A Blast

May 1, 2010
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Dry ice blasting can safely remove adhesives and contaminants from surfaces without water, chemicals, or secondary waste treatment and disposal.



Cleaning and maintenance processes are essential parts of manufacturing. Ensuring that vessels, blades, drums, reactors and other equipment are clean and regularly maintained not only prolongs the life of the equipment, it also protects the quality of the end product.

Like most companies, adhesive and sealant manufacturers are looking for ways to do more with less - less waste, less space and less time - as well as make smaller investments in tools, equipment, and inventory. Current economic conditions demand that organizations leverage the maximum output of equipment and people to produce high-quality products faster, more economically, and with less waste.

Traditional cleaning methods in manufacturing environments are time consuming and require that operations be shut down. These manual cleaning processes often require employees to work closely and in confined spaces with hot, sharp or otherwise dangerous materials, including potentially hazardous chemicals and solvents. Even then, the equipment may not be thoroughly cleaned, and hard-to-reach areas of the machinery may not get touched. The use of solvents, as well as water, bead or sand blasting systems, also requires secondary cleaning and waste-disposal efforts that add time and cost to the process.

The challenges of cleaning are enhanced by the constant pressure to meet production schedules and deadlines; together, they often inhibit companies from implementing or completing regularly scheduled maintenance. Unfortunately, the challenges and deadlines will not go away. In fact, if left unattended, these difficulties will only get worse, and possibly more expensive.

A Non-Abrasive Cleaning Method

One alternative to conventional cleaning methods is dry ice blast cleaning. Dry ice blasting uses non-abrasive media in the form of recycled CO2 pellets or particles, which won’t damage equipment. Accelerated at supersonic speeds using pressurized air, the dry ice pellets break the connection between the contaminants and the surfaces being cleaned. Unlike power washing or steam cleaning, dry ice blasting does not leave any secondary waste. When the dry ice pellets or particles hit the equipment’s surface, they sublimate, or convert, from solid to gas. The only thing left to vacuum or sweep up is the original contaminant. Dry ice blasting is safe and non-toxic, does not create downstream contamination, and reduces or eliminates exposure to dangerous chemical cleaning agents.

For most manufacturing environments, the dry ice blasting process offers five key benefits: improved processes; reduced waste; increased productivity; increased quality and customer satisfaction; and support of environmental initiatives.

1. Improved Processes
With dry ice blasting, companies can do more with less; they can streamline cleaning and maintenance processes while reducing the cost impact of these processes. Rather than shutting down operations and disassembling and manually cleaning the machinery, equipment can be cleaned using dry ice blasting while it is still hot and online.

Dry ice blast cleaning systems have proven to be more efficient than manual cleaning processes, allowing employees to clean more equipment more often. Essentially, equipment can remain intact without relocating it to a confined cleaning area. With less time required for cleaning prep, dry ice blast cleaning reduces the overall shutdown time required for equipment maintenance, thus reducing the amount of machine downtime.

In addition, the many types and sizes of blasting nozzles available with these systems allow workers to clean in various situations and spaces.

2. Reduced Waste
In manufacturing, waste is referred to as anything that is in excess or not of value to the customer. When it comes to cleaning, waste is what remains after the cleaning process is completed.

Manual cleaning processes use chemicals that produce secondary waste; other blasting solutions, such as water, sand or bead blasting, require significantly more containment measures to help reduce the impact of their blast media. In addition, when using water or solvents, the materials used in cleaning and the remnants must be treated as toxic waste and properly disposed. Whether cleaning acrylics from die-casting machines or resins from blades and flooring, the only residue left to clean up with dry ice blasting is that which was originally on the machines.

In addition to eliminating secondary waste, dry ice blasting helps reduce wasted product that does not meet quality standards because the equipment was not properly cleaned. For example, product equipment that is not cleaned properly and free of contaminants may negatively impact the next batch of product being manufactured. In these situations, as well as in other production processes where cleaning is not done properly or frequently enough, the resulting products may need to be scrapped. Keeping equipment and molds clean will reduce actual product waste.

