Vol. 7
January Issue
Year 2006

Cover Page

in Vol. 7 - January Issue - Year 2006
The Ultimate In Glass Bead Technology

Author: Rick Symanski

Blast-O-Lite Glass Beads finishing of stainless steel cookware

Special steel Almen strip(s) are peened with glass spheres on one side to measure peening intensity of a particular application. The compressive stress induced by the peening action causes the Almen strip(s) to bow in the direction of the blast. The height of the arc is measured by the Almen Gauge. Drawing and Almen saturation curve the peening intensity is determined.?

Glass bead blasting can save old equipment parts for safe use again

Hip joint and shoulder joint. Glass beads provide a sterile finish for the medical field.

Blast-O-Lite® is the Industrial Bead Division of Flex-O-Lite, Inc, located in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Flex-O-Lite was founded in 1942, in St. Louis, by Gerold Rizer and Charles Bland. Working out of a warehouse, they experimented with different grinding techniques, burner configurations and cullet types. Their break-through came by increasing the height of the burner, which resulted in greatly improved yields of spherical beads. Flex-O-Lite was born.

Flex-O-Lite is now a leading manufacturer and distributor of reflective and industrial glass beads, with three production sites in North America to meet the needs of customers. Through the years the company has prospered and was acquired by Jackson Products, Inc. in 1994. Jackson Products also works with the highway, construction and manufacturing safety industries. This partnership allowed Blast-O-Lite to step into a greater safety role. By showing the safety industrial market additional ways to safely clean and maintain their equipment with glass beads, this greater audience can utilize the advantages of this blasting process.
One may wonder why glass beads are often better and safer than other blasting media options. Glass beads are manufactured of chemically inert soda-lime glass to produce a metallurgically clean surface for parts and equipment. The beads are spheres of uniform size and hardness to impact the surface of the part, or whatever the application requires. Blast-O-Lite® glass beads meet OSHA standards for cleaning operations, and release no free silica or toxins that may harm workers or the environment. Also, the breakdown of glass beads is generally caused by fracture and does not contaminate your work pieces. This helps keep the cleanliness and sterility of the pieces and work place assured.

Another safe advantage of using Blast-O-Lite® glass beads is disposability.  Chemical cleaning methods can require some hazardous processes in order to be done correctly. Spent glass, from blasting, is environmentally friendly as compared to these chemical-cleaning methods. Also, this normally simplifies the disposal process, which results in reduced cost and required paperwork.  The less time you spend trying to dispose of hazardous material, the more time you can spend on building your business.   

Flex-O-Lite’s Blast-O-Lite® glass beads are also manufactured to conform to MIL Specification G-9954A, which is the standard of the industry. They accelerate rapidly and efficiently into an air stream, and reach the target at extremely high velocity to safely blast and smooth burrs and rough edges.  This allows a low-cost, one-step finishing alternative.

A common question is what kind of bead does one need? The beads are available in a wide range of sizes and gradations, able to clean hard-to-reach fillets and interstices easily and quickly. An advantage to glass beads is during the building process; the manufacturer can create many sizes and gradations right for your application. The beads can soften finishes, clean metal, or reshape a surface.  There are many varieties and application results obtainable with glass bead blasting and its various techniques and methods. 
Glass beads help the blasting and finishing processes because the manufacturing processes often result in parts becoming contaminated with residues, which impair performance, and most metals are required to be metallurgically cleaned before painting or plating.  The contaminant free, environmentally friendly choice is impact blasting with Flex-O-Lite’s Blast-O-Lite® glass beads, instead of hazardous acid or chemical treatment - which again, involves the hazardous disposal issue. The impact of glass beads removes foreign substances from the base surface without dimensional change.

Using a variety of different Blast-O-Lite® glass beads, a broad range of materials including plastic, glass, metal and rubber can be finished. A finer, smoother non-glare finish is achieved with smaller spheres, while larger spheres produce a more textured finish. The bright satin finish is the desired effect in parts ranging from medical equipment to stainless steel propellers. Special effects are easily achieved through simple masking before the blasting process, and every type of finish is reproducible, time after time.

