Can Laser Cleaning Replace Dry Ice Blasting?

Dry ice blasting is widely used in my country’s industrial manufacturing. It is often used in the cleaning of oil-based paint and carbon deposits of industrial equipment such as mold printing, automotive electronics, and petrochemicals. It is also prominently used in rust and paint removal. It is an important part of industrial cleaning in our country.

Laser cleaning is the most cutting-edge new industrial cleaning method developed since 2017. In recent years, it has also been rapidly applied to paint and rust removal, oil stain and carbon deposit cleaning in mold, automobile and other industries.
As two cleaning methods with highly overlapping application fields, they will naturally face competition in market share and comparison of product maturity. Below, we will conduct an in-depth comparison of the advantages, disadvantages and development prospects of the two cleaning methods.


Dry Ice Blasting

The advantages of the dry ice blasting process are mainly compared to traditional chemical cleaning agents, most of which we already know:
1. No chemicals are used in the cleaning process, and there is no pollution to the environment.
2. Compared with cleaning agent, dry ice cold spray cleaning effect is more thorough and cleaner. And will not cause damage to the material.
3. No need to stop, no need to disassemble the equipment, and can be cleaned online, which can reduce downtime compared with chemical cleaning agents.
4. The operation is simple and easy to learn, and the process links are simple, which can realize automatic operation and reduce labor costs.


But at the same time, the Disadvantages of dry ice blasting are also obvious:

1. It is not so much that it is “yet” possible to clean in a hot state without shutting down the equipment, it is better to say that the cleaning effect is not good when the equipment cools down.

Dry ice cold spraying is a treatment process that uses relative temperature differences to embrittle and peel dirty materials. When the surface temperature of the equipment is low, its cleaning effect will be relatively reduced.

2. Strict operating environment requirements. The hazards associated with dry ice blasting require the necessary safety equipment to be worn.

Because noise levels from dry ice blasting typically exceed 120 decibels(A), close to the sound of an aircraft engine at work, workers must wear hearing protection. The temperature of dry ice is -70 degrees Celsius. You need to wear gloves to prevent frostbite hazards caused by dry ice particles, and wear a helmet, face shield and goggles to prevent eye damage from particle splashes.
At the same time, there is also a danger of suffocation when used in a relatively closed environment. When the volume fraction of carbon dioxide in the air is 1%, people will feel dizzy and flustered; when it is 4%-5%, they will feel dizzy. When it exceeds 6%, people will lose consciousness, and their breathing will gradually stop, leading to death. Therefore, workers involved in dry ice blasting must wear CO2 detectors and decide whether light or heavy duty respirators are required based on the amount of dust produced or the concentration of CO2.

3. The cleaning cost is high. Dry ice blasting machines usually need to be equipped with dry ice storage tanks, dry ice machines, air compressors and air storage tanks.

Taking cleaning engine carbon deposits as an example, normal cleaning of car carbon deposits requires a 7kg air compressor and a 3.5L capacity air storage tank. Moreover, the unit cost of dry ice as a consumable is very high.

At the same time, experience has shown that if some ice is left for many days, its density will decrease, thereby reducing the cleaning effect. Therefore, more dry ice is required to clean a given area. Cleaning is faster and more effective with fresh dry ice. That’s why dry ice blasting is done with the newest possible dry ice. In addition, dry ice will continue to sublimate, that is to say, the original 100kg of dry ice particles will only remain about 92kg after one day. Therefore, dry ice usually requires strict low temperature environment for storage.


Laser Cleaning

As an emerging industrial cleaning method, laser cleaning is better than dry ice cleaning in terms of the advantages of dry ice cleaning, and it makes up for the shortcomings of dry ice cleaning, and its application range is wider. It can be said to be an upgraded and enhanced version of dry ice blasting, the best alternative version.
Laser cleaning is to make the pollutants heated by laser energy through photoablation and evaporate or sublimate instantly.
As a new technology to replace traditional cleaning, laser has advantages that traditional methods cannot match:
No need to use any chemical agents and cleaning fluid; no photochemical reaction, no noise and environmental pollution; no mechanical stress, zero loss to precision instruments; no damage to the health of operators, easy to realize automatic control, and realize remote remote cleaning .
As an iterative new product, on the one hand, the market has in-depth business contacts and long-term use inertia for the old cleaning methods, while the familiarity and trust in laser cleaning machines are still in the process of being established; In the sophisticated industry, there are only three or four powerful laser cleaning manufacturers, which cannot provide such a huge coverage network as the dry ice cleaning industry. In this case, the high initial investment cost is undoubtedly prohibitive.
But in fact, if we convert the cleaning cost into annual depreciation cost according to the financial cost accounting method, we will find that the total cost of laser cleaning is basically the purchase cost, and the subsequent use consumption is only power supply, which can be ignored; while dry ice cleaning The cost of consumables accounts for a large proportion of the cost structure. It can be said that as the years of use increase, the more substrates need to be cleaned and the more frequent the cleaning, the more expensive it is to use dry ice cleaning, and the more cost-effective laser cleaning is.
With the rapid development of the laser cleaning industry, it is believed that it will be familiar and accepted by the market in the next few years and become the most efficient cleaning method to replace traditional cleaning and dry ice cleaning.

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