Sandblasting is a general term used to describe the act of propelling very fine bits of material at high-velocity to clean or etch a surface. Sand used to be the most commonly used material, but since the lung disease silicosis is caused by extended inhalation of the dust created by sand, other materials are now used in its place. Any small, relatively uniform particles will work, such as steel grit, copper slag, walnut shells, powdered abrasives, even bits of coconut shell. Due to the dangers of inhaling dust during the process, sandblasting is carefully controlled, using an alternate air supply, protective wear, and proper ventilation.
A sandblasting setup usually consists of three different parts: the abrasive itself, an air compressor, and a blaster nozzle. For etching and small object cleaning, a workstation to hold the piece of glass is also needed, as is some sort of collector to gather up excess dust. Sandblasting is primarily used for two somewhat different applications. The first of these is to clean a surface of anything that may be clinging to it. The second is to either etch or carve designs or words into glass or a similar material.