There are some key results that stem from Blast-O-Lite glass bead applications. The four major processing results are from Finishing, Deburring, Cleaning and Peening applications.
First, the Finishing application, because this is the practice seen the most often.  The impact of Blast-O-Lite® glass beads smoothly blends away surface defects, and improves the corrosion resistance of the finished surface. Blast-O-Lite® glass bead finishing is accomplished without dimensional change to the metal surface, and does not impart contamination or residue, unlike other finishing methods. The impact blasting process is fast for energy efficiency, and the bright, clean, precision finish is reproducible, even on materials with close tolerances.

For moving parts, finishing with Blast-O-Lite® glass beads improves lubrication and reduces friction. Glass bead finished surfaces create a sealing action that reduces susceptibility of aluminum, magnesium and other metal surfaces to chemicals and corrosion, therefore, extending part life.  The glass bead finishing process also improves adhesion capabilities with paint, plastic and rubber coatings.  Some finishing applications include: Food processing equipment and cookware, medical equipment and improving the surface appearance on various products- such as stainless steel cookware. 

The second application method is removing burrs, feathered edges and nicks from tools, equipment and parts, known as Deburring. This is a risky operation. Dislodged burrs can infiltrate machinery or work areas and cause damage or injury. Corners and edges must be deburred with precision to assemble and operate parts properly. No base metal must be removed from the surface of the part.  Blast-O-Lite® glass beads allow this precision.

The Cleaning application method is used in many industries. Blasting the product with glass beads makes the product sterile and free from contaminants. Beads are used to clean engine components, jewelry, dies, pipes and carbon deposits, to name a few.

The last application method to discuss is Peening.  Peening with Blast-O-Lite® glass beads creates a uniform surface layer of compressive stress, which acts to combat stress cracks and corrosion, therefore, increasing the life of metal parts. The glass beads leave no metallic contamination on the workpiece.  This eliminates the second step of removing metallic contamination left by steel shot or other peening media.  For delicate thin-walled parts and thin welds, peening with Blast-O-Lite® glass beads provides the right balance of stress relief without over-stressing and causing damage. Blast-O-Lite® glass beads offer uniform size and a high degree of roundness to precisely control the process performance for stress relief.

This industry is constantly evolving.  Everyday these products affect our lives, and the general public doesn’t even know. The blasting, peening, cleaning and finishing processes are used on everything from joints for artificial hips - because of the sterile finish for the medical field, to cleaning the space shuttle - because it won’t contaminate the sealants. They are also used in the medical field with burn victims, and to clean engine parts for vehicles. Future industry wants and needs are for finer, more specific results, and glass beads can provide that precision result. Industrial glass bead blasting is a part of the worldwide process, able to be used in any country, for multiple purposes.

And lastly, the need for recycling is a growing concern. Blast-O-Lite® is supporting this cause by taking a discarded product and utilizing it for the better. Instead of spent glass sitting in landfills, it is helping to improve sealing and lube applications, clean the space shuttle, or change the appearance of your cookware. 

The American company is always looking for innovative ideas that would benefit the new and growing demands, challenges and opportunities of the industry and growing world market.  Flex-O-Lite has three full-time facilities, running down the US Midwest corridor, and is able to provide specified beads as soon as possible. 
Blast-O-Lite® glass beads go through extensive quality control, research, and innovation. 
Glass beads are a fantastic alternative for all industrial blasting purposes. At Blast-O-Lite®, we offer the highest standards and believe the products offer the greatest and safest result.

Author: Rick Symanski
Tel. +1.330.861 1013
Flex-O-Lite & TMT-Pathway Marketing
Jackson Products, Inc.
801 Corporate Centre Dr., Ste 300
St. Charles, MO  63304