The Future of Abrasive Blast Cleaning: Sponge Blasting

The Future of Abrasive Blast Cleaning: Sponge Blasting

The industrial cleaning industry boasts a number of powerful techniques for cleaning even the most complex factory equipment, railcars, silos and more. In this post, we explore one of the most efficient and versatile cleaning and preparation methods: abrasive blast cleaning.

Sponge blasting in particular, involves removing foreign or unwanted residues from a surface, without altering it. When compared to hand and power tools, sponge blast cleaning is more thorough and environmentally friendly. The materials used in blasting are stable and do not react with the surface being cleaned. As an added benefit, it allows you to profile the surface prior to being cleaned, giving you more control over the final results, unlike chemical stripping.

Abrasive blasting cleaning techniques can be used to strip paint, get rid of mold and fungus, and improve the appearance of surfaces. It can also prepare surfaces for coating or painting and even add surface finishes. At New Age Cryo, we specialize in sponge blasting a variety of industrial surfaces.

An Abrasive Blast Cleaning Overview

Blast cleaning is the action of forcing a stream of abrasive material under high pressure against the substrate being cleaned. The blasting material is propelled by water, air or steam, and the impact removes the unwanted layer of dirt and grime.

When water is used, the process is called wet blasting. In the past, wet blasting was the most widely used technique. It involved mixing an abrasive in water and then shooting it through a nozzle. This created a slurry mix that was re-usable. The process was effective, but also messy, used a lot of water, and was occasionally dangerous to technicians. To allow the use of a wider range of blasting materials, dry cabinets were developed. These are either siphon systems or direct pressure systems. Siphon symptoms rely on compressed air to force out the blasting material and direct pressure systems using high-velocity air pressure to accelerate the blasting material.

In addition to wet and dry blasting, the industry also uses mechanical projection methods. An example of this is the rotating paddles that help propel blasting materials. There are also suction blast techniques that are mostly used to spot clean delicate surfaces, known as micro-abrasive blasting, bristle blasting and vacuum blasting. These types of blasting can be done in open or contained spaces such as blast rooms and blast cabinets.

An abrasive blast cleaning system is typically made up of three parts:

  • The abrasive container, also known as the blasting pot
  • The propelling mechanism, which creates the pressure to force out the blasting material 
  • The blasting nozzle where the blasting material exits

Abrasive Blasting Media

There are several applications for abrasive blasting, and each requires you to use suitable blasting materials, commonly referred to as blasting media. The key characteristics to look for in an abrasive media include hardness, shape, friability and density.

Sand was the original blasting media, but over time other materials have replaced it. Although versatile and applicable on a number of surfaces, it required a lot of raw material, and there were health concerns for industry professionals since it contains silica.

Common materials used in blasting material

Common materials used in blasting media today include:

  • Sponge-Jet Media (the most commonly used material)
  • Baking soda
  • Dry ice
  • Crushed glass and glass beads
  • Aluminum oxide
  • Pumice stone
  • Corn cob
  • Plastics
  • Ceramic grit
  • Walnut shells

Sponge Media Vs. Sand Blasting and Other Abrasive Blasting Media

The challenge with conventional blasting media is they release a lot of dust, and this makes them unsuitable for use in certain areas like food processing facilities. Sponge blasting combines the efficacy of traditional blasting media like sand and aluminum with the containment abilities of sponge to minimize dust by up to 98% and waste by up to 96%. Unlike sand and aluminum media which still retain energy after impact with the surface, sponge media flattens upon impact with the substrate, and will not ricochet back towards the cleaning technician or throughout the space.

How Does Sponge Blasting Work?

The sponge media consists of two materials. The structure is made of polyurethane and inside it are abrasive elements such as those listed above. Upon blasting it out, the sponge part flattens as it hits the surface, exposing the abrasive element which then scuffs the surface. After impact the sponge then returns to its normal shape and absorbs any dust released from the abrasive media touching the surface. 

A great advantage of the Sponge-Jet technology is that it can be reused. After use, the blasting particles are collected, separated from debris and fine waste and then cleaned to await next use. Thereafter more than 90% of the media can still be recycled, making this an eco-friendly blasting solution. There are more than 25 abrasive grades to suit different applications and they all have low-dust abilities. Also, the blast pressure can be controlled via a central panel for maximum precision. This provides technicians the versatility to use sponge blasting on large surfaces like walls, as well as small parts of machinery.

Benefits of Sponge Blasting

The benefits of Sponge Blasting
  • It has the ability to contain contaminants at the source, and this lessens post-blasting cleanup and additional interventions to keep contaminants like dust at bay.
  • It effectively cleans confined environments like operating rooms, food factories and electronic assembling plants.
  • Sponge blasting promotes worker safety due to minimal pollution or potentially harmful splash back.
  • It reduces downtime for the areas being cleaned, thus increasing productivity.
  • It can be used for both gentle and aggressive cleaning.
  • Sponge blasting does not involve the use of chemicals.
  • The sponges can be reused up to 20 times, making it cost-effective.
  • Sponge-Jet Media has an easy set-up and quick clean-up. The only clean-up required is vacuuming to collect the sponge media together with waste.
  • It is a cost-effective blasting solution since the process takes a short time to complete

Sponge Blasting Applications

Sponge-Jet abrasive cleaning can be used on almost any site. Whether you are stripping, cleaning, restoring, or simply want to profile your surface. Common applications of the techniques include:

  • Cleaning of industrial equipment since it has minimal downtime to help you avoid costly delays.
  • Completing coating preparation projects to avoid coating failure. 
  • Reducing dust lets you have a good view of the surface while being cleaned to minimize missed spots or errors. 
  • Helping in restoration projects thanks to the highly precise pressure feed-unit that safely handles delicate tasks.
  • It is ideal for restoration after fires and removal of lead.
  • It is effective for industries like the maritime, military, factories, and aviation

Sponge blasting is for anyone looking for maximum effectiveness while staying conscious of cost and the environment. It is an innovative commercial blasting technology with a wide variety of applications and several benefits over traditional blasting methods. To get more information on sponge blasting and its uses, please contact New Age Cyro to learn more.