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Glass Bead Blasting – Pros & Cons, Common Uses,& Equipment Needed

Glass bead is one of a variety of medias that you can blast with. Like any blast media it has a variety of benefits and drawbacks. This guide will cover important things to know about glass bead blasting including the benefits and drawbacks, equipment considerations for glass bead blasting, and more.

Glass Bead Blasting Pros

Glass beads can be safe compared to other blast medias. In particular, glass bead blast media can be a good alternative to silica sand depending on your application, which while silica sand is still legal it is becoming more regulated and is recognized as a source of a variety of health problems including silicosis. For more on silica sand and sandblasting check out this in depth guide. Additional benefits of glass bead blasting include that you can use them for a few cycles before they no longer clean a surface. It is common for glass bead media to last 4 – 6 cycles before needing to be replaced. Finally, glass beads can be used in a suction or pressure blast cabinet. This makes it versatile and can help offer a blast cleaning media that keeps your blast cabinet costs down (suction feed cabinets are more affordable than pressure feed).

Glass Bead Blasting Cons

Its not as fast as other medias at cleaning and doesn’t last as long as harder blast medias like steel. Since glass is not as hard compared to steel grit, steel shot, and even coal slag it doesn’t clean as fast as these blast medias. Additionally, glass beads do not leave a profile, which can be problematic if you need a profile for your paint to adhere. Finally, compared to steel grit or shot and aluminum oxide glass bead blast media is only reusable a few times compared to numerous times with steel blast medias.

Common Glass Bead Blast Media Uses

Knowing the benefits of glass beads, it is also good to know the common uses for glass bead blasting. Glass bead blasting is well suited for use in sandblast cabinets where blast media will be recovered. It is effective at cleaning a surface without leaving much of a blast profile. This makes it ideal for cleaning paint or coatings off a part as well as removal of rust. If a profile is needed though blast media like steel grit or aluminum oxide can be required as glass bead typically doesn’t profile when blasting

Common Glass Bead Blast Media Sizes

While glass bead blast media comes in a variety of sizes ranging from 40 – 325 mesh sizes there are mesh sizes that are more common. Common mesh sizes for glass bead blasting include 50-70, 60 -80, 70-100, 120 – 200.  The fastest cleaning glass bead is typically 60-100 mesh.  The right size blast media will ultimately depend on your individual application.

Glass Bead Blasting Equipment

Glass bead is meant to be reused and so will require specific equipment. Glass bead is typically used in asandblast cabinet. Specifically, since it is not a very heavy blast media it works well in a suction feed sandblast cabinet. Using glass bead with a standard sandblast pot is not very common but you can used crush glass with a standard sandblast pot.

Glass Bead Blasting Tips

In general the higher pressure you use the greater impact and faster you will be able to blast. However, it can also create changes in your product surface.  Between suction and pressure blasting, pressure is faster but again can create changes in the surface (if blast time or pressure is not well controlled). It is always a good idea to start at a low blast pressure and gradually increase to determine the blast pressure that is best suited for your needs. The maximum blast pressure for glass bead blasting is typically 80 psi for suction blast cabinets and up to 40 PSI for pressure blasting. Using these reference numbers you should be able to slowly determine the right blast pressure and time that will work well for your use.

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