Did you know that coated abrasives make up 50% of the total sales in the global abrasive industry? The high statistics are attributable to the diverse applications of coated abrasives, such as grinding, polishing, and cutting. However, despite their popularity, most tools get damaged before they reach their intended lifetime due to improper storage and maintenance.
Properly storing and maintaining your coated abrasives is essential for maximum performance and a longer lifespan. Whether you're using sandpaper, sanding discs, sanding wheels, or other abrasive products, it’s a good idea to learn about the storage factors that can affect the tools.
Read on to discover how to store abrasives in top condition and increase the life and efficiency of your products.
Understanding Coated Abrasives
Coated abrasives are known for their unique features, such as the different bonded abrasive grains that distinguish them from other abrasive tools. Before getting into the storage and maintenance information, we'll provide a quick breakdown to help you better understand these tools.
What are Coated Abrasives?
Coated abrasives are tools used for grinding, polishing, and finishing surfaces. They are made of three parts – the backing material, the abrasive grains, and the bond.
The backing materials can be paper, cloth, or fiberglass. The abrasive grains can be synthetic or natural particles, such as silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, and diamond. The bond, usually resin-based bonds, holds the grains in place.
The tools come in various shapes, sizes, and grits, depending on the size of the abrasive grain and the thickness of the coating. The type of backing material, abrasive particles, and bond determine the performance level of coated abrasives.
For instance, sandpaper is available in various grits, from very coarse (for grinding) to very fine (for polishing).
Here are a few examples of coated abrasives:
- Sandpaper sheets - Flexible sheets of paper or fabric coated with abrasive grains on one side
- Flap discs - Discs made of overlapping pieces of sandpaper that are designed to be used for grinding, sanding, and finishing flat surfaces with an angle grinder or die grinder
- Sanding discs - Circular discs with abrasive grains on one side. They can be attached to power sanders or used by hand
- Fiber discs - Made of fiber-reinforced materials with abrasive grains on one side. They are used for grinding, blending, and finishing applications
- Sanding belts - Long, narrow strips of coated abrasive material that are used with a belt sander
- Flap wheels - Cylindrical tools made of overlapping pieces of sandpaper, used for finishing and polishing cylindrical or round objects
- Spiral bands - Cylindrical tools made of abrasive-coated fabric, used for sanding and finishing irregularly-shaped surfaces
- Cartridge rolls - Small, cylindrical tools made of abrasive-coated fabric that are used for sanding and finishing small, hard-to-reach areas
- Peel & stick discs - Adhesive-backed sanding discs that can be easily attached to a sanding tool
- Coated abrasive drums - cylindrical tools with sandpaper sleeves that slide over them, used for sanding and shaping contoured surfaces with a surface conditioning tool
The tools are used in various industries, including automotive, metalworking, woodworking, and construction. They are also used for various jobs, such as sanding down paint, grinding down surfaces, and preparing metal for welding.
Types of Coatings on Different Abrasives
Coated abrasives come in various types of coatings. Each type of coating has its own characteristics and performance level. The most common coatings include Zirconia Alumina, silicon carbide, ceramic alumina, and aluminum oxide.
Zirconia Alumina is a tough and durable coating that can provide longer life and better performance. The coating is more suited for heavy-duty applications, such as grinding and cutting.
It is also suitable for blending and finishing on more complex surfaces. As such, you can use it for metal, wood, and plastic applications. The coating can be found on flap discs, sanding belts, and fiber discs.
Silicon Carbide is a sharp and hard coating that can offer better cutting power for hard materials such as metals. It is also suitable for blending and finishing.
The coating is less durable than Zirconia Alumina, but it can still provide a reasonable lifespan. For instance, it can be found on sandpaper, grinding, and flap wheels.
Ceramic Alumina is a tough and wear-resistant coating that can offer superior performance when cutting and grinding hard materials. It is suitable for most metalworking applications, such as milling and turning. You can find the coating on grinding discs, sanding discs, and fiber discs.
Aluminum Oxide is a standard coating used on the majority of coated abrasives and is suitable for most materials. It can provide good wear resistance, making it ideal for sanding and polishing applications.
The coating can also provide good heat resistance, which makes it suitable for high-temperature operations. It can be found on sandpaper, flap discs, and fiber discs.
Factors to Consider When Storing Coated Abrasives
Many people aren’t aware how to store abrasives, coated or bonded. Unfortunately, these can lead to costly repairs or premature replacements.
Properly storing coated abrasives is essential to ensure their longevity and performance. You can start by keeping the tools away from dust, grit, and moisture. You can also store them in a cool and dry place to ensure they don't break down due to heat.
Factors to Consider
Factors such as temperature, humidity, and dust can accelerate the breakdown of coated abrasives and reduce their performance and quality. Here are the major factors you should consider when storing abrasives, and how each factor affects them:
Exposure to extreme temperatures can cause the bond between the abrasive grains and backing material to weaken. As such, it is crucial to store coated abrasives in a temperature-regulated environment.
You can use temperature-resistant containers to store the abrasives and prevent atmospheric temperature increases from affecting them. You can also place the tools in a cool place or install air conditioners in the storage area.
