Abrasive is a material that molds or provides finishing to a work piece through a process, which includes buffing, grinding, cutting, and polishing. Abrasion typically depends on the difference in the hardness of the material and the abrasive (with the latter being the harder of the two).
Abrasives can be categorized as natural or synthetic. They are commonly used in a wide variety of industrial, domestic, and technological applications. Abrasives are employed in various types of applications depending upon the chemical & physical composition and shape. Many artificial abrasives are similar to natural mineral; the only difference is that artificial abrasives have been synthetically manufactured instead of being mined. Lack of impurities can make artificial abrasives more effective than the natural ones.
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Examples of artificial abrasives include synthetic diamond, cubic boron nitride (Borazon or CBN), ceramic metal oxides, glass powder, steel abrasive, silicon carbide (carborundum), boron carbide, calcium carbide, and zirconia alumina. Factors considered while selecting an artificial abrasive include shape, size, and nature of the work piece as well as the desired finish.
Peculiar characteristics of synthetic diamonds such as high mechanical strength and low toxicity have increased their utility across a wide range of industrial applications. Currently, synthetic diamonds are used in machinery production, construction, chip production, mining activities, and oil and gas exploration, among others.
Cubic boron nitride (CBN) is a synthetically manufactured material, which is second to only diamond in hardness. It can overcome issues faced by diamond and maintain its hardness at room temperature as well as over a wide range of temperatures. This makes it sturdy and more dependable.
Silicon carbide (SiC), also known as carborundum, occurs in minor quantities in the Earth’s crust. It can also be manufactured synthetically by blending petroleum coke and sand (silica) under high temperature and pressure conditions. SiC is particularly employed in steel manufacturing and steel processing.
Boron carbide (B4C), also known as Norbide, is an extremely hard boron-carbon ceramic. It is used as powder abrasive. It is also employed in cutting tools and dies. Tungsten carbide is known for its abrasion resistance and is used in mining operations.
Steel abrasives include steel particles, which are employed as abrasives. They are typically available in two shapes (as shot and grit) and are used for different industrial applications. Steel abrasives are primarily employed in industries such as automotive, construction, metallurgy, and petrochemical.
Abrasive and cutting tools are the primary applications of silicon nitride, which exhibits exceptional hardness and thermal stability, and wear resistance. Therefore, it is used as a material for cutting tools. Silicon nitride can be employed in hard steel, nickel based alloys, and cast iron.
Based on product, the artificial abrasives market can be segmented into synthetic diamond, CBN, silicon nitride, carbides (silicon, boron, and tungsten), ceramic metal oxides (aluminum and iron), steel abrasive, and others. Based on application, the market can be divided into raw abrasives, coatings, cutting & grinding, lapping & polishing, and others. In terms of end-user industry, the market can be segregated into machinery, electrical & electronic equipment, transportation, metal fabrication, and others (including construction, medical devices, power generation, and cleaning and maintenance)
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In terms of region, the global abrasives market can be divided into North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific is currently the leading region of the artificial abrasives market. It is expected to account for significant share of the global artificial abrasives market during the forecast period. China is the leading domestic market for the production of abrasive materials and abrasive products in Asia Pacific.
Key players operating in the artificial abrasives market include 3M, Advanced Abrasives Corp., Asahi Diamond Industrial Co. Ltd., Carborundum Universal Ltd., Entegris Inc., ESK SIC GmbH, Grindwell Norton Ltd., ILJIN Diamond Co. Ltd., Norstel AB, Reishauer AG, Saint-Gobain, Sandvik AB and SHOWA DENKO K.K.