March 04, 2016

The Top Sand Blaster Alternatives

While sandblasting remains an ideal choice in certain situations and environments, especially when safe media is used, plenty of professionals are seeking blasting methods that are not as harsh as sand and, therefore, are safer for the environment and those occupying it.

Let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives to sandblasting that are available for cleaning and maintenance professionals.

What is Sandblasting?

Sandblasting is a process that involves refinishing a surface, typically for cleaning and/or renovation purposes. Abrasive particles – sand, in this case – are delivered to said surface under high pressure, hence the term. This procedure is used for a variety of purposes including the smoothing and preparation of surfaces, eliminating grit and grime buildup, and otherwise by essentially stripping the topmost layer of the surface.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sandblasting for Cleaning

For many years, sandblasting was considered the best method for abrasive cleaning and surface preparation. Today, professionals regularly seek an alternative to sandblasting. Before going further, let’s quickly spotlight the pros and cons of the traditional approach.

Advantages

  • Sandblasting is suited to a wide variety of suitable applications including in healthcare environments for peace of mind in infection control, industrial operations to minimize the risk of surface imperfections, and otherwise. 
  • Sandblasting has many uses including the removal of built-up grime, paint in need of stripping, caked-in dirt, imperfections in surfaces such as concrete, and more.
  • Sandblasting is cost-effective for smaller-scale jobs.

Disadvantages

  • Sand can sometimes be difficult to work with, and it can even pose health problems. This is especially true in cases where silica-based sand is used as a media, which can lead to small particles entering the lungs, resulting in silicosis, a serious occupational lung disease.
  • Operators of sand equipment need to wear protective gear, especially for larger jobs, which can interfere with efficiency and worker comfort.
  • Due to the natural properties of the abrasive media, you’ll need to swap it out more frequently.
  • Ventilation can be the Achilles’ heel of sandblasting – if there’s not enough of it, respiratory and further health complications can arise as noted above.
  • Sandblasting is not ideal for hard, smooth surfaces that cannot easily have their top layer stripped. A good example of this is on glass, which would develop surface damage in the form of scratches or even cracks depending on the amount of pressure and roughness applied.
  • It can be costlier for larger operating environments to employ sandblasting technology as automation capabilities are typically limited.

Interested in an Eco-Friendly Blaster?

A sandblaster can be difficult to operate and expensive to run. In recent years, the following alternatives have been amongst the most popular blasting methods used by professionals:

Agricultural Media

Agricultural media has been used as an abrasive in some blasting applications. This is the use of ground-up nut shells, seeds, and kernels from organic foods. Using this type of media affords an ecological advantage: it makes use of the waste that is created from food processing and preparation. Another benefit of this blasting media is that it is not as abrasive as sand, so it is suitable for cleaning surfaces without damaging the underlying material. In many cases, it won’t damage the original finish of the surface. The only downside is that agricultural media may not be readily available in every market.

Bead Blasting

This is another solution, ideally used in situations where sand would be inappropriate, impractical, and damaging to the material that is being blasted. This method uses small glass beads that break up upon impact, removing surface residue and contaminants. It is especially popular in applications where the surface has been contaminated with fungal growth. It can also be used to remove calcium from around pool areas, fountains, and other water features.

Dry Ice

Dry Ice can also be used as media, and it is popular in a variety of industries. Unlike sand, there are no contaminants that can pose health problems to someone who is performing the blasting, although dry ice does need to be handled safely in order to avoid accidents. Dry ice, like bead blasting and agricultural media blasting, will not damage the surface that it is being applied to. There is also no leftover residue from using dry ice aside from the broken-down remains of the material that is being removed through the blasting process. In many cases, a simple hose wash will complete the cleaning process on the surface. Dry ice machines for blasting have steadily risen in popularity.

Another Solution: Industrial Ice Blasters

Much like sandblasting and the alternatives mentioned above, an industrial ice blaster also uses compressed air to accelerate media towards the surface that is being cleaned or prepared. Ice blasting should not be confused with dry ice blasting, however. Instead of using carbon dioxide in solid form, an ice blasting machine uses readily available water, which is frozen and then utilized as the media in the blasting process.

As a result, ice blasting is an all-in-one process, which is to say that you, therefore, don’t need to add media to the unit. Ice is created inside the machine through refrigeration and the use of an immersed cold drum. As the machine operates, ice is continually formed under stress and is broken off by a stationary blade before it is fed into a tube using vacuum air. The ice fragments then mix with compressed air before finally being propelled through a nozzle for any specific blasting application. This method is particularly energy-efficient because it does not require large blocks of ice to be formed. The refrigeration technique used is highly reliable and built with proven technologies. And, because there are no mechanical parts needed to break or distribute the ice, there are few maintenance concerns with such a unit.

When ice is used for blasting, it is characteristically similar to dry ice, with the difference being that an ice blaster can be continuously run on a work site or in an industrial setting. There is no need to resupply and handle any solid carbon dioxide. An ice blaster leaves no residue, and because additional water is not needed in the application process, it is more environmentally friendly than conventional blasting methods.

Countless Applications for an Industrial Ice Blaster Machine

The niche technology of ice blasting is rising in popularity and is already being used in industries as varied as aerospace and military, food and beverage, timber engineering, automotive, and for general maintenance and cleaning in construction, just to name a few. The combination of being mildly abrasive, safe, and cost-efficient, all mean that ice blasting could be exactly what you need if you’re looking for an eco-friendly blaster.

To learn more, contact us at Daimer Industries. We’re happy to help you find out whether this high-tech, versatile blasting solution or another alternative to sandblasting is the right fit for your business.

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