Choosing Robotic Abrasive Blasting is Easier than You Might Think

20. Feb. 2024
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Choosing Robotic Abrasive Blasting is Easier than You Might Think

The unique Blastman robot delivers innovative solutions, applying the latest advanced technologies to overcome blast cleaning challenges.

Considering the investment of a robotic abrasive blasting line, whether completely new or retrofitted, can understandably raise many questions – one of the most essential being how the correct solutions for the customer are determined. In short, as the operations of Blastman Robotics are based on customer needs and backed by four decades of experience, there is no situation where a similar process hasn’t already been solved.

But let’s dive deeper than the surface. In this article, we’ll look more closely into the many different ways Blastman has paved the way for as smooth and easy purchasing and implementation process of robotic abrasive blasting as possible – to the point, that it might be surprising.

Customer’s production defines the best robotic abrasive blasting solution

Everything starts from the customer’s production and workpiece. Important factors include the size and shape of the workpiece, the desired quality from the result, as well as the production volume – in other words the customer’s core business.

The next step is to specify whether Blastman’s robotic solution is to be retrofitted into an existing chamber, or a completely new chamber. In addition, there’s a hybrid solution in which an existing chamber is remodeled through, for example, raising its roof.

Naturally, customer’s existing production methods are taken into close consideration as they might necessitate certain solutions. The blast cleaning process is not only the act of abrasive coming out of the nozzle. As a whole, it includes transportation solutions, variations in workpieces, different quality requirements, fluctuations in energy availability, and tens of other sub-processes that enable the actual cleaning of the surface. Blastman has developed solutions specifically keeping in mind the individual characteristics of customer processes and logistics.


Fitting solution

The purpose of the initial specifications is to make sure that the robot fits into the chamber with the workpiece so that the product can in fact be processed completely. This is very easy and only a 3D model of the workpiece and the dimensions of the chamber are needed. This combination together with the production volume in turn defines which specific robot model and add-ons, such as machine vision and manlifts, should be chosen.

Currently, Blastman’s portfolio consists of eight robot models, which are tailored to fit customer needs. This in addition to Blastman’s ability to listen to its customers ensures that customers do not have to wrestle with their process alone and through a collaborative effort, the right solution is always found.

With very little information Blastman is able to provide data on how a robot would optimize the customer’s production and offers the service free of charge. The customer is always presented with technical drawings that show the robot can operate even with the largest workpiece. Blastman also offers a simulation showing that the robot will reach the production efficiency that has been promised. All of this also makes it very easy for the customer to get a quotation for a solution that really solves any existing production or process issues.


3D model on blasting chamber with B20S robot

Automation makes robotic abrasive blasting even easier

After the initial specification, Blastman and the customer can dive into more detailed matters. These can even entail factors not directly concerning robots, such as possible hick-ups in other equipment, like abrasive handling, and how Blastman can solve those as well.

If, for example, inspectors or manual blast cleaners are having a hard time getting on top of the workpiece, Blastman can provide mechanical solutions or machine vision to help with workpiece positioning inside the blast chamber. Another example is the possibility of choosing energy-saving upgrades to existing equipment or including a gantry-mounted man lift for painting operations. The question with Blastman is merely about the desired level of automation and way of working, allowing improved quality and decreased production costs.

Robots transform human labor for the safer

The efficiency of robotic abrasive blasting is often easiest to realize through comparison. Back in the day four workers were able to manually blast on average 15 m2/h, nowadays a robot can process 200 m2/h. With a ratio like this, the easy assumption might be the famous reiteration about robots and jobs.

In reality, robotic abrasive blast cleaning rather transforms the nature of human labor than eliminates it. Instead of actual blasting, the workers can orient into the maintenance of the process, consisting of preparing hoses, adding abrasive, cleaning up, as well as preparing, loading, and unloading workpieces.

