Types of Abrasives Used in Grinding Wheels

Where a saw uses a single layer of teeth to bite into a surface, grinders use abrasives with many fine grains that work together to cut. The material and needed finish will guide your choice of abrasive, but there are two basic types of abrasives used in grinding wheels: bonded and coated.

Coated and bonded abrasives differ in the way they are attached to a product.

Coated Abrasives in Grinding Wheels

When talking about abrasives, coated abrasive typically refer to layered grits and grains over a surface. Coated abrasives are commonly affixed to belts, sheets, discs, and rolls. The cutting grains layer on top of the foundation material. An especially common type of coated abrasive would be sandpaper.

difference between bonded and coated abrasives

Bonded Abrasives in Grinding Wheels

With a grinding wheel, you will be using bonded abrasives. The grains are bonded together with a binding agent or resin to add support to the grinding surface while cutting. The type of grain, the spacing, and the bond material will determine what materials an abrasive can cut.

Check out the abrasive supplies on the DXP website for a broader selection and supplier list.

Common Types of Grinding Wheel Abrasive

Abrasives can be used to cut and finish a variety of materials ranging from high-carbon steel to soft bronze or even rubber. You need an abrasive that will cut through the materials you are working with. Here’s a quick list of some of the most common types.

grinding wheel abrasives

Aluminum Oxide – Most Common

If you’re looking for an abrasive that most wheels are bonded with, you want aluminum oxide. It is used for everything from carbon to alloy steel, wrought iron, and bronze. This particular abrasive comes in a variety of styles that work with different materials. Be sure to look at the designation of the specific aluminum oxide abrasive and what it works best with.

Zirconia Alumina – Rough Grinding

When you want an abrasive for rough and tough cutting that lasts a long time, you need zirconia alumina. This abrasive uses a mix of aluminum oxide and zirconium oxide to create a durable surface that works great in cut-off applications for steel and steel alloys.

Silicon Carbide – Non-Ferrous Grinding

For a super sharp grinding surface, silicon carbide may be what you need. It works well on non-ferrous materials like rubber, stone, plastic, and glass, and also cuts through cast iron, soft bronze or aluminum. Expect to replace this abrasive more frequently than normal. It is very sharp, but can also be brittle, so it doesn’t last as long as an aluminum oxide surface.

Ceramic Aluminum Oxide – Top of the Line

One feature that makes a good abrasive is the consistent break down of the grains to form a sharp cutting surface. With ceramic aluminum oxide, that breakdown is taken to the next level with a fracture rate which is controlled down to the sub-micron level.

After a period of use, the grains break down yet your surface remains just as sharp. Breaking the grains provides brand new cutting points. This makes ceramic aluminum oxide the abrasive of choice when working with the hardest metals and precision grinding projects.

Before you start your next cutting project, contact DXP for expert advice on the abrasive type you need. Every abrasive comes in a variety of grades, so you might want to explore your options with our MRO distributors before setting up your grinding wheel.