Abrasive Blasting 101
Updated February 2022: The less you pay for a sandblasting cabinet the more maintenance it will require, and the more blast cabinet parts you will buy. This is because higher priced machines usually come with a larger dust collector and cabinet parts permit higher daily usage.
This is just a short list of factors that can affect blast cabinet parts, but there are additional factors that can impact regular maintenance. One important thing to remember is each machine’s maintenance is based on operation and application, so the same two models will have different maintenance schedules if they’re doing different things. This is true even if they’re used in the same shop and being run by the same people.
ProTip: One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking blast cabinet machines only need maintenance when a part wears out! We mention this because oftentimes a blasting machine is considered a piece of equipment that simply runs and runs. The truth is these machines need regularly scheduled maintenance targeting both preventive tune-ups and daily machine wear.
Most blast cabinet maintenance is located in the dust collector, and we cover dust collector maintenance in this blog post. The remaining maintenance is primarily regular visual inspection and replacement of various parts on the machine before they start impacting your bottom line. A few things you should be sure to check regularly are:
These need to be replaced when they appear worn, when you start to lose impact velocity with siphon delivery models or if you need massive air amounts with direct pressure models. It’s smart to check your nozzles daily, or before you use the cabinet, to make sure you’re getting optimal performance and always keep a drill bit handy to check the bore size.
Normal wear creates holes in any abrasive hose, so checking these monthly is a good idea. It’s a red flag if you find yourself turning up your air pressure to maintain cleaning speed. You may be losing abrasive through a hole in your abrasive hose.
Make sure you’re using your blasting cabinet manual to maintain the machine’s mixing valves. Media Blast cabinet manuals are available for customers, request one for your cabinet here.
Replace any visually worn out parts like the machine work grates using daily inspection.
Air inlet filters
Air inlet filters need to be replaced just like any air filter. Neglecting this task reduces the airflow into the cabinet and possibly allows abrasive to escape the cabinet.
If your machine doesn’t come with a window protector then it’s crucial that you regularly inspect and replace your window. Most cabinet operators compensate for poor visibility by bringing the part they are processing closer and closer to the view window. Unfortunately, at close range the abrasive bouncing back can destroy the window in 10 minutes.
Depending on abrasive size and type used, the separator will wear out and require replacement. Not replacing allows abrasive to flow into the dust collector, which increases operating cost, quickly loads the dust collector, and reduces blower airflow and cabinet visibility.
Just like the lint trap in your drier, you have to clean the abrasive scalper screen. This collects all debris inside the unit including gaskets, silicone and large particles of blasted items. Unlike the dryer that simply stops drying efficiently, a dirty abrasive scalper screen will eventually prevent abrasive from flowing back into the mixing valve and to the gun.
Drain & Purge Machine
If a machine is used daily we advise that the unit be drained and purged monthly to eliminate nesting around the mixing valve that flows abrasive to the nozzle or gun. If you use your cabinet less frequently, you can adjust your maintenance schedule accordingly. Just be aware that material removed from cleaning parts means material is mixed into the abrasive.
Airjet and Gun Body
All siphon abrasive delivery machines need to have the airjet and gun body inspected. This is required more frequently for cutting abrasive applications and larger gun sizes.
ProTip: Even with the most meticulous maintenance schedule, sandblasting cabinets will eventually wear out. These machines are built to remove something from the parts you’re blasting and at some point the cabinet will start to remove itself. When that will happen is hard to say, but the quality of the unit and maintenance schedule can greatly impact its lifecycle.
Blasting machines can be very simple but they do require some regular maintenance and part replacement. The right blast cabinet maintenance schedule for your machine depends on how frequently the machine is being used, its application, and what construction you have, e.g. (light duty, R&D non-production or production).
Media Blast manufactures 170 different blasting cabinet models, Wet, Dry, Siphon, Gravity Feed and Direct Pressure, Light Duty, R&D and Full Production with special blasting cabinets for Steel Shot, Plastic and Soda. We have a complete line of smaller micro units for special low frictional heat applications. We want to help you buy the right machine the first time!