Bead Blasting 101: Everything You Need to Know About Bead Blast Finish

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Bead Blasting 101: Everything You Need to Know About Bead Blast Finish

There are several finishing techniques out there, with so many to choose from. Media blasting stands right at the top of the list. There are several types of media blasting techniques ranging from sandblasting to plastic abrasive blasting and bead blasting. Each of these methods has its advantages and drawbacks. In this article, we will be focusing on brad blasting and bead blast finish.

It is important to know what bead blasting is and how it works. The different materials used for this finishing technique and how effectively you can use them to achieve an amazing bead blast surface finish. We will share all of this with you in this detailed guide about the bead blasting surface finish. Also, you will learn the pro and cons of the process to know if it is the best choice for your applications. The tips we provide will also help you get the best out of a bead blast finish.

What is Bead Blasting?

Generally, blasting is a finishing process that manages the surface of a wide variety of objects. Bead blasting is one type of shot blasting. This process releases, at high pressure, fine glass beads to clean or finish a surface.

In this process, a bead blaster shoots bead-shaped media from a high-pressured tool towards the material’s surface. A bead blast finish aims to leave a smooth, shiny, and cleaner surface. You find manufacturers using bead blasting for materials like metals, plastic, glass, and rubber to create an excellent surface finish.

How Does Bead Blasting Work?

The bead blasting process is quite similar to those of other abrasive blasting techniques. However, it involves the projection of sphere- or bead-shaped media against a substrate. Bead blasting is carried out with jagged media to leave a coarser bead blast surface finish. The impact of the glass beads on the surface of the component leaves a more uniform finish on the material.

This bead blast finish is due to the spherical media dimpling the material’s surface. This process is most desirable when there is a need for a smooth uniform finish. Also, this surface finish will leave a “dull” or “satin” finish on your part. Bead shots, sometimes, also offer tensile conditioning of the given component.

Suppose you’re looking to achieve a finish that can be rough but consistent. In that case, the bead blasting technique should be among your top choices. Glass bead blasting is one of the commonest 3D printing surface finishing solutions. The fine glass beads produce dull or satin finishes on such materials.

On the other hand, coarse glass beads give the material surface a uniform “rough” bead blast finish. They also help to mask any form of imperfections on the substrate surface. While garnet, aluminum oxide, etc., leave substrates with darker finishes, bead blasting ensures that the component maintains its base color. Therefore, you have a brighter surface finish.

Tools Used for a Bead Blast Finish

To achieve the best result from your bead blasting process, you need to ensure that you use the most effective tooling. This section will give you a run-down on the various equipment and materials for the process.

Bead Blaster Cabinets

From the name, you’d have noticed that this equipment is where the bead blasting process takes place. This cabinet must be of the highest quality to ensure the overall success of the process and to prevent whoever carries out the process. There are some essential aspects of top-notch cabinets.

a typical bead blasting cabinet

First, their construction must be in solid materials. The sturdiness of steel makes it a great choice. It lasts longer and confers incredible durability on the tool. Furthermore, you don’t want to have a cabinet constructed with weak legs. Therefore, good, strong, and durable legs should be welded to the cabinet.

The legs must be able to support the cabinet’s weight, the parts to be blasted, and the bead media. Thus, unsteady legs will eventually wobble. This often proves dangerous to the worker. It can also be frustrating when the tool breaks down during work.

What do you look for in a glass bead blasting cabinet?

Some other important features of a quality cabinet include the following:

Seamless cabinet sealing

The cabinet must have a good seal inside it. The best seals ensure that debris and dust from inside the cabinet do not leave the cabinet. Abrasive blasting dust and debris can hold several health risks. Inhaling those dust or having some slippery media on the floor can cause some serious injuries.

View window protection

One aspect of the bead blasting cabinet most people overlook is the view window. Large windows will help you adequately observe parts and works inside the cabinet. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is the protection of the window. Some glass beads may cause frosting over time on the glass. Thus, they impair the visibility, making it very poor. So, including replaceable protective sheets on your view windows is a good practice to allow you to blast longer without issues.

