Time to Upgrade

An all-new abrasives development has hit the market, and it’s coming just in time for a changing manufacturing landscape


It’s a new year, which means that hundreds if not thousands of new product models will be ushered onto the marketplace. These new offerings are in part driven by ever-evolving technology, but, in all reality, are also driven by consumers’ desire for something shiny and new. But it’s not just electronics and vehicles. Abrasive products get the upgrade treatment, too.

That’s because folks in metals manufacturing and fabricating aren’t any different than the average consumer. They want something shiny and new in their toolbox, too. And like everyone else, they want product upgrades and enhancements to be driven by the exciting technological advancements happening in the world today.

Jeremy Spencer, product manager for nonwoven abrasives at Norton | Saint-Gobain Abrasives, says as a mainstream brand his company is constantly working on new product designs. But he’s particularly excited about RazorStar, the company’s most recent launch as it promises to handle the toughest off-hand, impact and automated grinding needs in the industry.

The introduction of Norton RazorStar fiber discs, quick-change discs and belts ushers in a new and easier method for tackling the toughest grinding applications.

Product promises

“We developed the new RazorStar fiber and quick-change discs and belts featuring engineered shaped ceramic grain because of our customer needs,” Spencer says. “We want to live up to the expectation that we’re always working on something that can help them perform better in their daily jobs.”

With that in mind, Norton |Saint-Gobain Abrasives developed RazorStar based on the realities of the changing workforce. People are constantly moving from job to job – whether they’re advancing into new roles or looking for better job satisfaction or work life balance, employers have to deal with a lot of turnover.

“And that’s exactly why RazorStar was developed,” he adds. “Knowing that employers have to train new employees on a regular basis inspires and motivates us to develop more products that are easier for operators to learn and use.”

One of the biggest benefits of the RazorStar products is that less effort is required to use them successfully. When a manager or trainer can actually say “let the product do the work for you” and mean it, the amount of training time is inevitably slashed.

That ease-of-use is made possible thanks to the inherent difference in the grain shape and chemistry of the RazorStar products compared to other ceramic abrasives. Norton took care to create a ceramic grain with an innovative, engineered shape. Spencer explains.

“With this grain, you have a chemistry that’s soft, but a shape that’s rigid,” he says. “The specific chemistry was chosen because the product needs to be able to fracture and break down. If it doesn’t break down, it rubs and creates heat, which in turn, causes capping where the metal sticks and bonds to the grain. But you also don’t want it to break down under little pressure.”

It’s a balancing act, and one that Norton |Saint-Gobain Abrasives has achieved. The grains need to break down to reduce friction and heat, but they need to be able to stand up to the grinding task at hand – literally.

“The overall composition of RazorStar coated abrasives is key for success,” Spencer says. “The resin is applied to the back of the material, which the grain is adhered to. The grain actually leaps up onto the material, which allows it to stand up on its tips.

“If you have something that’s meant to be sharp, it needs to be standing up,” he continues. “If it’s lying flat, it’s not cutting. The more points you have cutting, the better and faster it’s going to cut and the less heat it’ll release.”

Spencer says that more than 80 percent of RazorStar grains are standing up compared to the competitor average of 35 percent. Overall, the product delivers the strength to stay together under the force of the pressure being applied, yet fractures at the correct time to continuously resharpen itself.

RazorStar discs and belts also feature a grinding aid or topcoat called supersize. Supersize is used almost like a lubricant in a cutting process, and it’s well-suited for aluminum, Inconel, stainless steel and titanium and hard-to-grind materials in general.

Thanks to new innovative product design and composition, operators are able to use smaller 4 1/2-in. grinders, which reduces fatigue and, in turn, increases productivity.

“For example, aluminum isn’t hard, but it’s hard to grind because it’s sticky if it gets hot,” Spencer explains. “Due to the supersize that is applied to the RazorStar abrasive products, grains are anchored together, reducing heat and preventing the belt or disc from loading. When the supersize breaks loose after a while and when it comes out, the aluminum that was embedded in the belt or disc will release, too.”

