An increasingly popular alternative to harsher blasting media, soda blasters can be used on both industrial and delicate components ranging from ship hulls to printed circuit boards. The versatility of these machines allow their use in a number of industries including the automotive, shipbuilding, construction, agriculture, industrial cleaning and processing, aerospace, decorative design, woodworking and glass industries. In addition to ships and circuit boards, soda blasting is used to resurface and clean large and small elements including nuts, bolts, decorative glass, engine components, bridges, aircraft, heat exchangers and building components. Soda blasting has many benefits over traditional sandblasting including reduced heat waste and significantly reduced risk of substrate pitting.
Similar in design to bead blasters, soda blasting machines all have the same basic elements. An air compressor is connected to a power source as well as a hopper or vessel containing the abrasive soda bicarbonate. Although this material is actually of a white crystalline structure, it is used in a powdered form for blasting. Hoses of varying length connect the hopper to a gun-like nozzle. Pulling a trigger or pressing a switch pushes or pulls air through the closed system creating a vacuum which pulls the abrasive grit through the tubing and out of the nozzle in a high pressure stream directed towards the substrate to be cleaned or resurfaced. Though this is a general explanation, specific machines will vary and should be considered in relation to the intended goals of the process. The material of the substrate should be carefully considered with regards to flow rate and blast pressure to ensure it is not damaged by the abrasive process. As sodium bicarbonate is not a very abrasive substance, damage is unlikely. This substance, more commonly known as baking soda, is extremely friable and undergoes micro fragmentation on impact resulting in minimal byproduct production. Additionally, soda blasting is FDA approved as the substance is non-toxic, non-flammable, non-hazardous and water-soluble, making it an environmentally safe option.