Over a period of time, the effects of weather and the surrounding environment takes its toll. Surfaces get dirty, metal eventually rusts, and paint starts to flake or peel over a period of time. But with the right technology and the right equipment, the process of restoration can become a lot easier. Wet abrasive blasting also otherwise known as dustless blasting is a great way to restore a whole range of surfaces. This five-minute read gives you a quick explanation of what dustless blasting is and what its benefits are.
Wet abrasive blasting is not exactly a new discovery, but it is revolutionary in terms of the improvements and its versatility. Over the years, the technology has also acquired different names such as wet abrasive blasting, wet blasting, wet sandblasting, slurry blasting, vapour blasting, or dustless blasting.
The process involves mixing water, and abrasive inside a pressurised blast tank and the mixture of air, water and abrasive is propelled onto the surface being blasted. It works similarly to dry sandblasting, but the main difference is that the blast media gets moistened first before being propelled onto the surface. In dry blasting, when the abrasive gets in contact with a hard surface, the particle usually shatters or breaks, propelling finer particles into the air. This adds to the dust that is already present in the dry media. The impact can also release dry sparks with static electricity.
On the other hand, in wet abrasive, when the medium impacts a surface, the finer particles are concealed in water droplets. The extra water will weigh down the particles, preventing dust from getting airborne.
Regardless of the machine, blasting must generate dust
The use of the term dustless blasting by some people in the industry is slightly misleading as no wet abrasive machine can be 100% dust-free. The media used and the coating on the substrate being blasted (eg, paint) will produce approximately 4-6%, but it is much lesser than dry blasting.
Benefits of adopting vapour blasting technology
Wet abrasive blasting offers a number of benefits over not only manual processes as well as over dry sandblasting.
Abrasive and water are usually mixed within the blast tank. During the process, water will encapsulate both the abrasive and coating being removed. The trapped abrasives are no longer airborne, and they end up falling to the ground leaving the surrounding environment free from the mess.
The fact that water is combined with the abrasive means that there will be no ignitable sparks or dust plumes. So blasting can be done even in open surroundings or in the presence of other workers nearby. Furthermore, the business will save more money on cleanup and containment costs.
The system is fully mobile and can be easily transported. So permanent fixtures or large structures like pipelines and bridges can still be taken care of using wet abrasive blasting.
Efficient and safe
Contrary to traditional sandblasting, the use of water leads to lower levels of toxic dust plume. Due to this, it is not essential to wear heavy protection such as a full blast suit for protection from dust and particles. The risk of dust inhalation is much lower. In addition, there is the added benefit of comfort and productivity as it increases visibility, ability to manoeuvre while diminishing the risk of accidents.
The process requires less volumes of compressed air, and thus a much smaller compressor can be used compared to its dry blasting counterpart.
The system is safe for the environment, generates no ignitable sparks, and is easy to contain. Therefore, it is the most preferred tool for working in offshore rigs, live pipelines, as well as in residential or populated areas as people around continue with their daily activities.
Needs less abrasive
Combining the abrasive and water generates more mass and a higher force used in the blasting process. This will allow the operator to work more efficiently while utilising less abrasive. In turn, this will speed up production time and cut on any associated consumable costs.
Friendly to cars
Another crucial benefit is that wet blasting has less friction heat and does not dent/wrap thin metals like bonnets as much. Consequently, this is the ideal paint stripping method in the automotive restoration sector.
Increased lifespan of the equipment
The abrasive stays lubricated by the water as it moves through the pot, hoses, and nozzles. This will reduce wear and tear as well as heat transfer in your equipment. Consequently, there is no downtime for maintenance and the equipment lasts much longer.
Dry blasting is permitted in contained booths only because the dust and chemicals generated can spread over a large area. On the other hand, the water in wet abrasive blasting traps the dust and it falls to the ground. As an example, if a car were to be blasted in the centre of a football field, the dust from dry blasting would cover the entire field whereas with wet abrasive blasting, it would be contained just to the centre circle.