3. Increased Overall Productivity
Dry ice blasting has proven to increase the productivity of manufacturers and their maintenance crews. Because cleaning can take place without disassembling equipment or completely shutting down operations, manufacturers save the time and energy it would have taken to cool, disassemble, and re-assemble equipment, then restart operations. They can simply make the cleaning process part of the manufacturing process. In fact, cleaning while equipment is still hot can make dry ice blasting more effective.

According to a Cold Jet study, dry ice blasting can reduce the time it takes to clean equipment by 60-80%. Tire manufacturers, for example, have been able to reduce production costs by approximately $1 million per facility on an annual basis. By cleaning the mold presses while they are still assembled and hot, manufacturers have reduced downtime by 65%. Dry ice blasting also reduces the need for hand tools to remove resins, which can lower the risk of equipment damage and help to achieve near-zero defect levels in products.

The study showed that dry ice blasting has also helped molders to cut mold and corebox cleaning time by 60%. Leading blow molding bottle manufacturers have reduced their mold cleaning time by about 80% simply by cleaning molds while hot and in place.

4. Increased Quality and Customer Satisfaction
When equipment performs optimally, it makes better products. In addition, when machines are cleaned and maintained regularly, they produce better products. Better products make for more satisfied customers.

This is a simple correlation between clean machines and customer satisfaction, but the ability to clean equipment faster and with less waste allows manufacturers to consistently produce high-quality product every time. Cleaning with dry ice blasting also helps to eliminate the damage caused to equipment by the chemicals and tools traditionally used to clean them - damage that can ultimately lead to more downtime. Dry ice blasting lessens the risk of flaws and errors because the cleaning process can quickly eliminate residue from manufacturing equipment. Also, there is less direct contact with the equipment.

In addition, because the equipment is online during the cleaning process, manufacturers can run more production cycles and meet or beat customer timelines and expectations.

5. Support of Environmental Initiatives
Dry ice blast cleaning is an environmentally responsible cleaning process that supports manufacturers’ green initiatives. The process eliminates the need for water or chemical solvents and, because it does not produce any secondary waste, also reduces the possibility of downstream contamination.

Conclusion

Despite the constant pressure to produce 24 hours a day, seven days a week, manufacturers must perform regular maintenance. Unfortunately, market demands often push back scheduled cleaning, which can have both short- and long-term implications. Unless equipment is consistently and properly maintained, production and quality may suffer in the short term, while the equipment’s life may be cut short or plagued with constant repair. Dry ice blast cleaning allows manufacturers to clean faster and more frequently, which helps produce high-quality results while extending equipment life. Most importantly, the ability to clean quickly and in less time allows manufacturers to get back to making products and growing their bottom line.

For more information, visit www.coldjet.com.

SIDEBAR: Case Study

For a global manufacturer of release liners, dry ice blasting proved to be the right cleaning method.

The company used a variety of substrates, coatings and silicone formulations for its liners. In the past, there were two main ways to clean and maintain the production line equipment, which was covered in the coatings used during the manufacturing process. The first was sand blasting, which required the maintenance crew to pull components from the line and send them to a third-party to blast the equipment. This was typically a huge undertaking that required significant downtime. In addition, the sand byproduct could never be completely removed, particularly in hydraulic components.

The second cleaning method was performed by employees using brushes, scouring pads and chemical solvents. While the solvents cleaned the equipment, the manual scrubbing process was time consuming, expensive and tedious, and did not completely remove the films. The coatings used to manufacture the release liners would build up over time, making it impossible to clean down to the metal.

While the company did not like to use solvents, they proved to be the only way to remove the bulk of the coatings from the equipment. The extensive cleaning process required the company to pay workers overtime or to hire additional crew members. Because of the cleaning time and expense, equipment was not often cleaned and, as production demands increased, it became impossible to squeeze in the time required for a thorough cleaning.

The company turned to Cold Jet and began using a dry ice blasting system, on which it trained its entire maintenance crew and machine operators. Rather than a large crew working overtime to clean the equipment, each machine operator is responsible for cleaning his or her own workstation. To ensure that it gets done consistently, all maintenance is scheduled as the company picks one area at a time to clean.

The company found dry ice blasting to have a big impact on the cleanliness of its facilities, and has yet to find a coating, solvent or emulsion that cannot be removed with the dry ice blasting process. The company is also now able to clean equipment that had never been cleaned before, removing years of coating buildup and restoring it to like-new condition.

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