Bead blaster gloves

You want to prioritize safety and comfort while carrying out bead blasting. This is where bead blasting gloves come into play. They help you confer a bead blast finish in the cabinet comfortably and safely. These gloves usually come connected to the cabinet. It would help if you had these gloves to protect your hands from blasts. They also provide a solid grip on bead blaster guns.

Bead blaster gun

Another critical component of the bead blasting cabinet is the bead blaster gun. In fact, there is no blasting without the blast gun. There are various gun designs, and some can be quite complex. Operating a bead blaster gun may be through a foot pedal or with a pedal. The choice of gun is up to the user. However, blast guns enabling foot pedal use are often more comfortable for long blasting sessions. Holding a trigger blast gun for a long time can be tiring.

Glass Beads

glass beads for a bead blast finish

The most important bead blasting material is the media itself – the glass beads. Glass beads come from a lead-free, soda-lime glass shaped into spherical objects. Glass bead blasting is environmentally friendly. You can recycle them up to 30 times. Compared to other abrasive blasting techniques, glass bead blasting is gentler since the beads are softer on the parts’ surface.

Pros and Cons of Bead Blast Finish

While bead blasting offers several advantages to the manufacturing space, there are a few downsides to consider. Here, we will be going through the different benefits and drawbacks of the bead blasting process.

Pros

  • It is a safe process compared to other blasting methods.
  • Glass bead blasting is a good alternative to sandblasting.
  • The process is environmentally friendly.
  • Recycling is possible before replacement.
  • Glass beads are useful in pressure or suction blast cabinets.
  • Excellent for delicate components.

Cons

  • Not suitable for tough materials as it may take a longer time.
  • It may not last as long as steel blast media.
  • Glass beads do not leave any profile for paint adherence.

Applications of Bead Blast Finish

Bead blasting helps to achieve uniform surface finishes without affecting the part’s dimensions. This process is not an aggressive one, as you would see with other media. Also, it works perfectly with a wide range of materials, making it suitable for various industries. Manufacturers use bead blast surface finish to enhance the durability of components.

applications of bead blast finishes

This finishing process is flexible, and it fits into an extensive array of manufacturing processes. For instance, smaller beads help with lighter processes that require finely detailed works. On the other hand, medium-size beads are the best choice when dealing with metal materials like stainless steel and aluminum. They are popular for their ability to hide defects on components surfaces. Larger beads are perfect for deburring and cleaning rough surfaces on metal castings and automotive parts.

Bead blasting helps for a range of purposes, including:

  • Peening. This is often used in firearms to prevent the metal from cracking and resist fatigue. A study found that peening can increase fatigue strength by up to 17.14%. It also allows the component to take paint a lot smoother.
  • Deburring
  • Cosmetic finishing
  • Removing paint, calcium deposits, rust, and scale
  • Polishing materials like stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron
  • Preparing metal surfaces for powder-coating and painting

Some of the things that may require a bead blast finish are:

  • Automotive components, when there is a need to add a brand-new paint
  • Aircraft components prior to painting
  • Firearms and other military components
  • Aluminum materials for medical components.

RapidDirect’s High-Quality Finishing Services

Bead blasting finish is one of the best finishing choices for your applications. However, having your project in the wrong hands may prove harmful. Therefore, you should search for experience and expertise. The best company that offers a perfect mix of both is RapidDirect.

quality finishing services by rapiddirect

RapidDirect has long years of experience in offering cost-effective surface finish solutions for a wide variety of industries. We offer an extensive array of materials and finishes, including metal plating. Our team of experts works with you to create a custom metal finishing procedure. This way, you can be sure of high-quality services that meet all of your unique needs.

We prioritize customer satisfaction at RapidDirect. All our services come at competitive rates. All you have to do is contact us or upload your design file today. You will receive an instant quote, and we are ready to get to work.

