VOL. 14 May ISSUE YEAR 2013
in Vol. 14 - May Issue - Year 2013
Controlled Wet Blast Technology Has Much More To Offer The Aerospace Industry
With a built in HMI and viewing panel the Leopard can be operated easily
Despite its height, the Leopard has been designed for ease of access and maintenance
A large loading area allows for a greater range of components to be processed
Surface preparation is one of the key considerations throughout manufacturing and engineering. Whether for aesthetic reasons or, as is perhaps more often the case, to meet objectives in terms of product performance, or basic material enhancement, it is vital that the quality and consistency of surfaces are fully addressed.
The aerospace sector is one of the principal areas in which this factor is particularly significant. The wide range of processing stages – from forming or pressing to machining and finishing – creates a range of surface effects that may be dramatically different from the required end result. On high performance parts, the condition of the surface and near surface material is critical. To ensure successful surface/component performance, there is normally a need for specific surface roughness, surface cleanliness or subsurface stress profiles. These can vary depending on material used and the performance required of the component. Consequently, manufacturers across industry continually look for highly controllable processes that offer the most effective and reliable results over the long term.
Wet blasting is an extremely practical and versatile means of achieving these objectives. Controllable wet blasting, as developed by Vapormatt, has been successfully applied to an increasing range of applications. The company can point to a long and growing list of high end customers utilising its leading systems, designs and technology across the globe.
"The Vapormatt wet blast process uses water and solid media which is then accelerated from a series of nozzles using compressed air," comments Barry Williams, Aerospace Specialist at Vapormatt. "This provides a very effective and environmentally friendly closed loop cleaning and conditioning process and, even though the abrasive particles can be as fine as talcum powder, the presence of the water carrier means no dust or static electricity is created."
The importance of this in an engineering environment can be fundamental to the manufacturing process and can also contribute to the quality of the operator’s environment. "The water both buffers and lubricates the particles on impact, allowing very precise finishes or stress profiles to be produced – importantly, without damaging the component," he explains.
Barry Williams draws attention to the aerospace sector as a key industry in which Vapormatt systems provide excellent results. "The manufacture of turbine blades, for example, requires oxidisation to be removed from the surfaces after forming, while these critical components also require significant process enhancement later in their life during component inspection, overhaul and repair activities," he adds.
The company’s wet blasting systems have been proven to offer consistent, high quality results and versatile performance for this application. The most recent model, the Vapormatt Leopard, features a turntable onto which the turbine blades are manually loaded either in a horizontal or vertical configuration, dependent on blade size and/or specific process requirements.
"With the horizontal configuration, the action of the nozzles is across the surface of the blades with components then turned to provide access to the reverse side," Barry Williams explains. "In the case of the vertical layout, both sides are cleaned simultaneously. To some extent, specification depends on required throughput, but typically, nine to ten blades can be loaded with the horizontal option per cycle.
"A typical 20 minute cycle would comprise a blasting stage, using an aluminium oxide media, rinsing and then a final blow-off stage," he continues. He points out that, significantly, the Leopard can be specified in manual, automatic and walk-in versions and, in all cases, a low loading height is provided for ease of access and component positioning. "The unit is self-contained and is stand-alone, and therefore requires a minimum footprint within the working area," he adds. The patented sump design utilised in the Leopard machine minimises water tankage volume – offering benefits of low loading height and hence ease of access and component positioning – and negates the need for pits or sumps to be dug within the factory floor, which are essential with more traditional wet blasting systems of this size.
The suitability of Vapormatt’s wet blast technology to the aerospace sector is enhanced by the industry’s focus on production quality and consistency – clearly with safety objectives at the top of the agenda. Vapormatt offers a less aggressive process which minimises the risk of substrate damage and thus produces a consistent surface roughness or stress profile. As one of the world’s leading wet blasting companies, Vapormatt believe its continual development of wet blast process monitoring and control is allowing the more widespread application of the process in safety critical or highly controlled environments. As a result, Vapormatt wet blasting is well regarded within the aerospace industry.
"Those involved in quality control will recognise that, if the objectives set by the aerospace industry can be realised, then our technology can also meet the surface preparation needs in many other fields," adds Mick Teague, Sales Director. "With the emphasis on reliable yet versatile performance, high quality results and efficient, environmentally-friendly operation, the success of our equipment designs – such as the Leopard – demonstrates our understanding of the key factors that need to be addressed in this area. Successful installations worldwide, with many of the leading names across industry, prove the viability of the wet blasting concept, and the quality of the Vapormatt range of equipment."
Monarch Centre, Venture Way
Priorswood Industrial Estate, Taunton
Somerset, TA2 8DE, England