The US produces about 26 million tons of industrial sand every year—and it's not like it's just getting scooped off the beaches. It's pulverized from larger rocks in massive crushers, like this one.
A Vertical Shaft Impact Crusher is essentially a gigantic, rock-bashing centrifuge. Material is fed in through a port at the top of the machine, where it falls onto a rapidly spinning rotor. The rotor then flings the material outwards against the outer walls of the crushing chamber (aka the anvils). Depending on the machine, these crushers can work through 500+ tons of material an hour, reducing the rock in size by a factor of 8:1. (The biggest meteorite ever found? 60 tons.)
Unlike Jaw or Cone crushers that use surface pressure to break down rock, VSIC's take advantage of the natural fissures that run through all minerals. By throwing, rather than squeezing the rock, the final particle size can be better controlled and results in the uniformly-shaped particles required for modern asphalt paving applications. VSICs are also used extensively in concrete recycling.
[Wikipedia - Power Screen, Image courtesy PowerScreen]
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