E-Coat Removal with Dry Ice Blasting
Over the last 2 years, Optimum Dry Ice Blasting have seen a huge demand for the removal of e-coat from process machinery, mainly in the car manufacturing industry, but in other applications also.
E-coat is a process where paint is electrically charged onto its metal host to create a strong bond, usually as an undercoat or primer.
The process however, leaves a build up to parts that don’t receive the charge and overtime this build up becomes problematic, causing critical failure and production shutdown. Anyone who has ever worked with e-coat will tell you the sticky horrible mess it creates. It tracks just about everywhere, and it is a tricky contaminant to control.
Traditionally decontamination would involve disassembling the parts ready for acid dipping/washing. Altogether a long, messy process. Dry ice blasting has now revolutionised the whole process. Process machinery is now blasted in situ. No dismantling and reassembly needed. Corrosive acid is also taken out of the equation.
One of the main advantages of using dry ice blasting to remove e-coat is the safety implications that are associated with a more frequent clean of process parts. Some time ago, at a car manufacturing site, a clamping mechanism failed due to e-coat build up to a critical spring. The area where the e-coat was highly concentrated wasn’t in ‘line of sight’ and so the build-up continued unnoticed. Eventually the spring and clamp failed, and a huge piece of machinery fell 30m to the floor. Luckily no one was around, and no injuries occurred.
Upon investigation it was found that the clamps failed frequently, usually when sheet metal passed through paint tanks, as the drag caused the sheets to dislodge. The removal operation of the sheets (and lost production whilst doing so) was estimated at £164k. The frequency could be as high as 5 times per year.
Optimum won a contract to deliver dry ice blasting services to remove the e-coat on a 24/7 basis. Since we began operations (over 4 years ago) there have been zero clamp/spring failures. The saving per year has been estimated at over £500k, not only in critical failure, but in man hours spent disassembling/reassembling parts for decontamination and the cost of disposal of contaminated acid, used in the old process.
And this is just 1 car manufacturing plant. We now hold contracts at 4 car plants across the UK, making Optimum Dry Ice Blasting a UK leader in e-coat removal. We are currently in contract talks with a huge production manufacturer within the aerospace industry, who also have a problem with e-coat removal, and when the contract goes live (sometime in July) we will be creating 20 new full-time jobs.
All in all, more exciting time for Optimum Dry Ice Blasting.
By Ian Reynolds