After manually sanding our first acrylic ring from opaque to diffuse it became painfully apparent that this method doesn’t give the envisioned result nor did it scale well to our full prototype run. A single ring costs around 20 minutes to properly sand manually and even then the result wasn’t the silky milk glass finish we envisioned. Bead blasting was the way to go!
Bead blasting uses many kinds of media, but in our case we used glass beads. Glass beads are made from lead-free glass. These materials are formed into tiny glass balls. You can recycle the beads that you use in the course of bead blasting up to 30 times before replacing them. The glass beads used in the process are free of chemicals and safe for the environment. They come in several sizes and the size you choose will depend on your needs.
We found a place that had a large enough bead blasting machine for our needs, as the whole 70cm ring had to fit into it and the owner was friendly enough to open up his workshop to us as he was enthusiastic about two guys trying to create their product. We had to develop a bit of a feeling for the bead blasting as the cabinet features thick rubber gloves and a very limited view of what you’re actually doing, but after a couple of rings all was going smooth, averaging at about 3-5 minutes a ring dependent on the size.
The end result is simply stunning and the feel of the acrylic is completely different after getting treated to a shower of small glass beads. Another step to the envisioned end product is made, and we even managed to glue a couple of parts, hopefully glueing the other rings in the coming weeks.