Matters of Material

The development of RazorStar wasn’t just an arbitrary exercise of what can come from an R&D department; it was a direct response to the changing demands of the marketplace. In addition to addressing the challenging labor pool, the company needed to address the changing materials landscape, as well.

Recently, manufacturers and fabricators have been seeing a rising use of aluminum, Inconel, stainless steel and titanium in end products. As populations grow, more houses must be built and outfitted with stainless steel appliances. The same holds true with aerospace demands. With population growth comes higher air travel, which requires an increase in the products and components that support it.

“As more people travel, you need more jet engines, and turbines have a lot of Inconel and titanium products,” Spencer says. “And just look at Ford – they quit making steel beds for their trucks. They’re made out of aluminum now. If you want your pickup to get 40 miles to the gallon, it can’t weigh 11,000 lbs.”

So, from fridges and trucks to planes and even hammers, consumers today are savvy and demanding. They want advanced products for their durability, and they want products that won’t rust and are lightweight. To keep up with that demand, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to optimize their operations.

The new RazorStar abrasives are ideal for automation. For customers that may not have a proven automation process in place, Norton developed an in-house lab where their parts can be tested to determine the best methods to use.

Something for everyone

New Norton RazorStar technology can be found on a variety of products to suit the company’s customers’ wide-ranging needs. It’s available in 36-grit as a fiber disc, quick-change disc and belt with the former two primarily being used manually and the latter primarily in robotic applications.

RazorStar fiber discs: Available from 4.5 in. to 9 in. in 7/8 hole, speed-change and AVOS discs, the products are primarily used for weld and mill scale removal, beveling and deburring. The company has tested the discs with a variety of pressures with medium to high faring best. Those working in MRO, metal fabrication, welding, oil and gas, energy and shipbuilding would benefit from their use.

“Back in the day, a lot of people would use heavy backing pads on grinding wheels for heavy deburring and beveling,” Spencer says. “That was your only option. But now that we have these highly advanced fiber discs, they are quieter to run and easier for operators to use physically and for training reasons.”

RazorStar quick-change discs: Available in 2-in. and 3-in. sizes, the discs feature a strong backing that stands up to extreme pressure when removing stock, deburring, beveling and blending. Those working in aerospace, MRO, metal fabrication, welding and energy industry applications would benefit from their use.

RazorStar belts: Made-to-order and well-suited for impact grinding, robotic or off-hand applications, those working in foundry, aerospace, automotive, metal fabrication, oil and gas and general engineering environments would benefit from their use. They are typically found in robotic applications where medium to high pressure is being applied on hard-to-grind materials.

“Back in the day, discs didn’t last long and wore out quickly,” Spencer says. “But ceramics and shaped-grain products can remove a lot of material in a very short time.

“I’m talking pounds of carbon steel,” he emphasizes. “The other day I used one for 10 min., removed nearly a pound and a half of metal, and it didn’t even look like it was used at all. Before, 10 min. was all you could get out of it, period.”

According to Norton | Saint-Gobain tests, one RazorStar disc could remove up to 2.5 lbs. in material in 15 min. before wearing out. And an internal test on a RazorStar belt resulted in 11 lbs. of removed material with one belt.

“It just eats the metal,” Spencer says. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. You just hang on to the tool and let the abrasive do the work. As it wears, you’ll have to eventually start applying pressure, but you don’t really have to push until the life of the disc is nearing its end.”

Watch the video to learn more about the benefits of using new Norton RazorStar abrasives.

For manual operations, that could add up to a 50 percent reduction in physical work on a worker’s arms and shoulders as well as a significant reduction of noise and vibration. One can imagine that it would also add up to a reduction in employee turnover.

“Ten years ago, it was normal to run a 9-in. grinder all day that weighed somewhere between 15 lbs. and 20 lbs., depending on which model you had,” he concludes. “But now that we have these new products, operators don’t have to lug around those 9-in. grinders. They’re using four and a halves. That allows a smaller framed person to have more success when they have to weld and grind all day.”

Norton |Saint-Gobain Abrasives

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