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Dry Ice Blasting: An Alternative to Conventional Cleaning

By replacing conventional cleaning methods with dry ice blast cleaning, companies will strengthen their lean manufacturing efforts by improving their internal processes, productivity and quality while increasing efficiency and reducing waste.

Dry Ice Cleaning Equipment

Preserve surface integrity—dry ice blasting is non-abrasive so it will not damage molds or other critical equipment.P

Companies around the world are looking for ways to do more with less—less waste, less space, less time and smaller investment in tools, equipment and inventory. The concept of lean manufacturing has become a corporate culture and a way of doing business that is having an impact on everything from costs of goods to jobs. The ability to leverage the maximum output of equipment and people to produce high-quality products faster, more economically and with less waste can also have a major impact on companies’ bottom lines.

Among the business processes that need to be considered when applying lean principles to the manufacturing environment is maintenance and cleaning. In a manufacturing environment, conventional cleaning methods require operations to be shut-down for regularly scheduled maintenance. Often, this process includes a team of employees working closely with hot or dangerous equipment and potentially hazardous chemicals. Even then, the hard-to-reach areas of the machinery may not get clean. In addition, the desired level of clean may not be reached and the cleaning agents used may produce secondary waste that requires additional effort for the crew to dispose of the waste.

An alternative to conventional cleaning methods is dry ice blast cleaning, also known as cold jetting. Dry ice blast cleaning uses soft dry ice, accelerated at supersonic speeds, to create mini-explosions on the surface or piece of equipment being cleaned to lift unwanted residues off the underlying surface. Unlike other blasting applications such as sand, soda or grit, dry ice blasting is non-abrasive and does not produce secondary waste. Once the dry ice hits the surface, the solid CO2 pellets turn into gas. As a result, there is actually less cleanup and no downstream contamination.

How does dry ice blasting complement lean manufacturing efforts? For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the following four key objectives of lean manufacturing:
1. Improve processes
2. Reduce waste
3. Increase productivity
4. Increase customer satisfaction

Improve Processes

With dry ice blasting, companies can do more with less. They can streamline the cleaning and maintenance process while reducing the impact of these processes on bottom line production. Rather than having a team focused on shutting down operations and disassembling machinery, the team can clean equipment using dry ice blasting while the machines are still hot and online.

Dry ice blast cleaning systems are more efficient than manual cleaning processes, allowing employees to clean more equipment, more frequently. Dry ice blasting cleaning reduces the overall shutdown time required to clean the equipment; thus, reducing the amount of machine downtime.

Reduce Waste

Reducing waste is probably one of the most commonly talked about concepts in lean manufacturing. While many in manufacturing refer to waste as anything that is in excess or not of value to the customer, when it comes to dry ice blast cleaning, it is literally the amount of waste that is produced from the cleaning process.

Manual processes use chemicals that produce secondary waste, while other blasting solutions require significantly more containment measures to help reduce the impact of their blast media. Whether cleaning graphite lubricants off die-casting machines or pitch and resins off of wood panel presses, the only residue left to clean up with dry ice blasting is what was on the machines.

In addition to eliminating secondary waste, dry ice blasting helps reduce wasted product that does not meet quality standards because the equipment was not cleaned properly. For example, slag build up on welding stations and weld tips can result in miss-alignment and poor weld lines. Rubber and plastic molds that are not cleaned properly and are not free of contaminants also negatively impact the quality of the products being manufactured. In these situations, as well as in other production processes where cleaning is not done properly or frequently enough, the resulting products must be scrapped. Keeping equipment and molds clean will reduce actual product waste.

Increase Productivity

Dry ice blasting has proven to help manufacturers and their maintenance crews be more productive. Because cleaning can take place without disassembling equipment and without completely shutting down operations, manufacturers conserve the time and energy it would have taken to re-assemble and restart operations. They can simply make the cleaning process part of the manufacturing process.

Dry ice blasting reduces the time it takes to clean equipment by 60 to 80 percent.1 Tire
manufacturers for example have been able to reduce production costs by approximately $1
million per facility on an annual basis. By cleaning the mold presses while they are still
assembled and hot, the manufacturers have seen their press downtime reduced by 65 percent. Dry ice blasting eliminates any need to hand drill micro vents, reduces tool damage, reduces the need to re-stamp sidewall lettering and helped achieve near zero-defect levels.

Dry ice blasting has also helped aluminum permanent molders to cut mold and corebox
cleaning time by 60 percent. Leading blow molding bottle manufacturers have been able to
reduce their mold cleaning time by about 80 percent simply by cleaning molds hot and in
place. Weld lines that usually took two hours to clean by using the traditional methods of
hand scraping and chemical use can now be done in 25 minutes.

Increase Customer Satisfaction

When machines are clean, they produce better products. Better products make for more
satisfied customers. This is a fairly simple correlation between clean machines and customer satisfaction, but the ability to clean equipment faster and with less waste, allows manufacturers to consistently produce high-quality product every time. Cleaning better also means eliminating the damage caused to equipment by the traditional chemicals and tools used to clean them, which can ultimately lead to more downtime. Dry ice blasting lessens the risks for flaws and errors because the cleaning process can quickly eliminate residue from molds, presses and other manufacturing equipment. In addition, because the equipment is online during the cleaning process, manufacturers can run more production cycles, and meet or beat customer timelines and expectations.

For organizations in the process of implementing lean initiatives, dry ice blasting provides an almost unlimited number of cleaning applications. Whether big or small, aggressive or gentle, dry ice blasting can fit in nearly all situations. Dry ice blasting allows manufacturers to clean their equipment and facilities better in a shorter period of time, with fewer resources. Replacing conventional cleaning methods with dry ice blast cleaning, companies will strengthen their lean manufacturing efforts by improving their internal processes, productivity and quality while increasing efficiency and reducing waste.