Abrasive blasting is a technique to modify any surface and make it smooth, rough, clean, and finished. It is also the preferred treatment method for various surfaces — from soft metals to plastics — without the risk of distorting, corroding, or surface impregnation. Cabinets or systems used for abrasive blasting have nearly limitless applications, including cleaning, particle removal, deburring, etching, and finishing.
For nearly 75 years, Empire Abrasive Equipment has provided high-quality air-blast products. We are the industry leader in developing and manufacturing advanced air-blast machinery that meets the needs of our customers. We also gained a competitive edge in air-blast technology by delivering innovative products and solutions.
What Is Abrasive Blasting?
Abrasive blasting is the technique of propelling a high-pressure stream of abrasive material against a surface to smoothen or roughen it. It also aids in the shaping of an exterior based on the structure required, as well as the removal of particles, dust, and other contaminants.
A standard abrasive blasting system typically consists of three essential components: an abrasive container or blasting pot, a propelling device, and a blasting nozzle. These elements help in the cleaning or removal process while keeping the surface intact.
Abrasive blasting comes in many forms, depending on the abrasive materials used. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Pressure/Suction blasting
- Wet blasting
- Soda blasting
- Bead blasting
- Dry-ice blasting
- Centrifugal blasting
What Are the Advantages of Abrasive Blasting?
Abrasive blasting is the most efficient and cost-effective surface cleaning and coating preparation technique. It has several significant advantages over other cleaning methods (such as chemical cleaning), including the ability to be performed in a controlled setting.
The following are some benefits of using abrasive blasting as a surface cleaning method:
- Provides a faster and more effective removal of undesirable contaminants
- Guarantees the inherent material’s integrity
- Has climate control systems to ensure optimal conditions for surface preparation before coating
- Has reusable abrasive media
- Lessens the need for the costly process of recleaning and recoating
- Is more environmentally friendly than chemical cleaning
- Prevents surface coating blistering and delamination
How Do Abrasive Blast Cabinets Work?
An abrasive blast cabinet is primarily a closed-loop apparatus that enables the operator to use abrasive and compressed air to remove paint or debris from a part. In other words, they are metal boxes with openings, windows, and attached equipment that allows sand or another abrasive media form to be used. They utilize compressed air to accelerate nearly every type of loose grain or abrasive media to obtain different results, such as polishing, cleaning, deburring, texturing, and surface removal.
Operators draft the parts from the outline of the cabinet by putting their arms in gloves attached to the holes. They can also see the piece through a viewing window and use a bottom pedal or treadle to turn on and off the blast cabinet.
Key Considerations When Selecting the Right Abrasive Blast Cabinet
Using an incorrect cabinet for a blasting job may result in substandard results and unintended damage to the blasted surface. In contrast, utilizing the appropriate abrasive blast cabinet and the right abrasive media will ensure a successful and profitable blasting.
Here are some of the key factors to consider when selecting the right abrasive blast cabinet:
When choosing the right blast cabinet, the most important thing to remember is to focus on the application rather than whether or not the part will fit inside the machine. Here are some common abrasive blasting applications and the corresponding cabinets:
- Industrial use: This is commonly described as production equipment, which refers to machines used in a manufacturing facility. Cabinets with dust collectors matched to the active machining duty cycle and abrasive type is recommended for any industrial application.
- Shop use: This application category prioritizes convenience over speed. The ease of using a blasting cabinet is more important for the operators than the time and labor required to clean parts. As a result, cabinets or machines commonly found in large and small shops are used for maintenance and repair. They are also typically intended for intermittent or infrequent use.
- Home use: For the best results, home-use blast cabinets have an appropriate dust collector, a separator reclaimer, and a flow rate of more than six cubic feet per minute (CFM). While these systems can be effective tools when used correctly, the processed parts should be small, hand-held, and clean in less than 3 to 4 minutes.
- Hobby use: Blast cabinets for hobby use are typically light-duty and consist of a box, a window, and glove ports. For optimal results, blast cabinets should have a trigger gun with high-quality in-cabinet lighting and a viewing window. They should also include a foot-operated blasting gun, a dust collector, an abrasive mixing valve, a separator reclaimer, and air controls.
Shape of Abrasives
It is crucial to select a blast cabinet that can accommodate the particular shape and size of abrasive materials required for the application. Abrasives are classified into four basic forms:
- Angular: These abrasives have numerous facets, jagged faces, and edges, which are useful for removing corrosion and rust. Crushed glass and specific types of slag are examples of angular abrasives.
- Sub-angular: These materials have jagged edges but fewer than the angular ones. Garnet and plastic urea are examples of sub-angular abrasives.
- Sub-rounded: These abrasives are not completely smooth, and the jagged edges are nearly gone. Some examples are staurolite and walnut shells.
- Rounded: These smooth or even spherical abrasive materials are frequently used to remove mill scale or thin factory coatings. Rounded abrasives include glass beads and steel shot.
Cabinets with sufficient capacity allow for proper de-dusting, enabling operators to maintain good visibility throughout the process. Poor visibility is a common concern among workers, and it can often be linked back to working with a blast cabinet with insufficient capacity. Furthermore, insufficient capacity can cause excessive dust in the abrasive, substantially slowing down the process.
When the cleaning and resurfacing process is slowed, the cost of managing and repairing each component increases.
A higher PSI (pounds per square inch) indicates a faster cleaning process. While machines with high PSI are expensive, the time saved is worth it. Therefore, it is recommended to use a cabinet with a minimum of 100 PSI for maximum efficiency.
For smaller abrasive blasting jobs, an air compressor with a flow rate of 10 CFM to 20 CFM is ideal. On the other hand, a compressor that produces between 18 CFM and 35 CFM is better for larger jobs. Lastly, a CFM of 50 to 100 is required for industrial abrasive blasting.
The cost of the cabinet is heavily influenced by the blasting material used and the equipment itself. Therefore, selecting the least expensive option is not always the right approach. Instead, ensure that the price is determined by the cabinet’s size and the quality of the materials used to make the components.
Why Empire Abrasive Equipment
At Empire Abrasive Equipment, we have an array of trusted products and blast systems that meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. We also take pride in our state-of-the-art facility in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, which includes a testing lab and a product demonstration area. These areas have complete and extensive prototyping, validation, and process development equipment and machines.
In addition to product and service availability, we offer training, technical support, turnkey installation, and lab testing for our equipment. Empire’s knowledgeable and experienced team also provides consultations and design suggestions, working hand-in-hand with our customers to create the best products possible.
Choose Empire Abrasive Equipment for the Best Abrasive Blast Cabinets
At Empire Abrasive Equipment, we are always at the forefront of air-blast technology! We meet our customers’ needs for high-quality equipment and productivity-boosting systems by offering a diverse portfolio of blast systems, rooms, and cabinets with excellent quality and durability.