April 04, 2022

Heavy-Duty Finishing of Carbon Steel Using Aluminum Oxide Grains

Characterized by extremely high strength and wear resistance, carbon steel is the most common steel manufactured worldwide. Unlike other types of steel, which commonly contain a multitude of alloying elements designed to improve ductility or resistance to corrosion, carbon steel keeps things simple. It essentially has just two components: iron, which makes up the bulk of the material, and around 0.05% - 2% carbon.1 

Carbon steel is incredibly durable, highly versatile, and typically cheaper than more specialized alloy steels. This means carbon steel is used in a very broad range of applications, including cutting tools, milling machines and other high-strength components. 

The Importance of Choosing the Correct Abrasive 

Choosing the correct abrasive for a given application is always crucial. The decision determines not only the speed, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the process; but also the quality of the finished product. Using cheaper commodity abrasives such as brown fused aluminum oxide grains is usually a false economy: lower material removal rates, higher energy requirements and lower precision can lead to higher labor costs and lower-quality products. The choice of abrasive is especially important for metal finishing applications such as grinding, lapping and polishing, all of which demand high precision. 

Due to its hardness and wear-resistance, finishing carbon steel is a heavy-duty process. Some carbon steel alloys can be more challenging than finishing softer alloy steels like stainless steel or A36 steel – and therefore requires stronger, sharper and more effective abrasives. Saint-Gobain provides several high-performance abrasive grains suitable for finishing challenging carbon steel alloys. 

Alumina-zirconia Abrasive Grains 

A mixture of aluminum oxide and zirconium oxide, alumina-zirconia is one of the most durable materials in the abrasives market. Alumina-zirconia cuts faster and lasts longer than commodity abrasives such as silicon carbide or brown fused aluminum oxide grains.²  

During manufacturing, Saint-Gobain Abrasive Materials carefully controls the crystal microstructure to produce highly productive and durable abrasive grains suitable for finishing carbon steel and other challenging alloys.³

We produce four different alumina zirconia abrasives to suit any bonded abrasive, coated abrasive and cut-off wheel applications. 

Norzon NV Alumina-Zirconia Grains

AZ25/AZ40 Alumina-Zirconia Grains

MCA 1360 Alumina-Zirconia Grains

ZF/ZS Alundum Abrasive Grains

Monocrystalline Aluminum Oxide Grains 

Developed for the aerospace, automotive and cutting tool industries, Saint-Gobain MA88® monocrystalline aluminum oxide grains offer the highest level of performance for precision grinding and metal finishing applications. 

The improved version of Saint-Gobain’s 32A-type abrasive, MA88 aluminum oxide grains are manufactured by electro-fusion of high-purity alumina with special alloys. As each particle is a single crystal, MA88 aluminum oxide grains have sharp, strong edges that provide better bonding and more productive abrasion in bonded applications for metal finishing. 

MA 88

MA88’s unique microstructure exhibits numerous durable cutting edges, which provide unparalleled performance even compared to other monocrystalline aluminum oxide grains. MA88 aluminum oxide grains exhibit significant improvements in G-ratio and material removal rate, and a reduction in energy requirements, compared to standard monocrystalline aluminum oxide grains.  

MA88 aluminum oxide grains enable faster, more efficient and higher-quality finishing of even the most wear-resistant materials such as high-carbon steels. 

Saint-Gobain Abrasive Materials is a world leader in abrasive technologies for all applications. Are you looking for a more effective abrasive for metal finishing? Get in touch with a member of the Saint-Gobain team today to find out more about our high-performance aluminum oxide grains and other abrasive solutions. 


References and Further Reading 

1. Ashby, M. F. & Jones, D. R. H. Engineering materials 2: an introduction to microstructures and processing. (Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2013). 

2. Briggs, J. Markets and Trends in the European Abrasives Industry. Materials Technology 15, 167–169 (2000).