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Dry Ice Blasting Guide

If you run an industrial facility, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Not only does a cleaner workplace look more professional and help to boost worker morale, an unclean industrial site can cause serious health and safety issues. One innovative cleaning method to look into is dry ice blasting.

What Is Dry Ice Blasting?

Dry ice blasting is an industrial cleaning process that has been adopted by a wide variety of industries. This process is a type of carbon dioxide cleaning. The solid form of carbon dioxide, commonly called dry ice, is sent through an air stream toward a surface to remove contamination. The dry ice in the form of small pellets travels through a blast hose at extremely fast speeds. When it impacts the surface, it converts to a gas in a process called sublimation. This process, which involves COgas expanding rapidly, helps to remove the residue.

Dry ice blasting is a type of abrasive cleaning similar to sand or soda blasting, where a pressurized stream of air accelerates particles toward a surface to clean it, but dry ice blasting has a wider range of applications and can be used in extremely sensitive environments like food manufacturing.

The mechanism for dry ice cleaning depends on the following three factors:

  • Kinetic energy: Dry ice is softer and less compacted than other common media like grit, sand and PMB. The cleaning equipment accelerates the dry ice pellets to near supersonic speed, and when they collide with the surface, they sublime and a small amount of energy is transferred to the surface. This process reduces the amount of abrasion to the underlying material.
  • Thermal shock: As the dry ice pellets hit the surface and sublime, heat is absorbed from the residue on the surface. This quick heat transfer from the residue’s top layer produces temperature gradients within the microlayers of the residue. This then causes microcracks within the residue, which weakens the residue’s adhesion to the surface.
  • Thermal-kinetic effect: When the dry ice pellet sublimes, it expands to a volume nearly 800 times that of the pellet. This expansion helps remove the residue from the underlying surface.

Benefits of Dry Ice Blasting

Dry ice blasting offers many advantages over traditional cleaning methods:

  • Environmentally friendly: Dry ice comes from recaptured CO2 emissions. During the blasting process, there are no solvents or chemicals involved, and there is no secondary waste to clean up. There’s also no water used — which means that mold and bacteria are less likely to grow. This cleaning method is also considered safe for the food industry and meets USDA, FDA and EPA guidelines.
  • Cleans more effectively: Cleaning with dry ice is faster, more thorough and can often be done without disassembling or reassembling the equipment to be cleaned. It can easily reach areas that are hard to access and almost impossible to clean by any other means. Dry ice blasting leaves a clean, dry surface that can be recoated. This method of cleaning is aggressive enough to handle difficult surfaces but sensitive enough that it can be used with delicate equipment.
  • Less downtime: There’s less downtime involved with dry ice blasting. Equipment usually does not have to be taken apart beforehand, and there is no dry time or cool down time required.
  • Less waste: Because the dry ice pellets evaporate upon impact, the only clean up required is the removed debris itself.
  • Less dangerous: There are none of the hazards of cleaning with chemicals. Dry ice is non-toxic, non-abrasive, non-flammable and non-conductive.
  • Reduces costs: Because the process is faster and there is less downtime than with other methods, labor costs are also lower. Because it is safe for the environment, you can also avoid the costly environmental clean-up requirements of chemical cleaning methods.
  • Extends the life of the equipment: Dry ice blasting does not abrade, wear or erode the equipment, which means the equipment will last longer.

Industrial Applications of Dry Ice Blasting

Many industrial facilities and warehouses are now turning to dry ice blasting, which completes the job three to five times faster, doesn’t produce secondary waste and is particularly good at dealing with difficult-to-remove materials. Industrial dry ice cleaning is more effective than traditional cleaning methods when it comes removing the toughest grease, dirt and adhesives. While pressure washing and steam cleaning require that the equipment dry out, ice blasting allows you to start using your equipment again right away.

Here are some common industrial uses of dry ice blasting:

