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In the remanufacturing, or “reman,” segment for transportation (i.e., motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, trains, maritime, helicopters and airplanes), businesses that reman engines, transmissions, brake assemblies, turbos and/or any other parts that can be remanufactured are highly dependent on cleaning products with thorough and dependable results. While the same also can be said for other reman markets, it’s particularly relevant to the transportation segment because of the safety and liability issues involved. That is why ARMEX™, the original sodium bicarbonate (i.e., baking soda) blasting abrasive, is the only blasting abrasive recommended for use in the transportation reman segment. Soda blasting offers several advantages that make it much more efficient to use than alternative cleaning methods.

The first step in remanufacturing is cleaning. Before anything else can be done to the core being remanufactured, it needs to be cleaned and inspected for defects. Typical automotive contaminants are no match for soda blasting, which creates a concentrated alkaline environment to which grease and oil are naturally attracted and absorbed. Other blasting abrasives, such as glass beads and crushed glass, leave an oil or grease film behind and require a chemical pre-clean and post rinse after blasting to remove this film. ARMEX™ also excels at removing burnt-on carbon, light rust, gasket materials, coatings and grime.

Automotive parts should only be cleaned with non-destructive methods. Note the full surface restoration on the left side of this aluminum part following soda blasting. Source: ARMEX™.Automotive parts should only be cleaned with non-destructive methods. Note the full surface restoration on the left side of this aluminum part following soda blasting. Source: ARMEX™.

Some parts-cleaning processes involve multiple steps, such as the application of a solvent, followed by a cleaning agent, followed by rinsing. There also may be the need for pre-treatment in a chemical solvent bath or multiple treatments before a part can be considered truly clean. Soda blasting offers a fast, thorough clean from a single application and freshwater rinse. Since sodium bicarbonate is benign to both ferrous and non-ferrous materials, multiple surfaces in close proximity can be cleaned simultaneously and efficiently — without the need for disassembly or masking. ARMEX™ can be used on a wide variety of automotive surfaces, including metals, plastics, rubber and glass.

But there is much more to soda blasting’s advantages than mere efficiency. With a Mohs hardness value of 2.5, sodium bicarbonate is considered a soft crystal; in most cases, it’s harder than the contaminants, but softer than the underlying substrate. This is a crucial difference in terms of preserving parts integrity. Only baking soda can clean without causing surface damage or profiling. Hard abrasives, by contrast, can damage the surface in numerous ways, including denting, pitting, profiling and fracturing. The blast method used for such abrasives can also drive contaminants more deeply into the substrate. These types of changes affect the tolerances and specifications of machined parts, rendering them unusable — a serious consequence of blasting with alternate media.

In addition, while the heat-generating impact of hard abrasive media can lead to warping, soda blasting generates little-to-no heat. In fact, baking soda is non-flammable, which eliminates the dangerous potential for thermal sparking.

Soda blasting continues to offer critical differences even after the blasting process is complete. Because it can clean metal surfaces without filling cracks, it’s easier to find faults during post-blasting inspection. If media such as glass or plastic beads gets stuck in the blind passageways of complex automotive components, the possibility of engine failure is significantly increased. Spent baking soda media, by contrast, can be easily rinsed away thanks to its water solubility; the liquids that normally circulate through engines and transmissions — engine oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid — will also effectively dispose of left-behind soda, never causing damage to moving parts.

The efficiency and safety of the cleaning process overall is also impacted by the disposal procedures involved. Contaminants removed by soda blasting often can be filtered out before disposal, creating a non-toxic and sewer-friendly waste. Baking soda, in fact, is the only type of abrasive media that can be disposed of within a traditional waste stream. By comparison, highly abrasive media will remove metal from the substrate along with the contaminants — leading to hazardous waste stream concentrations.

Versatile, efficient and non-destructive, baking soda is without parallel as a blasting media choice. Its advantages are many, and nowhere is this more readily apparent than in industries such as remanufacturing, where surface preservation and parts integrity are critical.

Contact ARMEX™ to learn more.