Dry Ice Blasting and the Aerospace Industry
Optimum have recently carried out extensive tests within the aircraft industry. We can’t, at this point, divulge any information as we have been asked to keep things under wraps by the client.
What we can say is that the tests were extremely positive and we worked very closely with the client to solve a tricky problem.
The main reason for this post is to talk about the role 3D printing played in reaching a positive outcome to an engineering fault and how without it, dry ice blasting wouldn’t have been considered an option.
During the manufacture of a very expensive aircraft part, a slight crease in welded metal forms as part of extrusion. During the extrusion process, grit blasting is used to remove a wax surface. Unfortunately the grit doesn’t vaporise, like dry ice, upon impact and particles ended up lodged in the weld crease. These had to be removed and after many failed attempts using differing techniques, dry ice blasting was considered.
The problem we faced was how to reach the contaminant. The area where it was lodged was far from accessible with the blast nozzles available to dry ice blasters. We required a specialist nozzle to be made to our specification. To make a one off, extruded aluminium nozzle would be too costly and time consuming and time is what the client didn’t have.
After trialling different ideas and coming up with negative after negative removal rates, we suggested 3D printing. The client seemed very keen to explore this option and so within days Optimum engineers had designed a template to fit the component, printed it using hardened acrylic/ polymer and put the printed nozzle into action.
The design was a great success and the contaminate removal rate was 100%. The client is now having the blast nozzle made from aluminium for us to use on the final 2000+ components!
I would like to thank everyone involved in this project for their commitment and I apologise for the sleep deprivation caused!
By Ian Reynolds