It is also not uncommon for blast cleaners to transition into robot operators. Today a manual blast cleaner is extremely hard to find while a robot operator is a different level position that workers enjoy and are less eager to change for another job.
Meanwhile, Blastman has made sure that all operating and maintenance tasks of the robotic abrasive blasting are on a level that doesn’t require major education or a decree. In other words, the people don’t disappear but are freed to handle other tasks and become more efficient all the while keeping the know-how in the house.

What is most important though, is that the transition from manual blast cleaning to other endeavors removes people from the same space with the grueling abrasive process and thus tremendously improves occupational safety.


Read more about the Robotic VS Manual blasting chamber.

Easy programming enables even smoother production

Many customers may wonder how the programming of the automated robotic blasting works with their process and how the production will run after the robotic solutions have been implemented.

First of all, the programming with Blastman’s tools is very easy and secondly, the company has developed automation for programming, making it even easier and faster in the future. With its aid, the programming can be started well in advance. Once the design is complete, 3D models can be entered, and customer programs created while the robot is still being manufactured. This way, when the robot is deployed, there exists a ready-made library of programs to choose from.

The easiness of programming is also demonstrated to customers during the sales process. This way customers can have confidence in the overall solution they are purchasing.

Naturally, Blastman trains all the necessary personnel of its customers, whether they be operators or maintenance workers, and offers on-site support as production is on the way. Instructions and interface are provided in the local language and, if necessary, an interpreter can be used.   

Additionally, as the production is on the way, Blastman’s robots are able to notify the operator through a built-in system if something is wrong and more importantly, about to go wrong. The feature has two main benefits: the best maintenance is preventive maintenance, and if another shift is not aware of something, the robot still knows and reminds about it


Offline programming - Blastman Studio


Peace of mind with reference visits and payback calculations

Blastman can of course prove the profitability of a robot investment through a payback calculation that can be done together with the customer. This gives comfort to both the customer and Blastman that the solution will be an excellent investment in the short term and long term. Some things, some would argue the most important things, like workplace safety, operator happiness, and longer employment are more difficult to translate into money, but should definitely be considered nonetheless.

What Blastman also strives to keep short, is the installation of its solutions. This is especially emphasized in retrofit projects. As Blastman fully recognizes the significance of production downtime, the company aims to work as fast and cause as little disruption as possible. In the best case, Blastman has succeeded in installing four robots in a blasting chamber with the customer's production being interrupted for a mere week. This is because for the most part, the work takes place outside the chamber and many preparatory works can be done while production is running. What contributes to the smooth installation, is that all the devices and equipment are manufactured and fully tested in Finland, allowing for a fast ramp-up with minimal risks.

Blastman’s customers tend to appreciate the minimal production downtime, be satisfied with the quality and operation of the solutions, and feel like they are taken good care of. This shows in their willingness to open their doors to Blastman’s potential new customers in the form of reference visits. This way customers who are considering an investment can hear about first-hand experiences and assure themselves of the suitability of Blastman’s solutions. When considering a Blastman robot, don’t be shy to ask for a reference visit.    

Read the article on how Ponsse continues to rely on Blastman for abrasive blasting needs.

Robotic abrasive blasting is care-free also after purchase

After a while, Blastman’s existing customers often purchase robots for several other facilities. It is also typical that after decades of service, the Blastman robots that are at the end of their lifecycle are replaced with new Blastman robots. Not only does this speak volumes of the long lifetime and reliability of the equipment but also of the worry-free nature of relying on an established and experienced operator.

Blastman looks after its customers with comprehensive aftersales services from the very beginning. Each Blastman project includes a two-week monitoring period after handover to the customer. During the period Blastman dedicated key account managers arrange for follow-up meetings in which the customer is free to ask any questions or voice any concerns. This allows the implementation of best practices that Blastman has learned from hundreds of customers throughout its history.


Read also an article on how Blastman sees the FUTURE OF ABRASIVE BLASTING.