Abrasives industry sharpens up with new technologies

by | Jun 16, 2023

New abrasive technologies are being developed through the use of innovative materials, while also meeting a rising demand within the market.

Nortons abrasives for Aluminium.

The abrasives market is experiencing rapid growth on account of the burgeoning automotive industry, the thriving electronics and manufacturing industries as well as an increase in DIYers taking on the task of renovating and improving their homes. As a result, leading players are focusing on product innovations, such as the development of fabric-based, ceramic-based, and other alternative-based abrasives which is propelling the market even further and boosting sales worldwide.

New abrasive technology for aluminium

With the automotive industry increasingly turning to aluminium to help achieve ‘lightweight’ products, metal fabricators are now needing new tools that can work with challenging material. 

When Norton | Saint-Gobain Abrasives, industry leaders of grinding, cutting, blending, finishing and polishing solutions, saw the sustained growth of aluminium it set out to help fabricators and manufacturers cut and grind aluminium, and other non-ferrous soft metals, with new wheels.

“The biggest thing is that aluminium is a lightweight material,” says Brad Povelaites, Manager, Product and Commercial Management at Norton | Saint-Gobain Abrasives. 

“It is a lot lighter weight than steel, so it helps with reducing gas consumption if you have to move or haul things. One of the biggest industries that we have seen shifting from steel to aluminium is trailer manufacturing. You can still put a lot of weight on the trailer, but your energy and gas consumption go way down when using aluminium.”

Aluminium alloys also have lower hardness, higher ductility, and lower melting points as compared to steel alloys which means metalworking tools and techniques used for steel-working are not always optimised for aluminium working. A common issue is the tendency for aluminium chips to stick onto the grinding wheel itself. When the wheel loads (clogs) up with metal chips, it is unable to remove any more metal from the workpiece.

Adriana Fuentes, Product Manager at Norton says, “We used a specialised bond technology that prevents overheating and loading, which improves material removal rates while also improving wheel life. The combination of the bond technology with a high-quality grain resulted in our proprietary special formula that gives improved performance across the spectrum of aluminium cutting and grinding applications.”

These abrasive wheels are aggressive, allowing the manual grinder to work with less effort when compared to using abrasive disks not specifically designed for aluminium removal.

“When an operator uses the proper tool, they can let the wheel do the work. Conversely, with a wheel that is prone to loading, a natural response is to add more pressure and expend more energy. But that only causes more heat build-up with no real material removal. With Norton for Aluminium Wheels, however, operators just need to work smoothly and let the wheel bite into the material. By applying less pressure, their overall fatigue will be significantly reduced throughout the day,” Ms Fuentes said.

Aluminium has seen a rising adoption for some time in a variety of industries, including aerospace and automotive. As its lightweight, corrosion-resistant characteristics gain more visibility, additional applications are being utilised.

From shipbuilding and scaffolding manufacturing to window and door production, almost every market that cuts and welds aluminium will need grinding and cutting wheels designed specifically for aluminium, says Ms Fuentes.

“The new Norton for Aluminium Wheels are ideal for aluminium, but they can also be used on other non-ferrous materials, which adds to the versatility of the product.” 

“We talk about legacy aluminium users like recreational boat manufacturers as well as the automotive and aerospace industries, but there are plenty of other applications, such as the aluminium steps that are being produced for buses and trailers. There are so many applications for aluminium that are already on the market, but there are so many more that are emerging,” Ms Fuentes said.

Klingspor’s CEVOLUTION

Another product innovation in the abrasives market is a new take on ceramic abrasives, which have been around for thousands of years. Klingspor is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-quality products used for finishing surfaces, grinding and cutting-off materials. 

Since the founding of the company in 1893, Klinspor has left its mark on the history of leading-edge grinding equipment by introducing countless innovations. Its high-speed cutting-off wheels, grinding discs, abrasive flap wheels and abrasive flap discs are only a few examples of the major abrasive products that Klingspor has developed and successfully brought to market.

Managing Director at Klingspor Australia Pty Ltd, Paul Hoye, spoke with AHJ about abrasives and cutting wheels and shared some insight into the current market.

Mr Hoye says that Klingspor has seen the current trends in abrasives move towards ceramic products over standard ones available.

“There is definitely a shift towards ceramic products, particularly for heavy-duty applications. Ceramic grains are sharper and longer lasting than standard ones. We have seen amazing growth in all areas but particularly the DIY/painting market which we see as a growth in home renovations,” he said.

Klingspor has thought ahead and developed ceramic high-performance abrasives with the new ‘CEVOLUTION’ technology that it released late last year. Ceramic abrasive grit has many advantages over other types of corundum grit: The microcrystalline structure ensures a self-sharpening effect and uniform break-off behaviour. Furthermore, ceramic abrasive grit usually has a higher stock removal rate.

“Our development department takes a holistic approach to the new CEVOLUTION technology: it optimises grit mix, grit sizes, grit quantities, formulation of precoat and post coat, relies on multi-bonding or on special manufacturing processes. All with the aim of offering the user the best performance in every application. CEVOLUTION is, therefore, a real revolution in the field of ceramic abrasives,” explained Ibraim Lapa, Head of Business Development in Germany.

On top of CEVOLUTION, Klingspor is also working on expanding in all areas of the abrasive industry and Mr Hoye says they are finding customers are more aware of the advantages of sourcing quality products than ever before.

Klingspore Cevolution

“I am pleased to say we see less of the cheap Asian products these days and people tend to prefer oSa (Organisation for the Safety of Abrasives) branded products. Consumers have come to realise that cheap cutting/sanding products are a false economy and safety is foremost in everyone’s minds nowadays,” he said. 

“Our range is constantly evolving; we are a big player in wire brushes and diamond blades now and our retail range is expanding at a rapid rate. Check our website for details; www.klingspor.com.au.”

Klingspor’s new Customer Portal is also contributing to increased sales and product understanding. Commercial customers can now conveniently order online and enjoy many other benefits through their ‘My Klingspor’ account.

“We are noticing a trend towards dealers using our customer portal and checking stock, ordering or getting copy invoices that way. It is so much more efficient than a year or two ago,” Mr Hoye said.

As for the future, Mr Hoye says that the industry is likely to see the current trend in home improvements continue to create business for the abrasives industry for the last half of the year and into the next.

“I have never been very good with a crystal ball, but I would say the trend towards home improvements and away from manufacturing will probably continue. Whatever comes, Klingspor will always be ready to adapt and evolve,” Mr Hoye concluded.