Abrasives are one of the most common tools in any manufacturing industry. They’re used to buff, sand, grind, and polish surfaces— as long as the abrasive is harder than the material you’re trying to finish, the abrasive will be very effective. Because abrasives are used for so many different applications, there are many different types to choose from.
In general, abrasives consist of minerals that can either be naturally occurring or synthetic. Examples include calcite, emery, pumice, sandstone, garnet, borazon, ceramic, steel, and silicon carbide. Industrial applications like mining, construction, railroad, and wholesale/retail operations all have different requirements, so abrasive usage falls into several different categories, depending on the type and shape of the abrasive— bonded, coated, or other.
Bonded abrasives are generally contained within some sort of material like clay, resin, or rubber. They’re shaped into wheels or blocks and often have two different densities of grit. Common bonded abrasive materials include aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, tungsten carbide, or garnet.
Coated abrasives are generally affixed to a backing material like paper or metal with the help of resin or some other type of adhesive. Sandpaper is the most common coated abrasive, they come in different shapes and sizes and can be used for various different tools.
Other abrasives are various miscellaneous ones like loose metal pellets, sand or glass beads used for sandblasting. Cleaning products are another common miscellaneous abrasive, typically used to clean floors, pots, pans, etc.
Abrasives are also categorized by hardness. Some abrasives are harder than others, like diamond abrasives compared to pumice. The harder the abrasive, the more easily it can affect the material. For example, pumice is sufficient as an abrasive in soaps and cleaning solutions, but it cannot do much to diamonds. On the other hand, diamonds are perfect as an abrasive for other diamonds and gems but is too much for cleaning your bathroom.