Whether you need to protect your product or tool from rusting and oxides or you need to remove surface materials from composite parts before weld treatment, you need a cleaning method that does so efficiently and effectively. But, when it comes to choosing the right cleaning method for your business, there are many different options — some with its own media. From sand and dry ice to lasers, how can you determine which option is best for the job?
Sandblasting uses a sand-mixture and propels a stream of media using high-pressure to forcibly remove surface contaminants from objects. But, there are other forms of media blasting that use other mixtures — including plastic media blasting, soda blasting, and more. The sand mixture can also be replaced with walnut shells or glass beads.
PROS OF SANDBLASTING
Sandblasting is best used for very large, surface areas. It’s fairly fast and can be used for thicker contaminants. Since it uses high-pressure to forcibly remove contaminants, it effectively blasts through thick surface materials — removing it from the substrate. Common applications include:
- Non-lead coating removal on bridges, pools, and driveways
- Part shaping after manufacturing — removes edges/burrs
- Creating structure profiles on metal surfaces
- Large area/thick painted surfaces
- Hard rust that has formed thick scales
CONS OF SANDBLASTING
In general, media abrasives can be incredibly harmful to your product and the environment, and it requires specialized handling and disposal of the media — especially when blasting hazardous contaminants such as lead-based paint. The solution breaks down the equipment used to operate the solution, and it also damages the substrate of the product that you’re cleaning — raising the cost of operations.
Sandblasting can also be dangerous to operators. A full-body suit is required to operate the media blasting solution safely, and any exposed skin is at risk. The cleaning solution also requires a well-ventilated area, as exposure to the media can cause health risks — including lung disease and choking.
DRY ICE BLASTING
Dry ice uses a pressurized air stream directed at a surface. This airstream includes reclaimed carbon dioxide to freeze and blast away contaminants. It’s similar to sandblasting in that it’s also considered abrasive.
PROS OF DRY ICE BLASTING
Dry ice blasting is most effective for soft, thick layers of contaminants — such as aircraft sealants. Unlike sandblasting, it doesn’t require secondary waste cleanup and is considered more environmentally friendly. This makes it a fairly common alternative to sandblasting. Frequent uses include cleaning:
- Wooden furniture
- Wooden molds
- Kitchen hoods
- Fire/smoke damaged household items
- Mold remediation
CONS OF DRY ICE BLASTING
Buying and storing dry ice can be incredibly expensive, and — similar to sandblasting — the equipment used for dry ice blasting often damages itself. It can also be difficult to find a reputable distributor. For storage, dry ice requires temperatures less than –78.5 degrees Celsius, making it difficult to store for long periods and requires special storage equipment that can cost anywhere between 13,000 – $30,000.
Dry ice blasting can be extremely dangerous. Transporting the dry ice in and out of its storage area is a hassle, and in use, it can cause a buildup of carbon dioxide in enclosed spaces. Due to this risk, dry ice requires a well-ventilated space, or else the operator and any employees within the space may experience asphyxiation. Dry ice blasting can be extremely cold and noisy, so your operator and any employees in the space will need to wear multiple layers of protection — including gloves, jackets, and earmuffs — to keep them warm and safe.
Plasma treatment uses ionized gas to remove organic matter from the surface of your products. Plasma breaks down the surface material at the chemical level to remove contaminants.
PROS OF PLASMA TREATMENT
Plasma treatment offers a safer alternative to blasting techniques. It’s non-abrasive, and operators are removed from danger since the solution can only be used manually — using an automated gun manipulator instead. Plasma treatment is most commonly used to clean materials made from plastic, glass, rubber, ceramic, and other non-metal surfaces. It’s also used for complex geometries on:
- Medical components
- Heating/cooling pipes
- Optical fiber
- Printed Circuit Boards
CONS OF PLASMA TREATMENT
While plasma treatment changes the chemical compound of the contaminants and gives the appearance of a clean foundation, in reality, it adds a layer of residue that is hazardous to your operators and shortens the lifespan of your product. This is crucial to note as plasma is detrimental to welding projects. The thin layer left behind during cleaning can weaken bonds over time, and it’s often conductive or corrosive.
Similar to some blasting options, plasma treatments require additional equipment to be bought and used, and the solution rapidly deteriorates the automated gun — which makes replacements frequent. This also raises the cost of the solution. And, while it may be safer than abrasive options, it requires purchasing additional tools to ensure it integrates with your operations.
Laser ablation uses thousands of focused laser pulses per second to convert and remove contaminants from the surface. It works in two parts. The pulses are the first part — absorbing surface materials and breaking down the chemical bond — while the second part includes a vacuum that absorbs the airborne coatings and particles.
PROS OF LASER CLEANING
Our laser solutions completely remove surface materials without damaging the intrinsic properties or leaving behind a layer of conductive materials. That means that you won’t need a second cleaning solution to remove and dispose of the contaminants. And, because it produces no additional waste, laser cleaning is environmentally-friendly.
Laser cleaning is often considered one of the safest media options because it only requires training, a designated optical safety area, and safety glasses to operate. Your operators won’t need a suit restricting their ability to see or work. And, the laser is less dangerous for your product because it doesn’t damage the substrate — expanding the lifespan of your product. Laser solutions are ideal for cleaning:
CONS OF LASER CLEANING
While laser cleaning is considered one of the best alternatives to other media options, it isn’t suitable for all jobs. Some products — such as wood, glass, and plastic — are difficult to clean. If you’re using the wrong laser solution on wood, your product can become singed and damaged.
The size of your product can also impact the effectiveness of laser technology solutions. Our lasers work best for targeted areas. Large surface areas may take longer to clean due to the process of removing each layer of contaminants. And, laser cleaning also isn’t suitable for products with hard-to-see crevices — such as the inside of a tube or pipe.
WHATEVER YOUR NEEDS, ADAPT LASER HAS A SOLUTION FOR IT
Adapt Laser specializes in the know-how and application of laser cleaning solutions. We offer products with a range between 20 and 1,600 watts and provide training to ensure your employees can get the most from their laser cleaning solutions. We’ve equipped a variety of industries and companies with laser cleaning solutions — including military and defense for the US Airforce and Navy — and hundreds of organizations trust our state-of-the-art laser cleaning solutions.