Your Complete Guide to Preventative Maintenance for Abrasive Blasters
Just like a car driven into the ground without any oil changes, tire rotations, or filter replacements, a sandblaster will eventually give out if it is not given any tune-ups over the course of its lifetime. What you will be left with is a big and oftentimes unnecessary bill. Worse, you’ll be wasting your precious time while your equipment is down, either waiting for the replacement part or waiting for someone who can come fix it. The bottom line? Abrasive blasters need to be regularly cleaned and given proper preventive maintenance if they are expected to perform well.
What Needs to Be Maintained?
Abrasive blasters have three main components: the cabinet, the dust collector, and the blast system, all of which have their own needs for maintenance and upkeep.
The abrasive blaster’s cabinet is likely to give you the least amount of grief, but you should still make a habit out of inspecting it routinely. The gloves should be checked before every use for any holes or tears. You should also check the gaskets on the Door Safety Switch. Oftentimes, these will become worn and won’t seal the switch.
The window, too, may eventually need to be replaced if it becomes frosted, so keep an eye out for any early signs that appear. Replaceable window protectors can extend the life of your window, and rubber curtains can be added to prevent overall cabinet wear.
The dust collector is a vital part of the abrasive blaster. It is the housing behind the machine that stores the broken-down media and material that has been removed from the surface (such as paint). Be sure to routinely check over the bags for any rips, make sure the cartridges aren’t clogged, and clean the filters as needed with the bag shaker or reverse-pulse cleaning system. If the bags or cartridges are clogged, they should be replaced – removing those parts and blowing them out is not recommended as this will often damage the filters, causing leaks. Be forewarned, you may be cleaning filters every fifteen minutes depending on the dirtiness of the part you’re cleaning. Lastly, empty the dust collector itself daily.
Downline from the dust collector but before the blast system is the reclaimer. This is part of the media reclaim process, or simply put, it helps to recycle the media. Inspection of the reclaimer is basic – you only have to look for holes or signs of wearing. Be sure to check the hoses going to and from the reclaimer for any holes and leaks, too.
Blast System: Pressure Pot or Suction System
There are two main forms of media blasters. With a pressure pot blaster, sometimes known as a pressure blaster, pressure (as the name implies) is used to force the media and air through a hose to the gun. On the other hand, a suction system, sometimes referred to as a siphon blaster, has the gun connected to two hoses, one to an air compressor, and the other to the media reservoir. When it is turned on, suction is created, pulling the media through the gun and out the barrel. Both pot blasting and suction system blasting systems need to be cleaned and maintained if you expect to get the most out of your machine.
An air-tight system is critical for pressure blasting. Air leaks can lead to inefficient operation and premature component failure. Key things to check for with a pressure pot style sandblaster are gaskets, valves, fittings, and the sealing plunger. Gaskets are used throughout as connections or seals and are susceptible to wear and tear, so check them frequently. You may want to keep some spare gaskets on hand just in case.
The aquamatic valve controls the blast going on and off. Check this valve regularly to make sure it is not rusted, corroded, or leaking. Quick tip – if you have to replace the aquamatic valve, there is an arrow on it that needs to point against the air flow direction. Most people put it on backwards.
The Sure-Flo media regulator valve is used to control media flow to the nozzle and an exhaust valve depressurizes the blast pot when the operator takes his foot off of the pedal or releases the handle. Again, check these valves to make sure they are not rusted, corroded, or leaking.
The abrasive trap screen also needs to be checked for breaks or holes, as it catches any oversized particles, preventing clogs in the Sure-Flo before it leaves the exhaust, and can wear down over time.
Open up your machine’s pressure pot compartment to take a look at the ring and plunger. Those are cheap parts to replace, but most people don’t think to look at them in advance because they are out of sight. When they wear out, they lose their seal, so check to make sure the seal is still tight.
Since suction systems are so much simpler, there is less to maintain. Like pressure systems, the control piping must be checked for leaks. The blast gun should also be frequently checked for wear to the nozzle, the air-jet, and the gun body itself.
Other Areas to Check
There are of course a couple of other things to check on your sandblaster. Don’t forget these parts to keep your equipment running smoothly.
Blast nozzles eventually wear out, widening the nozzle opening. They’ll wear out even faster if you’re using harsher media like aluminum oxide. You can usually tell when a nozzle is wearing out because your blasting gun will feel like it’s lacking power. This is because air consumption is increased as well as media usage. The easiest way to check if a blast nozzle is worn out is with a drill bit. If the nozzle diameter has increased by 1/8”, it should be replaced.
This one is an obvious one but it would be foolish to overlook. Any time you’re running an abrasive through a hose, it’s going to cause wear and tear. Check regularly for soft spots typically found in the first hose bend and replace before a hole develops or you’ll find yourself unknowingly turning up the air pressure to maintain velocity.
Quick Tip – A good way to check is to squeeze the hose. If the wall is thin, it will depress easily. When a hose goes during operation, it is a safety hazard, creates a huge mess, and is quite loud!
How Often Do I Have to Service My Abrasive Blaster?
There are many variables that are at play with your abrasive blaster. What type of media are you using and how hard and abrasive is it? How much use does your blaster get each month – daily use, or less often? Questions like these will impact the answer greatly, and every part of the blaster is different. We know that aggressive abrasives can wear out a nozzle in 50-100 hours, whereas with glass beads, a nozzle could last 200 hours. The best rule of thumb is to check your parts frequently if you are a regular user of your machine. The last thing you want is to have unnecessary downtime or unexpected repair costs.
Want to talk more about abrasive blasters and their preventative maintenance? Give us a call at 716-874-0786 or contact us today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have and discuss any other abrasive blasting topics on your mind.