Dry ice has many uses, but you probably didn't know that it's also used as an abrasive blasting agent. Many have turned to dry ice blasting as an effective yet eco-friendly way of cleaning machinery in a variety of industries. The following focuses on the pros and cons of this unique process:
As the name implies, dry ice blasting is a "dry" process that doesn't require any water, liquids or other media to work effectively. As a result, machinery can be left in place instead of being broken down in preparation and reassembled after the job's done. It's also well-suited for other applications
There are plenty of other advantages to using dry ice as a blasting medium:
- Dry ice blasting is a non-abrasive process, meaning that it won't cause damage to surfaces or equipment. Other forms of blasting are prone towards removing paint or material from the item being blasted.
- Since the dry ice sublimates into carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, there's no secondary waste cleanup needed. This also makes the process environmentally-friendly, as there's nothing left behind and no harsh chemicals are necessary for cleanup.
- Dry ice blasting is also relatively safe, as operators aren't exposed to grit media or harsh chemicals. It's also not as labor intensive as other forms of blasting.
- A stream of dry ice can be tough enough to blast weld slag from tooling or gentle enough to remove smoke damage from a book.
Thanks to the lack of any contaminating media, dry ice blasting is ideal for cleaning food industry equipment.
One of the main drawbacks to dry ice blasting is the overall cost of the process. Unlike sand or baking soda, purchasing dry ice in bulk is usually cost-prohibitive. Dry ice isn't suited for long-term storage, since it constantly sublimates when exposed to temperatures above −78.5 degrees Celsius. The specialized equipment needed for dry ice blasting usually costs between $13,000 and $30,000, compared to $3,000 to $18,000 for a complete soda blasting machine.
Another drawback involves how the dry ice blasting process interacts with soft materials like wood. Dry ice blasting spray patterns often create larger particles that can leave behind dimples in softer materials. Other blasting materials, such as baking soda, leave behind a smoother appearance due to their smaller particles.
As a third and very critical drawback, the dry ice blasting process can cause a buildup of carbon dioxide within enclosed spaces. Unless the area is well-ventilated and operators take the necessary safety precautions, exposure to CO2 gas buildup could easily result in asphyxiation. Operators should always exercise caution and rely on their safety training when dealing with tasks that could produce CO2 gas.
Understanding the pros and cons of dry ice blasting can be helpful as you decide whether to rely on the process for your industrial cleaning tasks.