Dry ice blasting utilises 3D Printing to Blast Clean Exhaust Tubes
Dry Ice Blasting, 3D Printing and Exhaust Tubes
November was another busy month for Optimum Dry Ice Blasting with some amazing developments both with new and old customers.
A brand-new challenge took us towards 3D printing once again (read our previous blog here), to solve an industry problem, and in the process, open a massive opportunity.
Whilst on a scheduled dry ice blasting job, for one of the UK’s leading chemical manufacturing companies, we were asked if we had any method to dry ice blast inside an exhaust array, as part of the gas incineration process. The exhaust in question is made up from a series of tubes, 5cm in diameter and 5m in length. There are 700 tubes in the array. The problem we faced is there isnt any equipment on the market small and flexible enough to feed down each tube.
Traditionally the tubes are cleaned by wire brushes attached to an extendable pole. The method only removes the toxic surface dust but doesn’t deep clean down to bare metal. Ultra-high pressure water was trialled, but that was unsuccessful, and the contaminated water generated caused even more of a problem.
The thickness of the contaminant was becoming a major cause for concern as the waste is combustible and, after a fire risk assessment, the exhaust had to be taken offline, costing the company tens of thousands of pounds in daily lost production.
Our solution was to develop a flexi attachment to fit onto our dry ice blast gun with a ‘spinner’ nozzle on the end. The design was drawn up (by a very good friend of mine, thank you Simon!) and 3D printed within a day. The nozzle and flexi-pole, we believe, are unique to the dry ice blasting industry. A hugely successful trial took place where 100% of the contaminant was removed.
Work began immediately to dry ice blast the remaining 699 tubes! The job was completed within an extremely tight timeframe and with 100% waste removed. We have since heard the fire risk assessor has recommissioned the exhaust and production is back online. And we have one very happy customer! So much so that a schedule for bi-monthly deep cleaning with dry ice blasting has been set up. The system will now be implemented on their sites worldwide and Optimum have been asked to produce the pole/nozzle system and deliver the necessary on-site training for each plant around the world. Exciting times for Optimum indeed!
Again, Optimums ‘can do’ approach to problem solving has come to the fore. The advent, and wide scale availability of 3D Printing, certainly helps in a situation like this. Lots of companies are now switching on to the fact that preventative maintenance, rather than reactive maintenance is a lot cheaper in the long run. After all, a decommissioned machine produces nothing!
By Ian Reynolds