Abrasive wheels are made up from some kind of abrasive compound, a course-particle or fine-particle abrasive aggregate that is bonded together with a cementing matrix into the shape of a wheel. Abrasive wheels can be used to clean or buff metal surfaces, or can be grinding wheels as used in high precision grinding machines. They can also be used for rough grinding work on a bench grinder, or a hand-held grinder.
Abrasive wheels are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are usually tailored to specific tasks. They can also be made from a variety of different abrasive aggregates, depending on the hardness required for a particular job. This type of wheel tool is a consumable item. Over time they will wear down and need to be replaced with a new wheel. The rate of wear is usually dependable and can be estimated with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Cutting or grinding a piece of metal with an abrasive wheel is a similar process to that done with a lathe or milling machine. The abrasive wheel has many tiny little cutting edges, whereas lathes and milling machine tend to only have one operating at a time. The effect is largely the same, however; metal is removed from the work piece surface. This can be done roughly, or it can be achieved with high precision, depending on the type of grinding machinery used.
Abrasive wheels and grinding wheels are terms that are often interchanged, but one distinction is that grinding wheels are best suited for heavy grinding work, while abrasive wheels are used for light grinding, or cleaning work on metals. Abrasive wheels are often chosen for work on non-ferrous metals, which are much softer than steel and require a less heavy-handed approach.
You can get abrasive wheels in a variety of different shapes, making them suitable for a wide variety of different tasks. The most common is a straight wheel, but you can also have straight cupped wheels, curved cupped wheels, cone wheels, plug wheels and more. Abrasive wheel are also available in a variety of different diameters, ranging from very small 25 millimetre wheels to large 15 centimetre wheels, or larger.
The abrasive grains of abrasive wheels are usually either ceramic alumina, zirconia alumina, aluminum oxide or silicon carbide. These abrasive grains can be bonded together in several different ways, such as through resinoid bonds or vitrified bonds. They can also have induced porosity. A vitrified bond is generally the toughest type of bond, and used for precision grinding. A resinoid bond offers greater resistance to shock and are useful when metal needs to be removed quickly through rough grinding.
Abrasive wheels are graded, depending on the strength of the bond. This is also known as the degree of hardness of the abrasive wheel. Generally speaking, the higher the grade number, the stronger the bonding substance holding the abrasive composite material particles together. Abrasive wheels are widely used in the engineering industry due to their flexibility and versatility in use.