Why You Need an Air Preparation Unit for Dry Ice Blasting

by | May 13, 2024

In the realm of dry ice blasting, the efficiency and longevity of your equipment are directly influenced by the quality of compressed air used in the process. An air preparation unit (APU) is more than just an accessory; it’s a critical investment that ensures your operations are not only effective but also economically viable over time.

Understanding the mechanics, benefits, and proper implementation of an air preparation unit can significantly transform operational efficiency and outcomes.

What is an air preparation unit?

An air preparation unit, often integral to operations like dry ice blasting and media blasting, is a system designed to treat and condition compressed air before it is used in pneumatic tools and processes. This unit typically includes filters, regulators, and lubricators (often referred to collectively as FRLs). These components collaborate to ensure that the air is clean, dry, and delivered at the correct pressure, crucial for optimal performance and the longevity of pneumatic tools.

An APU improves air quality through several stages:

  • Filters remove particulates, moisture, and other contaminants from the air, preventing damage to equipment and ensuring efficient operation.
  • Regulators control the air pressure, ensuring that it remains consistent regardless of fluctuations in the supply line. This helps to maintain the blasting process’s effectiveness and safety.
  • Dryers remove any remaining moisture from the air provided to the unit. Moisture in dry ice blasting can cause the pellets to stick together or to surfaces, disrupting the cleaning process, so it’s critical to remove as much as possible.

The air preparation unit connects to a dry ice blaster through a series of hoses. Compressed air flows from the unit into the blaster, where it is used to accelerate dry ice pellets out of the blasting gun at high speeds. Proper connections and seals are critical to maintaining air quality and pressure throughout the process.

How Air Preparation Units Help in Dry Ice Blasting

In dry ice blasting, the quality of compressed air is paramount. Here are several ways an air preparation unit enhances the process:

  1. Prevents Moisture Problems: Moisture is a significant concern in dry ice blasting because any moisture in the compressed air can cause the dry ice pellets to clump together, clog the blasting equipment, or reduce the effectiveness of cleaning. By using filters and dryers to eliminate moisture from the air, air preparation units help maintain the integrity of the dry ice pellets throughout the operation.
  2. Maintains Consistent Pressure: Dry ice blasting requires precise control over the air pressure to ensure effective cleaning without damaging the surface being cleaned. Regulators in the air preparation unit ensure that the air pressure is stable and consistent, providing reliable and safe blasting performance.
  3. Extends Equipment Life: By filtering out contaminants, air preparation units protect the internal components of the blasting equipment from wear and damage, extending the equipment’s lifespan and reducing maintenance costs.

When to Use Air Prep Units

Air preparation units are essential for ensuring high-quality compressed air, which is crucial for various industrial applications. However, their utility varies significantly depending on the industry, existing infrastructures, and the operational scale.

Industries Benefiting from Air Preparation Units

  • Small Scale Facilities and Mobile Operations: Smaller facilities or mobile setups that do not have extensive built-in air treatment systems benefit greatly from portable air preparation units. These units can provide the necessary air quality for effective dry ice blasting and media blasting on-site, where built-in systems are absent.
  • Temporary or Field Operations: In situations where operations are conducted outside traditional facilities, such as during field maintenance or in temporary setups, air preparation units are essential. They ensure that the compressed air remains clean and dry, crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of blasting in varying environmental conditions.
  • Specialized Cleaning Areas: Locations within larger facilities dedicated to precision cleaning, such as specific maintenance areas or sections handling sensitive components, may require standalone air preparation units to meet stricter air quality standards than what general facility systems provide.

Industries Where Air Preparation Units May Not Be Necessary

  • Factories and Manufacturing Plants: Large manufacturing plants and factories often have comprehensive, centralized air management systems designed to provide clean, dry air throughout the facility. These systems make additional air preparation units redundant for dry ice blasting within these environments.
  • Well-Equipped Industrial Facilities: Industrial locations equipped with advanced and extensive compressed air systems that already include stages of air treatment typically do not require separate air preparation units. These systems are usually designed to handle the demands of various tools and processes, including dry ice blasting, by ensuring optimal air quality facility-wide.

How to Get an Air Prep Unit for Your Business

If you’re looking to enhance the effectiveness of your dry ice blasting operations with high-quality air preparation, Wickens Dry Ice Blasting offers versatile solutions that cater to a range of business needs. We provide air preparation units for purchase or rental, available in two sizes to suit different requirements. The APU-450 model is perfect for single blaster setups, while the APU-600 model can efficiently support two blasters simultaneously.

Whether you choose to buy or rent, we offer comprehensive training and guidance on how to integrate these units seamlessly with our dry ice blasters, or with any other dry ice blasters you may already have. This ensures that you maximize the performance and safety of your operations.

For those not ready to commit to purchasing equipment, Wickens also offers professional dry ice blasting services, providing all the benefits of this technology without the need for investment in the hardware.

Please contact our team for more information about air preparation units or to inquire about buying or renting one.

Roger White