3 Common Types of Abrasive Grain Along with Backing Options for Your Next Project

Abrasive Grain & Backing

Selecting the correct abrasive grain and corresponding backing is critical to achieving your desired finish on your material. With various types of abrasive grains and options for backings available in the market, it can be confusing to know which one is best for your specific project needs. At Preferred Abrasives, our customer service team has over 90 years of experience advising our customers on which abrasive grain and backing combination is best for them.

What Are the Most Common Abrasive Grains for “Coated Abrasives”?

The abrasive grains used on belts, wheels, discs, and pads for sanding and finishing applications play a crucial role in determining the final appearance and feel of the material. This is because the grains’ varying hardness and grit levels can either enhance or detract from the desired look. Using an incorrect abrasive grain material can not only prolong the work and time required, but also potentially damage/discolor the material.

3 of the most popular abrasive grain types available on the market are:

  • Ceramic Alumina
  • Zirconia Alumina
  • Aluminum Oxide

What Is Ceramic Alumina?

Ceramic-type abrasives provide the longest life and fastest cut rate of all coated abrasives available. They are the newest grain innovation and represent the ultimate quality in performance, providing an aggressive, consistent cut under moderate to high pressure. Ceramic Alumina abrasive grains are usually red or orange in color and are used primarily for metal applications.

Preferred Abrasives provides Ceramic Alumina abrasive grains in the following products:

What Is Zirconia Alumina?

Zirconia Alumina is commonly referred to as Zirc or Zirconium. Zirc is ideal for coarse to medium grit applications on metal and is a good choice for aggressive applications. Zirc is usually green or blue in color and performs best under high pressure, which is required for the grain to re-fracture exposing new sharp edges.

Preferred Abrasives provides Zirconia Alumina abrasive grains in the following products:

What Is Aluminum Oxide?

Aluminum Oxide is perhaps the most common and least expensive abrasive grain. This material is a good starting point for most metal and wood applications and is durable with tough cutting edges, but it dulls during use. Aluminum Oxide is usually brown or reddish in color, but can be blue, green, or yellow which usually indicates the presence of a grinding aid/lubricant.

Preferred Abrasives provides Aluminum Oxide abrasive grains in the following products:

Abrasive Grain Backing Options

Selecting the right backing material is just as important as choosing the correct abrasive material. There are common abrasive backing materials designed for specific purposes, so it’s essential to know what you want to achieve with your project before you select the materials you will use.

Cloth Backing Material for Abrasives

Cloth backings come in various weights from stiffest to the most flexible, usually denoted by a letter category (Y, X, J, or J-Flex).

  • “Y” Weight – This extremely heavy duty cloth is used for tough applications. It is usually made of Polyester for added strength and tear resistance
  • “X” Weight – This regular cloth (considered general purpose), is recommended for all ordinary machine sanding operations
  • “J” Weight – This flexible lightweight cloth is used where more flexibility is needed, such as with contour sanding
  • “J-Flex” Weight – This highly flexible cloth is used when extreme flexibility is desired

Lightweight cloth is a common material for backings when abrasives are used for finishing work applications and heavier cloth is better for high pressure applications and materials. Unlike paper backings, cloth backings can be used for wet polishing projects and have a longer lifespan.

Have questions about our abrasives and backings? Contact us today!

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