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The cleaning of rust, dirt, old paint and various contaminants off surfaces has frequently presented a major challenge. Cleaning of this type has previously been done manually or via processes such as sand- or shot-blasting, or with the use of high-pressure water jetting (hydro-blasting). NitraLife and Boland Dry Ice have partnered to make industrial cleaning easier, introducing wet ice blasting technology to South Africa.

NITRALIFEjune2018CoulsonThe partnership has imported the Coulson IceStorm90 ice blaster, the first industrial cleaning machine on the market to use crushed ice as blasting media. Coarse ice cubes can be fed into the machine which then automatically crushes the ice to the grain-sized particles required for blasting.

According to NitraLife Sales Director Tom Sowry, wet ice blasting offers a more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternative to current conventional industrial cleaning technologies. “Compared to the new technology of wet ice blasting, conventional hydro-blasting uses up to 35 times more water to achieve the same effect. In South Africa, where ongoing, acute water shortages are a constant daily reality for many, the water-saving capability of wet ice blasting is a welcome game-changer in the industrial surface cleaning sector,” he says.

Wet ice blasting relies on three actions to achieve its effect: Through solid-to-solid impact, major contamination is removed. Solid wet ice is superior to liquids in this respect, as water or chemicals tend to flow around stubborn contamination. In the detailed cleaning phase, solid wet ice particles provide a scrubbing and polishing action which removes any remaining contamination from the surface being cleaned. Water as a blast stripping agent does not offer this cleaning action. Once the contamination has been removed, as only wet ice has been used in cleaning, there is no need for an additional rinsing step, which is required when certain chemical cleaning agents are used.

Traditional methods of cleaning use chemicals which could be detrimental to workers’ health. With wet ice blasting, the only media used is completely safe water. Using conventional non-ice cleaning media also creates hazardous airborne contaminants, which could pose a potential risk. In comparison, the wet ice blasting system creates a mist which suppresses airborne contaminants very efficiently. This is particularly important when cleaning or blasting surfaces that have formally been painted with lead-containing paint, Sowry says.

Workers using wet-ice blasting equipment should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) but do not need the massively heavy protective suits and respiratory aids which are essential when using sand- or shot-blasting. “The only residue left behind after wet ice blasting is a limited amount of water. With sand-, shot- or plastic-bead blasting, the large amounts of contaminating residue that has to be disposed of after the cleaning process is finished, can present an issue,” he adds.

The Coulson wet ice blasting system is largely complementary with dry ice blasting, as dry ice uses temperature differentials to remove contaminants while wet ice blasting uses solid-to-solid impact for the same effect. However, dry ice requires special storage and handling, and care has to be taken in its use in confined spaces as it releases carbon dioxide.

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