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What is bead blasting

Bead blasting is a popular method of giving parts a smooth, satiny texture and improving their aesthetic quality. Here’s a guide to using the post-processing technique, including how it works, its common industrial uses and more.

What is bead blasting?

Bead blasting is a surface treatment process that involves using compressed air to shoot tiny spherical particles, called beads, at a surface with high pressure. The goal of bead blasting is to clean or even a part’s surface to improve its functionality or cosmetic quality after CNC machining.

How does bead blasting work?

The bead blasting process works by using the impact of beads to remove contaminants such as rust, paint, scale or corrosion from a surface. The result is a surface that is uniform, smooth – often with a matte or satin texture – and clean, which makes it easier to apply a new finish or coating to the part.


What materials are used in bead blasting?

The beads used in bead blasting can be made of various materials, such as glass, ceramic, aluminum oxide, or steel. The choice of bead material depends on the specific application and the desired result. Here are a few of the most common.

  • Ceramic. Often made from zirconia or alumina, ceramic beads are highly durable and can be used for aggressive cleaning and surface modification. They are typically used in applications that require tightly controlled surface finishes.

  • Steel. Hardened steel beads are highly durable and can be used for heavy-duty cleaning and surface preparation. They are often used in heavy-duty applications where a high level of abrasion is required.

  • Plastic. Made from various plastics, including acrylic and polycarbonate, plastic beads are a good choice for applications that require a clean or uniform surface while maintaining the quality of the underlying material.


What are the advantages of bead blasting?

Bead blasting is effective and versatile in that it can improve the appearance, performance, and durability of a wide range of materials and parts. The following are several of the advantages of bead blasting.  

  • Effective surface cleaning. Bead blasting can effectively remove contaminants, rust, and other surface imperfections from a wide range of materials, leaving a clean and smooth surface finish.

  • Versatility. Bead blasting can be used on a variety of materials, including metals, plastics, and composites. It can also be used for different applications, such as surface preparation, deburring, and finishing.

  • Uniform surface finish. Bead blasting can produce a uniform surface finish across a large area, even on complex geometries.

  • Improved surface texture. Bead blasting can modify the surface texture of a material to achieve roughness or smoothness, such as a matte finish or a satin texture. This can improve the material's appearance, grip, and functionality.

  • Reduced surface stress. Bead blasting can reduce surface stress and tension in materials, improving their overall durability.


What are the disadvantages of bead blasting?

Bead blasting offers many benefits. However, it’s also important to understand its potential drawbacks. Then you can assess whether it is the best surface treatment method for your application. Here are a few of the disadvantages of bead blasting.

  • Material removal. Because bead blasting involves the use of high-pressure streams of abrasive beads to remove surface contaminants and modify surface texture, it can potentially result in material loss and dimensional changes (generally only where the highest tolerances are concerned).

  • Surface damage. The high-pressure abrasive streams used in bead blasting can cause surface damage to some materials, such as softer metals and plastics. This can result in surface roughness or even deformation of the part, especially in areas with thin walls.

  • Dust and debris. Bead blasting can produce a large amount of dust and debris, which can create safety hazards for operators and require additional cleanup efforts. Special ventilation and safety equipment may be needed to mitigate these hazards – which may result in extra costs.


What are best practices when designing for bead blasting?

 Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when designing a part that will be bead blasted. By following them, the final manufactured part will be as close to your specifications as possible.  

  • Consider the required surface finish. This should be determined before designing a part for bead blasting, as it will help determine the bead size, material, and blasting pressure required to achieve it.

  • Select the right material. The material used to create your part should be carefully chosen to ensure that it can withstand the bead blasting process, as certain materials, such as soft plastics, may be more susceptible to damage or deformation.

  • Pay attention to part geometry. The shape and geometry of the part can affect the efficacy of the bead blasting process. Complex geometries may require special attention or multiple passes to achieve a uniform surface finish.

  • Provide adequate surface preparation. Before bead blasting, your part should be properly cleaned and prepared to ensure the process is most effective. This may involve using a degreaser or solvent to remove contaminants from the part’s surface. If you are using a manufacturing service, however, this will be taken care of for you.

  • Use consistent blasting parameters. To ensure the finish is consistent across multiple parts, it's important to use consistent blasting parameters, including bead size, blasting pressure, and duration. These parameters can be optimized in conjunction with your manufacturer based on your part’s geometry and surface finish requirements.


Which industries use bead blasting?

Bead blasting is used in a wide variety of industries to create uniform surface finishes or to prepare them for further post-processing. Here, we’ll look at a few industries that commonly opt for bead blasting for various applications.

  • Medical. For surface preparation of surgical instruments and implants, as well as for removing coatings and stains.

  • Marine. For surface preparation of boat hulls, decks, and other components, as well as for removing rust and corrosion.

  • Metal fabrication. For surface preparation of parts before welding or machining, as well as for removing rust and scale.

Order bead blasted parts 

To get an instant quote for a custom part including bead blasting, upload a CAD file and add it as a post-processing option. If you have a special request, contact for personalized advice. 

Find a comparison of the various surface finishes we offer, and learn more about what’s involved in post-processing on our knowledge base.  


CNC machining, 3D printing and sheet metal fabrication parts

Frequently asked questions

How do you reduce the cost and lead time of bead blasting a part?

You can reduce the cost and lead time by blasting parts in batches, automating production, and by using a digital manufacturing platform to secure competitive prices and lead times.

Can bead blasting be used on delicate or complex parts?

Bead blasting can be used on delicate or complex parts, but careful selection of blasting parameters and bead size is needed to avoid damaging them.

How much does bead blasting cost?

The cost of bead blasting depends on various factors, including part size, complexity, quantity, and surface finish requirements. Batch processing and automated blasting can help reduce costs.

Is bead blasting environmentally friendly?

Bead blasting is a relatively environmentally friendly process compared to other surface treatment methods, as it does not use chemicals or produce harmful byproducts.

Can bead blasting damage my part?

The high-pressure abrasive streams used in bead blasting can cause surface damage to some materials, particularly thin-walled sections of softer metals and plastics. Careful selection of blasting parameters and bead size can minimize this risk.

What is the difference between bead blasting and sandblasting?

Bead blasting uses spherical beads as the abrasive media, while sandblasting uses sand or other angular media. Bead blasting is typically less aggressive and produces a smoother surface finish.


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