  • Adhesives: Dry ice blasting removes adhesives much more effectively than traditional methods because the lower temperature weakens the adhesive bond. Many industries are now using this method to remove old labels from containers that are being recycled. Because abrasive methods produce heat, they cannot effectively remove some adhesive materials.
  • Aerospace equipment: This innovative cleaning method is particularly effective in electrically charged work environments. Frozen CO2 is a gas and does not conduct electricity, so it is a safe choice in aerospace environments. Dry ice blasting does a great job cleaning foam insulation, coatings, sealants, wiring, controls, aviation grease and carbon materials found in aerospace facilities.
  • Automotive: Dry ice blasting works particularly well in automotive manufacturing, where it is used to clean E-coat systems, electronics, wiring, controls, gauges, molds, tools, presses and dies. It is also used for cleaning cranes, saws, cooling fans, ceiling fans and other warehouse equipment. This cleaning method is ideal for lines that are constantly operational because production doesn’t have to be temporarily halted for disassembly or drying.
  • Engineered wood: Using dry ice blasting to clean wood presses saves time, reduces labor costs and is safer for employees. Traditionally, workers used a laborious, manual cleaning process that required tools like angle grinders. This is a dangerous process and requires the employees to work inside the machines, where they risk of inhaling harmful residue and dust. This manual method of cleaning can also be ineffective, as some unreachable parts of the machines cannot be cleaned. Dry ice blasting, on the other hand, is cost-effective and 85 percent faster than traditional cleaning methods. Because presses, dryers and vents do not have to be manually cleaned, it’s also safer for employees.
  • Ethanol plants: Corn dust and dried distillers grain tend to accumulate during ethanol production, which creates frequent maintenance issues for ethanol plant equipment. Dust coating the walls, tunnels and grain pits negatively affect the performance of the stack economizers, thermal oxidizers, induced draft fans and coils. Dry ice blasting efficiently removes the dust from these machines without producing a secondary waste stream. Routine dry ice cleaning tends to make the more involved cleaning procedures during annual or bi-annual maintenance shutdowns much easier, which saves plants thousands of dollars in energy expenses.
  • Fire remediation: Dry ice cleaning does an excellent job of removing toxic residues, soot and the smells associated with a fire. Insurance companies often work with independent dry ice blasters because they can quickly clean locations that have been damaged by smoke and fire.
  • Food processing: Dry ice blasting removes grease, dirt and food residue from pots, stove-tops, grills, utensils, baking ovens and all surfaces in the food-service industry. The CO2 pellets will not contaminate food, surfaces or cooking equipment. In fact, it actually sanitizes as it cleans — and is approved and endorsed by organizations such as the FDA, EPA and USDA.
  • General manufacturing: The buildup of dirt, grease, soot and oil in manufacturing facilities can cause machinery to malfunction and create an unsafe working environment. Dry ice blasting provides a fast, safe and affordable way to clean machinery without having to disassemble it or cool it down.
  • Heat Recovery Steam Generators: HRSG systems have always required regular cleanings to increase their generating power and maintain efficient energy production. If the input and output tubes are properly cleaned, back pressure decreases and output increases — which leads to more generated power. Dry ice blasting is considered the best cleaning method for this job.
  • Historial restoration: The aim of historical restoration is to return a structure to its original state. The underlying surfaces must be uncovered, and it’s imperative this is not done with chemicals or in an abrasive way that could affect the integrity of the surface. Chemicals can seep into stone, for instance, and abrasive cleaning methods can scratch and damage the surface. Dry ice cleaning allows the surface to be cleaned without causing any damage to the substrate. The operators can use this method on marble, glass and onyx without damaging the surface at all. There is also no secondary waste produced by this method, and it’s much quicker than other restoration methods.
  • Hospitals: Dry ice blasting is not toxic and therefore can also be used in hospitals. It will stop mold, mildew and other fungi from growing, and will also eliminate odors at their source by destroying the bacterial host environment, instead of using a masking agent. Dry ice blasting is 100 percent ecologically safe and harmless to humans.
  • Medical device manufacturing: Dry ice cleaning helps medical device manufacturers meet the strict standards of quality and consistency. This cleaning method allows manufacturers to effectively clean contaminants from cavities, vents and other places that are difficult to reach — and does so without leaving any chemical residue. Because dry ice cleaning is non-abrasive and contains no chemicals, it can extend the life of a parts mold. It also works on a variety of equipment, including catheter tips, surgical device handles and instrument trays.
  • Mold removal: Traditionally, mold removal methods entailed sanding and scraping, which is time-consuming and often ineffective when trying to reach small spaces. Other methods such as soda blasting and chemical cleaning create poor visibility and require cleanup afterward. The only way to ensure the complete removal of the mold is with dry ice blasting — it removes not only the mold itself but also its roots, leaving the surface completely mold-free.
  • Oilfield and petroleum operations: Oilfield equipment is often slippery, dirty and contaminated, which can cause health problems and safety concerns. This equipment frequently accumulates acids, bitumen, chemicals and heavy oils, which need to be regularly removed. Dry ice blasting this equipment eliminates the risk of accidents and premature wear on close-tolerance pieces of equipment.
  • Plastics: With today’s high manufacturing standards, plastic part manufacturers must keep their mold cavities and vents exceptionally clean. If unwanted surface residues accumulate in the molds, this can lead to inferior product quality and possibly damage the tools. Clogged vents can also present a challenge for manufacturers. Cleaning these molds with traditional methods such as chemicals and hand tools is tedious and often ineffective. Using dry ice blasting allows molds to be cleaned in a fraction of the time and at their operating temperature.
  • Printing: Printing requires precision, so it’s important that that debris and other unwanted materials do not make their way into its components. Dry ice blasting cleans conveyors, ink boxes, rails, rollers, guides and more without the need for disassembly. This cleaning method removes ink and paper pulp buildup, grease, oils and paper dust — and it’s 80 percent faster than scraping by hand or solvent-based cleaning methods. Dry ice blasting improves print quality and reduces the amount of material that is thrown away. It also extends the lifespan of expensive parts such as motors, chains and gripper bars.
  • Rubber: Rubber molders face a major problem known as mold fouling, which is the accumulation of cured material and mold release agents. This build-up causes blemishes and undesirable flash, which make the molds unusable and requires the line to be shut down for cleaning. Dry ice cleaning these materials is far superior to traditional cleaning methods like glass bead blasting, which can be consuming, expensive, damaging and sometimes ineffective.
  • Textiles: In the textile industry, accumulation of lint, glue and other materials is common. Dry ice blasting can remove these things without damaging the equipment.
  • Tool dies: Dry ice blasting is considered the best method for cleaning dies. Because the dry ice is softer than other blasting materials, it maintains the critical tolerances of the dies better than other methods. It can even be used when the dies are still hot, which saves time.

Clean Your Facilities With Alpine Painting and Restoration

Alpine Painting and Restoration has the tools to effectively remove contaminants and debris from your facility without doing any damage to your equipment or surfaces. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware, check out our industrial cleaning services. We are able to clean practically anything that falls under the industrial category — from masonry to heavy manufacturing. And our equipment has the capability to pressure-wash with intensities from 2,500 to 25,000 PSI, so we can adjust the pressure based on how aggressive of a cleaning your facility requires.

Our goal is to make your facility look great and last a long time. If you have any questions or would like to receive a free quote, give us a call at (215) 348-4410 or contact us online via our form. We will respond to requests within 48 hours and provide you with a timely estimate on your project.

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