Difference Between Sodablasting and Sandblasting

The major difference between sodablasting and sandblasting is the abrasive media used and the applications. But there is a lot more than just this. This article has more details.
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Difference between sodablasting and sandblasting
Did You Know?
The Statue of Liberty was renovated in the 1980s by using the sodablasting process to reduce chances of damage, to both, the monument and the environment.
On any painted surface, there are two parts; the substrate at the bottom and the coating on top. The coating may be a paint layer, dust, grease, or some other impurity. To remove contaminants stuck in the coating or to clean a surface for painting, a process called abrasive blasting needs to be undertaken. Abrasive blasting is a process in which a high-pressure jet of abrasive particles is focused on a surface for various reasons, like making a rough surface smooth, making a smooth surface rough, etc. When we compare sodablasting vs sandblasting, the abrasive media used, equipment and advantages, all have to be considered.

Sodablasting vs. Sandblasting

PROCESS

Sodablasting uses a high-speed stream of sodium bicarbonate particles to hit the required surface. Soda particles are soft, but when propelled by compressed air, they hit a surface at a high speed, and break into fragments, releasing energy which knocks out the contaminants or paint particles right off the surface, without damaging the substrate.

Sandblasting is a process in which an abrasive media is ejected at high pressure and volume on to a surface due to compressed air pressure. The traditional abrasive used is sand, but any uniform-sized media is usable, including copper slags, pumice, powdered abrasives, steel particles, and even organic media, like corncob, walnut shell pieces, and coconut shell fragments. The process may leave etch marks on the metal surface, and is unsuitable for softer substrates.

Soda Blasting

Sand Blasting

STAGES

Sodablasting is a single-step process that involves no prior surface cleaning, and no complex chemical cleanup, post-operation. It can be carried out even by a single operator with minimum equipment.

Sandblasting is carried out in four distinct stages. The first stage is to decide which equipment and media should be used, and a media quality check. The next stage involves a cleanup of the surface prior to sandblasting and surrounding surface protection. In the third step, the actual operation is carried out by the operator using eye protection and respiratory safeguards in a sandblasting enclosure. The last step is the cleanup operation. It is a good idea to keep a large plastic sheet below the workplace and cover the area with a tarpaulin, so that the abrasive sand can be collected, post-operation.

EQUIPMENT

The equipment used for sodablasting is called sodablaster. It includes a storage chamber for granular sodium bicarbonate, a compressed air chamber, a blast chamber, a decontamination system to remove humidity, a blast hose and a nozzle. Some systems allow the user to vary the rate of flow of sodium bicarbonate.

The equipment used for sandblasting is called a sandblaster. It is made up of a compressed air chamber, a chamber containing sand, a hose and a gun. When the gun is fired, the air escapes, creating a vacuum, due to which the sand particles are ejected out with pressure. There are several other types of sandblasters, like gravity blasters that use principle of gravity, and pressure blasters which operate like an aerosol can.

APPLICATIONS
Sodablasting
  • To remove paint coating from a surface.
  • Removal of contaminants like grease, dust particles, oil, mold, and soot.
  • Cleaning of monuments.
  • Removal of a thin layer of rust.
  • Metal surface preservation.
  • Graffiti removal.
  • Used in automotive industries to clean car surfaces due to its non-heating property.
  • Paint removal, also called 'stripping'.
  • Used on boats and ships to remove anti-fouling paint.
  • For fire restoration, as it cleans blackened wood surfaces without substrate damage. Cleaning food processing equipment, as it is classified as a very safe, A1-grade cleaner by the US Food and Drug Administration.
  • Cleaning industrial machine parts without damage to the component.
Sandblasting
  • Rust removal when surface is highly corroded.
  • Cleaning car surfaces before painting.
  • Paint removal.
  • Cleaning industrial tool surfaces.
  • Removal of peeling paint from walls.
  • Furniture restoration, including paint/corrosion removal.
  • Cleaning concrete surfaces.
  • Cleaning boat/ship hulls before repainting.
  • Removing tiny ridges (burrs) from machine/tool parts.
  • Artistic purposes like glass-etching.
  • Enhancing hardness of tools, like knives.
  • Word/pattern etching on a metal/non-metal surface

ADVANTAGES
Pros of Sodablasting
  • No damage caused to substrates.
  • Can also clean soft substrates like plastics, fiberglass, glass, wood, and carbon fiber, without causing damage.
  • Deodorizes along with cleaning.
  • Forms a rust-inhibiting protective coating on metals.
  • Cleans and removes paint/contaminant in a single step.
  • Operation does not harm surrounding surfaces/equipment.
  • Not harmful when ingested or touched.
  • Soda is water-soluble, hence, the surface can be cleaned with water, reducing cleanup cost.
  • Does not clog narrow spaces/passageways in machine parts.
  • Neutralizes sewage when blast waste washout is released into sewer, hence, environment-friendly.
  • Exposes cracks on working surface.
  • Operation does not produce heat that may cause metal warping.
Pros of Sandblasting
  • More convenient than manual grinding methods.
  • Better suited for industrial use.
  • Fast rate of operation.
  • Stubborn coating removal.

DISADVANTAGES
Cons of Sodablasting
  • It is an expensive process.
  • It cannot remove rust from highly corroded metal surfaces.
  • It takes longer than conventional processes.
  • Sodium bicarbonate can harm plants.
Cons of Sandblasting
  • Dust particles produced in the process can cause silicosis, a disease of the lungs. Hence, sandblasting has been banned in several countries.
  • Leaves etches on metals if not done properly.
  • It requires a cleanup, post-operation.
  • Process generates heat that can cause metal warping.
  • Can sometimes add stubborn impurities to the coating.

The bottom line is, sodablasting, being a more recent technique, is suited for delicate operations in which the risk of damage to substrate is higher. Sandblasting, on the other hand, is intended for traditional, heavy-duty operations that can withstand the rigors of the process.
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Published: July 23, 2014
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