If you follow trends in the world of corrosion inspection and surface preparations, you know that there’s a huge push to shift the way that materials and technologies are both produced and applied to surfaces.
Many businesses are becoming more aware of their environmental impact and are looking for environmentally conscious solutions that are in line with the cost benefits and durability of traditional methods, technologies and materials.
But the question remains, do environmentally friendly treatments, products and technologies have a place in the coating industry?
Does The Coating Inspector think that these practices are the way of the future?
“Unfortunately, the coatings industry has a reputation for causing environmental damage during the manufacture, application and use of products. The combined efforts of global regulatory agencies and coatings technologists have dramatically improved the environmental footprint of the coatings industry over the last several decades.”
Let’s dive into some environmentally friendly surface treatments and technologies and what are thoughts are when it comes to where the industry is going and the technologies that we believe would make an impact in our day-to-day procedures.
Environmentally Friendly Surface Treatments & Technologies & the Dustless Blasting Clean up Myth
We’ve been told that grit blasting techniques date to the early 1800’s when a war general noticed sand blowing across a battlefield hitting and cleaning the surface of the glass.
Mother nature has been cleaning glass with the use of sand and water since glass was discovered in 3500 BC. You can see the way that glass is cleaned and softened when you visit the beach, or the way water erodes rocks and boulders over time. Of course, we can look towards mother nature to apply similar techniques to the way we work within the industry. Grit and sandblasting, or wet abrasive blasting are very common practices that we at The Coating Inspector often encounter and factor into our protection and inspection strategies.
Nearly 75% of Global Coating Sales Come from Waterborne, Environmentally-Friendly Technologies
Unfortunately, the coating industry has a reputation for causing environmental damage. However, there is growth within the industry of environmentally friendly technologies, and according to PCI Magazine, the growth of these methods has progressed steadily to the point where nearly 75% of global coatings sales are derived from sustainable technologies. The trends are on path to continue to support the environment.
Here are some of the top environmentally friendly surface treatments & technologies that are currently being used:
1. Wet Abrasive Blasting
Wet abrasive blasting (or vapour blasting) is a stripping process that removes coatings, contaminants, corrosion and residues from hard surfaces through the use of water and a blasting media (the media is moistened prior to surface impact). One of the main advantages of using this technique is that it reduces dust, which helps minimizes set up and clean up cost.
2. Shot Blasting
Shot blasting is generally used to polish metal surfaces and is used in almost every industry that uses metal (automotive, construction, shipbuilding etc.). This process removes rust, mill scale and corrosion and ends up providing us with an ideal surface finish according to the SSPC -10 guidelines. Shot blasting is a more aggressive technique where steel beads are shot out of a machine to clean and prepare the surface. No chemicals or acids are used in the process and the clean up is minimal.
Sandblasting refers to propelling abrasive blast material combined with compressed air at the surface you are preparing. Sandblasting is a pre-finishing technique that has been around for over a hundred years, but it does create strong dust clouds that need to be meticulously handled in order to ensure minimal environmental impact.
All 3 surface preparation techniques do not actually present huge environmental impact from the blasting technique and materials themself unless you are working with abrasive materials such as plastic beads. The environmental issue that the industry faces comes with the role that dust production plays and how we can work towards true dustless blasting clean up.
Dust Production & ‘Dustless Blasting Cleanup’ – How Your Company Saves Time, Money & Our Advice for Lessening the Environmental Impact
There is no such thing as dustless or dust-free blasting when it comes to surface preparation. All techniques produce dust, and this is where the environment becomes a concern.
As we know, newer paint solutions are eco-friendlier and more sustainable, but old paint solutions are not. So, it is our role as inspectors and applicators to figure out the best route for removing these old paint solutions with the lowest environmental damage possible.
In our experience, the best outcome achieved for low environmental impact is the one that best utilizes and regularly inspects their dust collectors. Examples of this would be to make changing the filter bag part of the job procedure and to get a HEPA filter.
The more that we can mitigate the dust, the better we are at ensuring what was on the surface of the job is not being released into the environment. Shorten the exposure time, limit the dust, and ensure that the dust is not going into the landfill.
The Myth of Dustless Blasting Cleanup & the Future of the Way We Take Care of Dust
We know that coatings are in a solid-state, so when someone says dustless blasting cleanup, we also know that it’s just a myth. Until the industry can come up with a way to vaporize the dust produced from the blast, the best thing we can do is mitigate the dust to the best of our abilities.
We hope that vaporizing coatings is a technology that will be present on the market, someday. Until then, we can work with abrasive materials that come from our environment, ensure that the dust from the blast isn’t exposed to our immediate environment (like our lakes, or the air we breathe) and to safely mitigate and remove the dust to the best of our abilities.
We also can continually work to support new research and technologies and use materials that have a low impact on the environment.