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Abrasive blasting is an industrial process used to polish or clean various types of objects. Blasting operators use high-powered equipment to spray abrasive materials at the surface of the object. Depending on the type of materials and equipment used, abrasive blasting may also be known as sand blasting or pressure washing.
During abrasive blasting, the abrasive material, or medium, is stored under high pressure. This medium may include fine glass particles, water, sand, or pressured air. The type of medium used depends largely on the application, as well as on local rules related to blasting. In environmentally-sensitive areas, organic materials such as basking soda may be used as an eco-friendly blasting medium.
Abrasive blasting equipment can range from large-scale machines to small, portable units the size of a backpack. Most are designed to accommodate only a certain type of medium, though some larger units may be more versatile. The machine's cabinet is filled with the abrasive material, then connected to a hose. Blasting professionals use a nozzle on the hose to direct the medium at the object at high levels of pressure.
This process can be used for many types of applications, from cleaning to paint removal. Shipyards often use abrasive blasting equipment to clean the ship's hull, or to remove paint in preparation for repainting. Blasting is also used to clean stone or brick walls, and to texturize or engrave words into stone. An abrasive blaster can remove graffiti from walls, strip paint from cars or clean mold and dirt from any number of surfaces. This type of equipment is also widely used to clean swimming pools.
One of the primary advantages to abrasive blasting is that it can effectively clean an object without damaging the surface. This process allows blasters to work on large surfaces in a relatively short amount of time. It also helps to clean a surface more thoroughly than most other techniques. By choosing the right abrasive blast equipment, workers can also access hard-to-reach areas that may not be accessible using other methods.
Workers must take steps to protect themselves and others nearby while blasting. This process generates a large amount of dust, which may contain silica, lead, and other harmful substances. Many blasting machines include dust-collecting components to keep duct contained. Blasting professionals must also wear ear protection and eye protection to reduce the risk of injury. Many areas have strict laws in place aimed at protecting workers and the public from the dangers of abrasive blasting.