Choosing a sandblasting abrasive for aircraft parts

For aircraft maintenance and paint stripping, abrasive blasting is a common method. This is when abrasive particles are sprayed through a pressurized nozzle onto a surface in order to remove rust and other coatings or clean and polish. 

Abrasive blasting is an effective method for removing paint or cleaning up an airplane’s exterior. However, like with any blasting project, choosing the right abrasive is perhaps the most important part, as you must consider the surface being blasted and the reason for blasting. For aviation purposes, many blasters recommend using an abrasive on the softer side like crushed walnut shells, corn cobs, or plastic beads. However,  a new class of abrasives – superoxalloy – can offer significant advantages over traditional blast abrasives. We’ll talk more about superoxalloy at the end of this article.

Harsh abrasives like aluminum oxide or garnet, for example, may have an effect on the surface being blasted, which is most likely aluminum in this case. By using a harder abrasive, the layers will be removed more efficiently, but the underlying surface may become textured or warped. 

With a softer media, the pressure being applied to the surface won’t be as high and the material therefore won’t be as aggressive on the surface. The downside to this is that the process itself will likely not go as quickly as it would with a harder abrasive, but the surface will be in better shape. 

These media are also more likely to leave embedded particles in the surface, which can lead to rust bloom or leave a texture, making it difficult to evenly apply another coating. 

What’s the Best Media to Use for Airplanes?

10X Engineered Materials has created a line of superoxalloy abrasives that are strong and durable, and won’t leave embedded particles in the surface. 

The EpiX and KinetiX abrasives are made up of polymorphous particles that perform multiple steps of the blasting process at once, making it possible to remove coatings faster and for less.

They are also safe for both you and the environment, with no free silica, no crystalline structures, no heavy metals, and no beryllium. They also resist breakage and can also be reused many times, and are virtually dust-free. 

Currently, KinetiX and EpiX are available from abrasive distributors around the US. If you don’t see a distributor near you, contact 10X and we will work with you to get you what you need. EpiX abrasive, which is best for precision applications such as powder coating and medical applications, is also available to purchase directly from the 10X Engineered Materials website.