less properties. However, due to the low production costs and technological advances, it is difficult to distinguish between natural and synthetic abrasives due to their high quality.
Manufacturers of synthetic abrasives have managed to replicate almost perfectly the components of natural abrasives, and even purge impurities from minerals, to make them more effective. Due to this, synthetic abrasives have gradually replaced natural abrasives.
This is because in the fields of application (industrial or technological), abrasives require more uniform and wear-resistant materials. The mass production of both natural and synthetic abrasives offers an enormous variety of shapes, such as discs, belts, wheels, rods and so on.
The most common natural abrasives
Knowing the differences and particularities between the types of abrasives, let us now see which are the most common natural abrasives, with their respective properties and definitions.
Emery is a very hard and fracture resistant rock. According to experts, it is considered the historical abrasive par excellence. This abrasive is a compound of corundum (aluminum oxide), mixed with some traces of spinels containing iron, herbite, magnetite and rutile (titanium).
Its color is black or dark gray, less dense than transparent corundum. This abrasive is used in metal cutting and polishing tools. Some very fine grains can also be used for very technical polishing, such as the preparation of metallurgical samples that require very strict tolerances.
Garnets are a family of minerals that are classified as natural silicate minerals. Their diverse properties from light transmission, as gems to the opaque varieties of these, make them used for various industrial purposes, in particular as abrasives.
Their colors vary according to their composition, such as red, purple, pink, green, blue, orange, yellow, brown and black. They are used as abrasives because of their resistance to sanding wood and other materials. In addition, due to its magnetic properties, garnet is used to identify jewelry.
Quartz is found in large quantities, in all the earth’s crust. It is used as an abrasive, under the name of silica sand. It is also the most used abrasive due to its low price. It is used in the manufacture of sandpaper, discs or blocks, and mainly in pressure blasting systems.
Corundum is a natural mineral that forms crystalline and trigonal rocks of aluminum oxide. It is one of the naturally translucent minerals, but its color can vary due to different impurities. The corundum has two primary varieties of gems: ruby and sapphire.
Thanks to its incredible hardness, pure corundum can scratch almost all other minerals. It is commonly used as an abrasive in everything from sandpaper to large tools used in machining metals, plastics, and wood.
This natural abrasive is of volcanic origin, composed of pyroclastic glass with a very rough texture. Its color is clear, it may or may not contain crystals, and it has very fine and translucent bubble walls of igneous rock. Pumice is a very light, porous and abrasive material.
It is used in the construction and beauty industry as an abrasive material in setting, polishing, and cleaning works. And because of its chemical properties, pumice is highly demanded for water filtration, chemical spill containment, and cement manufacture.
One of the quintessential abrasives, diamond is the hardest natural material known. As an abrasive, its structure is highly resistant to wear and friction. Most natural diamonds are between 1 and 3.5 billion years old.
This mineral has a solid form of pure carbon, with its atoms arranged in a clear and colorless crystal. Its uses as an abrasive are numerous and varied in industry, from cutting, polishing and refining other materials such as glass, ceramics, stone and tungsten carbide. The industrial cost of diamond is very high.
These are some of the best-known natural abrasives used in the industry, but there are many more minerals that are also used as efficient abrasives for various purposes.
In Abrasifs EA, we offer you a diversity of abrasive products of unmatched quality, which you can find in our select catalogs. We guarantee the best performance of our products and accessories, thanks to our alliances with the best abrasive manufacturers in the world.
You can find all types of abrasives, for all applications, resistant and adaptable to any other material. Our vast inventory includes the best abrasives in the industry. Our standards are the highest and our technicians are ready to help you in any question.
So do not hesitate to contact us, because we are experts in listening to you and addressing any problems and concerns, about abrasive materials and products. You can find us in our offices, Monday to Friday, at 2967 Rue Joseph-A.-Bombardier Laval, QC H7P 6C4.