Upload your files and get started with RapidDirect today!

Best Bead Blasting Tips to Have the Best Bead Blast Finish

Most bead blasting projects give dull finishes with probably a bit of satin shine added to them. However, these finishes are usually fairly poor. Glass bead blasting has become very popular in recent years. The restoration in its popularity is generally due to the benefits it offers in manufacturing.

factory worker doing bead blasting surface finish

Unfortunately, many people only see glass beads as a way of restoring parts. They use these beads to clean off rusts, dirt, scale, etc. At the same time, the beads are expected to leave excellent bead blast finishes. Without much said, let’s examine some tips to help you get the best bead blast finish.

Use low pressure for bead blasting

The first tip is to turn down the pressure of your bead blaster, with 50 PSI (3.5 Bar) usually a good point to start. You must note that glass beads work best at low pressures. Therefore, the pressure should be as low as possible. This way, you can increase how long your beads stay and get a much better metal surface finishing.

50 PSI pressure with a siphon blaster will help get the optimum result. The design of glass beads does not allow them to be cut. Instead, they are made to polish or burnish a part. However, they do this at higher rates than other tumbling media. When you turn their pressure up, the beads begin to smash on impact with the component. This way, you crush the beads and incur higher processing costs.

Furthermore, smashing glass beads into your parts at high pressure produces excess dust, debris, and sharp particles. These particles trap inside the cabinet and would affect the remaining clean beads. Contamination is bound to happen this way, leading to degraded finishes. With higher pressures on beads at impact, a lot of the smashed particles embeds on the component’s surface. Therefore, you don’t want to use high-pressure bead blasting on internal engine parts or other critical components.

Strip off any rusts or oxides before bead blasting

There is no way to out a great bead blast finish on aluminum without first stripping off its oxide layer. The oxide layer is usually too hard to polish or burnish. Also, it may make it hard for stains to remove. Although there may be some shine to it, it will look like some shine stains. Note that glass bids will not help you strip off or get rid of the oxide layer. This is because their design does not allow them to cut.

Instead, it will help to use a sharp cutting abrasive to strip off the oxide or rust. Black beauty aluminum oxide, crushed glass, etc., will help you strip off rusts and oxides. The crushed glass is a preferred option because it is a fast process, similar to silicon carbide or aluminum oxide. It is also very clean, leaving a nice brighter finish on metals. Regardless of your choice of abrasive for stripping off oxides, a material with consistency is perfect. Some coarse braces with an abrasive will easily help you take off heavier scales.

Bead Blast Finish FAQs

What is the difference between bead blasting and sandblasting?

Glass bead blasting involves using spherical glass media to give a uniform finish on components surfaces at high pressure. On the other hand, the traditional sandblasting technique uses silica sand to confer surface finish on the material. Sandblasting is much quicker than bead blasting. However, it is harsher on the metal material and comes with increases health risks. Also, glass bead blasting does not change the dimension of the component. On the other hand, sandblasting can reshape and smoothen the underlying component.

Is glass bead blasting safe?

Glass beads are often safer to use than other blasting media. It is less associated with the dust and debris that comes with silica sandblasting. Thus, users can be sure of a safe and comfortable blasting process with adequate protection.

What is the purpose of bead blasting?

Bead blasting offers several benefits in that it gives soft, smooth, and even finishes. The mechanical strength and aesthetics of the part also improve with a bead blast finish. It is a versatile process that works with metals like stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron. Thus, many industries employ bead blast surface finish in various applications. Some of these industries include military, automotive, aerospace, and medical industries.

Conclusion

Glass bead blasting uses specialized acrylic beads to give semi-polished, peened, satin finishes on your metal parts. This surface finishing technique is suitable for a wide range of purposes, and it works well on several materials. A great advantage of bead blasting is that it does not affect the dimension of your product.

Suppose you’re looking for the best bead blast finish on your parts. In that case, you should contact the experts at RapidDirect or request a quote today. Let’s help get your project to the next level!

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