September 30th, 2019
There are virtually limitless different compounds and solutions available on the automotive polishing market today. Although each one features a structurally similar composition (particles of abrasive media suspended in a continuous phase solution), their performance capabilities vary dramatically from product to product. This difference in performance largely stems from the abrasive components, which typically derive from calcined alumina (Al2O3) or earthen mineral abrasives.
Batch-made calcined alumina generated from alumina trihydrate (ATH) is widely used in automotive polishing for two primary reasons. Firstly, it adopts a strong blocky shape that is ideal for controlled abrasion. Secondly, it is cheap.
The problem with bulk calcined alumina and earthen minerals is that engineers have a relatively poor measure of control over both the geometry and the quality of their abrasive particles. This can lead to particle non-uniformity which often imparts swirl marks during automotive polishing. These must be corrected by subsequent passes with a mechanical buffer, taking time and effort; ultimately costing money.
Research and development into particle technology has unlocked new levels of performance in automotive polishing compounds. It is now possible to exploit crystal growth and the agglomerate microstructures of alumina products to tailor-make abrasive media with finely-tuned physical properties. This development presents new opportunities for faster and more cost-effective automotive polishing than ever before.
Saint-Gobain Surface Conditioning has decades of experience in the manipulation of crystal growth, with an application-driven development approach to material engineering. When testing new products, experts at our research centers use a constant test composition while the testing method is systemized to assess cut rate, gloss, and haze. The chief variables, therefore, are the composition, particle size distribution (PSD), morphology, and aggregate structure of the relevant abrasive media.
Using this proprietary testing method, Saint-Gobain can carefully modify abrasive media to tailor unique particles for distinct automotive polishing applications. Cut rate can be tailored depending on substrate hardness and composition, offering previously unattainable levels of quantitative control in automotive polishing.
Saint-Gobain Surface Conditioning leads the industry in particle synthesis and modification. We offer vertically-integrated automotive polishing solutions to meet a wide range of materials and processing requirements. If your manufacturing processes or production properties require a distinct abrasive with respect to morphology, hardness, or any other potential axis, we can provide it for you.
If you would like to learn more about our technical capabilities, read our previous blog post Automotive Polishing: Balancing Cut Rate with Surface Finish. Otherwise, contact a member of the team for any more information.