High humidity can cause the abrasives to absorb moisture, which can weaken the bond between the abrasive grains and backing material. As such, it is essential to store coated abrasives in an area with low humidity.
Ensure you invest in storage containers that are humidity resistant. You can also use dehumidifiers to keep the storage conditions dry.
Not all types of light can damage coated abrasives, but it is important to keep them away from direct sunlight. The ultraviolet rays in the sun's rays can cause the grains to break down and reduce the performance of the tools.
To navigate this, you can store your tools in a dark place or use light-resistant containers. You can also install light filters in the storage area to reduce the amount of UV rays reaching your tools.
Dust and Grit
Dust and grit can cause the abrasives to clog, reducing the performance of the tools. To avoid this, you can use containers with tight lids or install filter systems in the storage area. You can also clean the tools thoroughly before and after use with an air gun or a sanding belt and disc-cleaning stick.
How To Store Specific Tools
Knowing the factors to consider when storing coated abrasives is an important step, and so is understanding how to store abrasives and other specific tools. Here are some of the most popular tools and the best ways to store them:
You can store sandpaper in a dry and cool place, like a drawer or a cabinet. Ensure you keep it away from dust, grit, and moisture. Sandpaper should be kept flat to prevent creases or bends in them that would affect its performance.
You can also place these in a closed box or use plastic containers with lids to store them. Make sure to label the storage area with the grit and abrasive grain.
It is best to store flap discs flat or hanging vertically to prevent damage. Keep them away from dust, dirt, and moisture. You can store the tools in a closed box or use containers with lids to protect them from dust and debris.You should also keep them in their original packaging or in a container with dividers to prevent them from rubbing against each other.
Resin Fiber Discs
You can store resin fiber discs in a dry and cool place. You can also stack the tools vertically or horizontally to save space. Ensure you keep them away from dust and moisture. They can be stored in their original packaging or you can also use plastic containers with lids to store them and with dividers to prevent damage to the abrasive surface.
It’s also a good idea to label the packaging for these discs so you know in the future what grit and grain each disc is.
You can place them in closed boxes or use plastic containers with lids and dividers. A better option is to hang them vertically on a rack which will help prevent creases.
Maintaining Your Coated Abrasives
Regular maintenance is essential to ensure your tools perform optimally. Here are some of the steps you can take:
- Clean the tools regularly using an air gun or sanding belt and disc-cleaning stick
- Check the tools for signs of wear and tear, such as cracked edges and frayed backing materials.
- Inspect the tools for signs of contamination or clogging.
- Replace the tools with new ones once they wear out.
By following these simple steps is a great way of prolonging the life of abrasives. However, it is essential to dispose of the tools properly when they become unusable or worn out.
You can do this by following your local rules and regulations or taking the tools to a designated recycling center. Following the rules can help you do your part in protecting the environment and preserving natural resources. It can also help you stay compliant with the law and avoid any fines or penalty fees.
How to Inspect Coated Abrasives for Damage
You should always inspect your coated abrasives before working, while working, and when you are wrapping things up. Here are some tips on how to inspect coated abrasives for damage:
- Look for cracks: Check the surface of the abrasive for any noticeable cracks. Cracked abrasives can significantly speed up how quickly the abrasive breaks down and can cause harm or damage to equipment.
- Check for tears: Inspect the abrasive for any tears or holes. A damaged abrasive can leave scratches or marks on the workpiece, affecting the quality of the finished product. Abrasives like sanding belts can split while working if they have tears or holes in the belt.
- Examine the edges: Check the edges of the abrasive for any signs of fraying. A frayed edge can lead to the abrasive material coming loose and potentially causing injury, ruining the workpiece, or damaging equipment.
Bonus Tip - Use a Coated Abrasive Grease Tube
Sanding belt grease sticks (not to be confused with sanding belt cleaning sticks) are useful tools made of a special type of wax that remove debris and prolong the life of your sanding belts and discs. They also improve their cutting ability by increasing friction, preventing loading, and reducing heat buildup.
Benefits of using a grease stick:
By using a grease stick regularly, you can extend the lifespan of your coated abrasives, which saves you money in the long run. The stick also makes sanding/grinding easier and more efficient, which can improve the quality of your work and reduce the amount of time you spend sanding.
How to use a grease stick properly:
To use a grease stick, simply hold it against the spinning abrasive surface for a few seconds, allowing the wax to melt and spread evenly across the surface. Then, apply pressure to the workpiece and begin sanding as usual. Reapply the grease stick as needed to maintain the coating and prevent loading.
It's important to note that not all coated abrasives are compatible with grease sticks, so be sure to check the manufacturer's recommendations before using one.
Ensure Your Coated Abrasive Tool Has A Long Life
Learning how to store abrasives and other tools correctly is essential to ensure they have a long life. By taking the needed precautions and following the specific tips, you can ensure your tools are stored safely and correctly.
You can also increase the performance of your tools by regularly cleaning, inspecting, and replacing them when needed. It is also essential to dispose of worn-out tools responsibly and follow the necessary regulations to protect the environment.
Contact us if you have any additional questions about the right way to store and maintain your coated abrasive tools.