How Dry Ice Blasting Works To Help Keep Automotive Factories Clean
Often times, when people hear the phrase “eco-friendly technology,” the assumption is that a compromise is required, i.e. “we’re getting rid of something that works and replacing it with something that’s green but not quite as efficient.”
This is not one of those times.
Dry ice blasting is reducing cleaning times in automotive factories by as much as 75%, which means factories are running longer and automotive manufacturers are saving money on normal maintenance tasks.
Here’s an explanation of the technology and how it’s impacting the auto industry.
What is Dry Ice Blasting?
The process is similar to sand, soda, or plastic bead blasting. Dry ice, or CO2, is a nontoxic gas compressed into a solid state as small pellets. Pressurized air streams direct the dry ice onto the surface that needs to be cleaned. CO2 changes from a solid to a gas instantaneously upon impact and creates mini explosions that thermally fracture unwanted coatings from the surface.
The Benefits of Dry Ice Blasting
Sand and plastic blasting use a hard abrasive grit and can often damage the intended surface, whereas dry ice is non-abrasive, so the damage to the surface being clean is minimal (if any).
Because dry ice sublimates (transitions directly from solid to gas), it leaves no grit or particles behind like some other cleaning media. Unlike the more traditional cleaning methods (everything from soap and water to heavy-duty industrial solvents), dry ice doesn’t leave behind a coating or residue either.
Finally, because dry ice blasting is relatively harmless, most items can be cleaned in place without time consuming dis-assembly. This reduces the risk of factory delays, as dis-assembly and re-assembly often results in damage.
Automotive Applications for Dry Ice Blasting
Over time, molds and mechanisms used to manufacturer parts accumulate grease, sludge, sealant and/or weld. In order to keep the factory humming, these mold and mechanisms must be cleaned regularly.
Otherwise, someone notices a quality issue and some part of the operation must be stopped so that the issue can be managed. These unplanned stops are incredibly costly, so regular cleaning of molds, weld lines, paint shop rollers etc., is just good business.
Yet cleaning takes time, and time is money. By using dry ice blasting, cleaning times are reduced. Examples include:
- Weld Lines traditionally took more than 2 hours with manual scraping and harsh chemicals to remove. Using Dry Ice Blasting, weld lines can be cleaned in 25 minutes
- E-coats, also known as electromagnetic paint, can gunk up paint shop rollers, hooks, guide rails, motors and everything it encounters during the painting process. Hard to reach and manually tedious scraping can now be substituted for dry ice blasting. Less time cleaning the e-coating equipment means more time can be spent in production.
- Slush molds are the current standard for creating instrument panels. Slush molds work by pouring medium into a hollow cast, much like how chocolate Easter bunnies are made. Residue left in the cast will leave defects into future casts making them unfit for use. Traditional methods called for shut downs and tricky cleaning using harsh chemicals. Dry ice blasting means no line shut downs and less toxic chemicals for automotive works to deal with.
- Urethane foam molds need to be immaculate to ensure premium gloss levels. Dry ice blasting allows for 70% less man hours for proper cleaning and has reportedly saved auto manufacturers $50,000 annually.
As you can see, dry ice blasting is an effective cleaning tool that just happens to be environmentally friendly… which is refreshing considering that many green technologies don’t meet that same standard.
Filed Under: Auto News