Dry ice blasting is a highly effective and mess-free cleaning method that eliminates the need to disassemble or move machinery before cleaning and does not alter surfaces being cleaned, according to developer Kärcher Industrial Products (Camas, WA).
The company’s new IB 15/80 dry ice blaster uses compressed air to propel small dry ice pellets at supersonic speeds. The media is produced by expanding liquid carbon dioxide from a storage tank at ambient pressure to produce snow, then compressing the snow through a die to make hard pellets. The pellets flash-freeze to a temperature of -109°F and lift grime, paint, rust, mold, asphalt and other contaminants off a broad range of target surfaces. The pellets then quickly dissipate into the air, leaving behind no wastewater, solvents sand or other media to dispose of. All that’s left, according to Kärcher, is the soiled contaminant that can then be swept up or vacuumed.
The company says traditional blast cleaning media such as sand or glass beads are often too abrasive, resulting in etching or pitting of the surface being cleaned. Dry ice can be regulated so it is non-abrasive. The process uses a combination of kinetic energy and micro-thermal shock rather than purely mechanical action to lift contaminants off the surface being cleaned without altering the surface structure. According to Kärcher, this makes the process safe to use on virtually any material, from plastics and rubber to metals and even wood.
Dry ice blasting is said to be growing in popularity because it eliminates the need to disassemble or move machinery before it’s cleaned. The resulting labor savings is significant, and dry ice blasting cleans in crevices that can’t be reached by hand or via other cleaning methods, the company says.
The process is also environmentally friendly, according to Kärcher. It uses no solvents. The CO2 pellets are non-toxic and non-hazardous, making them safe for the environment, equipment, and employees.
The IB 15/80 dry ice blasting unit operates on 120-V electricity (5 A) and uses a blasting pressure range of 44 to 230 psi. Compressed air requirements range from 150 to 300 cfm. The system consumes 66 to 220 lb/hr of 3-mm diameter dry ice pellets, depending on flow. The stainless steel unit weighs 198 lb and is ETL-certified to accepted safety standards.
Industrial applications for the process run the gamut. In the aerospace industry, for example, it can be used to remove spray-on foam installation, sealants, and coatings, carbons, greases and oils. It can also be used to clean paint booth walls for color changes, maintenance, and other finishing-related applications.