© Aaron M Conway / Fotogloria

Here comes the dry ice man!

Sand, water and abra­sive media are a thing of the past. The Amer­ican company Cold Jet is revo­lu­tion­izing cleaning with
its dry ice blasters.


Cincin­nati, on any Sunday in the early 1970s: The food on the table is steaming less and less, and little Dave is severely trying the patience of his parents; he is too absorbed to hear their calls. He has just found the right Lego blocks for his truck’s hood. “I’m part of the first gener­a­tions to play with Legos. Back then there were hardly any assembly plans for them, so if I wanted a certain thing, I had to figure out how to build it myself,” recalls Dave Burbrink almost 50 years later.

For almost 25 years Dave Burbrink has been burning for dry ice — and for tech­nical chal­lenges. The PCS 60 contains a lot of engi­neering passion of the Cold Jet Tech­nical Director. (Photo | Aaron M Conway / Fotogloria)

Not much has changed since then. Burbrink can still forget his home city of Cincin­nati, his work­place in nearby Love­land, the surrounding state of Ohio and the rest of the world around him when there is a tech­nical problem to solve. That is still his passion. “The toys just got bigger,” he says with a wink, meaning the chal­lenges that became more and more demanding over the course of his career. Burbrink worked for 20 years as an external product designer for Cold Jet. Four years ago, he became part of the engi­neering team, advanced to the posi­tion of Global Design and Tech­nical Director and assumed respon­si­bility for the global design of the company’s ECaSP systems.

ECaSP stands for Envi­ron­mental Cleaning and Surface Prepa­ra­tion, but that does not really say anything about the company’s cool main attrac­tion; Cold Jet has been devel­oping and producing indus­trial cleaning systems that utilize dry ice as the cleaning media since 1986. When cut and propelled at high pres­sure onto a dirty surface, the solid carbon dioxide cleans so gently and effi­ciently that it makes a lasting impres­sion on observers. Burbrink was blown away himself when he came into contact with Cold Jet for the first time almost 25 years ago. “I was wearing sneakers with white rubber soles and had them blasted out of curiosity. After that, I knew that this is really some­thing special,” he says.

Cold Jet wants more

Dry ice, manu­fac­tured by repur­posing carbon dioxide that is produced as a byproduct of indus­trial processes such as sugar fermen­ta­tion in brew­eries, removes cont­a­m­i­nants from surfaces, but does not leave any secondary waste of its own. Dry ice subli­mates, or tran­si­tions from solid to gas, when it impacts the surface being cleaned. In addi­tion, it is safe for the envi­ron­ment, non-conduc­tive, non-toxic, non-abra­sive and is safe and approved for use in food­stuffs. It can be extremely powerful, for example when used to remove tar from asphalt pavers — or quite gentle, including cleaning debris from sensi­tive elec­trical equip­ment. “With a dry ice blaster, you can even remove the M from an M&M and it’s still safe to eat after­ward,” says Burbrink, whose enthu­siasm is remi­nis­cent of the little boy marveling at his creations long ago.

Looks impres­sive, cleans impres­sive: Solid carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice, makes clean dreams come true. (Photo | Aaron M Conway / Fotogloria)

But some­thing crucial has changed since then. When in doubt, Burbrink no longer needs to come up with ideas completely on his own when working toward a partic­ular goal. He has his team, and support from part­ners such as ebm-papst, which assisted with Cold Jet’s latest major success, the PCS® 60 dry ice blaster. It reached the market this year, kicking off the new Aero 2® series. “The idea was to achieve the same results with less dry ice, less air and less noise in less time,” explains Burbrink. “We wanted to develop a machine with more func­tion­ality, and we wanted to make it smaller.”

Smart drives

That posed some tough chal­lenges for Cold Jet’s product devel­opers. They brought Craig Kovarik, an ebm-papst sales engi­neer, on board and discussed uncer­tain­ties about spec­i­fi­ca­tions such as speed and torque with him. “Craig and his co­­workers helped us to select the right specs,” says Burbrink. But of course it took more than just the selec­tion of spec­i­fi­ca­tions to finish the job. “We needed drives that are able to cover a broad range of para­me­ters. And we needed “smart” drives that can commu­ni­cate to others via IoT about quan­ti­ties like speed, amp draws or motor temper­a­ture. ebm-papst supplied us with this intel­li­gence.”

“The idea was to achieve the same results with less dry ice, less air and less noise in less time.”
Dave Burbrink, Tech­nical Director at ColdJet

The PCS 60 now uses five smart K4 drive units from ebm-papst that provide convincing perfor­mance and low power consump­tion. One drive unit trans­ports the dry ice at vari­able speeds to the cutting mech­a­nism and two drive the ­preci­sion cutting wheels. Another drive controls the sepa­ra­tion between the cutting wheels so the size of the ice parti­cles can be precisely controlled. The fifth drive unit trans­ports the small or tiny dry ice parti­cles to the air stream, which propels the dry ice parti­cles at pres­sures between 20 and 145 psi (1.4 bar to 10 bar).

Hard or soft

Taken together, the result is a dry ice blaster that satis­fies all of Cold Jet’s require­ments for the new machine and includes 28 dry ice particle size options. At the highest level, the PCS 60 utilizes three-millimeter dry ice “pellets.” At the lowest level, the three-millimeter pellets are cut to micro-parti­cles that are 0.3 millime­ters across. This type of preci­sion allows users to find the most effec­tive setting for each unique appli­ca­tion. This aspect also enables the user to clean a broad range of appli­ca­tions, from aggres­sive to very gentle cleaning.
“The range of appli­ca­tions that this makes possible is unbe­liev­able,” says Burbrink. For example, the PCS 60 can cut a wooden plank or remove the print from a busi­ness card. “All with one machine,” says Burbrink with unbri­dled enthu­siasm. The enthu­siasm has also caught on with colleagues at Cold Jet in Poland, who are working on more dry ice machines using this tech­nology.

Thus far, users did not have the choice of using the same blaster to remove graf­fiti or clean off injec­tion molds. “Injec­tion molds are very sensi­tive to surface cont­a­m­i­nants. If you touch one, a finger­print could be left behind that could end up on a plastic part. So it’s corre­spond­ingly hard to clean these molds without damage. But we can do this with our equip­ment,” says Burbrink — his eyes gleaming just as they did when he was a kid solving Lego prob­lems.


A look inside the ColdJet

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  • I’ve been using the PCS60 for the last 6 months with unbe­liev­able results. It’s every­thing Dave is excited about. It is an absolute game changer in every way.