The 21st century sparked a new movement in a sector that includes some of the most routinely dangerous jobs in industry: high-pressure waterblasting. A charge led by plant owners and industrial cleaning contractors focused on safety and risk reduction is driving the adoption of processes and tooling that keep workers out of harm’s way. Equipment manufacturers are poised to advance the movement by introducing technologies that automate unsafe manual methods, changing the way cleaning is performed.
Automation: A win-win for everyone
The benefits of automation in hydroblasting are well documented to increase operator safety as well as productivity. Automated equipment removes workers from confined spaces, away from the dangers of pressurized water and hazardous chemical splashback while delivering a higher and notably more consistent level of cleaning. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” described Harry Richmond, technical and safety specialist for StoneAge Inc. “With automation, your equipment is back in production sooner. It is cleaner, so you get longer run times and better heat transfers. Considering the whole chain process to that point, you’re seeing savings all the way down the line.”
With over 35 years of water jet engineering expertise, StoneAge is on the cutting edge of product development with a demonstrated commitment to improving safety in the industry. StoneAge’s approach to engineering combines practical functionality with thoughtful design to produce highly effective and usable equipment, as exemplified by the newly released AutoBox ABX-2L system for heat exchanger tube flex lancing.
Waterworks Industrial Services in Geismar, Louisiana, specializes in exchanger, pipe, tank and fin fan cleaning and has been proactively implementing automated technologies since 2005. “We do a lot of work in a hydrofluoric acid facility, and it is the only place we were unable to use automation because the acid would eat up our equipment,” stated Waterworks Owner Mark Blanchard. “The StoneAge ABX-2L works great in acid service and has allowed us to become 100-percent automated.”
Engineering firm in your back pocket
StoneAge CEO Kerry Siggins is a visionary dedicated to improving waterblasting safety practices. Along with state-of-the-art rotary tools and automated equipment, her company prides itself on providing “a world-class customer experience.” It accomplishes this by openly sharing its depth of experience to help solve difficult hands-free applications and keep workers safe.
Customers have access to StoneAge’s engineering team and technical staff including Richmond, who has worked with industrial service contactors in the field for over 20 years. Richmond supports contractors and plants with application-specific equipment and the safest, most efficient practices. He said, “We can help you do your job better, safer and with new technology. We can help you solve your toughest problems. It’s like having a whole engineering firm in your back pocket.”
Service contractors can also engage StoneAge for field testing opportunities. This mutually beneficial relationship gives contractors access to the latest and greatest technology along with engineer support and the opportunity to provide product development input. Doug McGee of Evergreen Industrial Services partnered with StoneAge to aid in the release of the BTC-100 Boiler Tube Cleaner (BTC).
“We tested a first-generation prototype BTC in early 2014 to gain familiarity with the piece of process equipment and to provide design input so it would work well in this application,” McGee reported. “The tool that was ultimately developed was outstanding for our purposes.”
The Evergreen team was able to completely eliminate man entry into a cramped mud drum and apply the full power of their pump to clean the package boiler like never before.
“It’s as good a tool as I’ve ever been associated with in my 31 years in the hydroblasting industry,” continued McGee. “StoneAge has helped me tremendously, and the support group has been great. As a matter of fact, we’re going on a job and I get to try out the new camera system. I’m anxious to get it on the job and see how much that’s going to improve our ability to do it. With a camera, it’s going to be more like a video game than hydroblasting!”
Some of the latest equipment in StoneAge’s automated portfolio include:
The remote shotgunning system offers a powerful and affordable automated solution for surface cleaning and preparation applications. Modular components are easy for a single operator to assemble in a variety of locations and the system can be mounted to a wheeled base, a positioner or other structure as needed. With responsive pneumatic controls and intuitive operation, this system is ideal for contractors and plants interested in cost-effective, easy-to-use equipment. Coming in 2015!
AutoBox ABX-2L Automated Flex Lancing System
The AutoBox ABX-2L is an automated flex lancing system specifically designed for hands-free heat exchanger tube cleaning applications with an emphasis on safety, portability and ease of setup. Lightweight and modular, the system can be installed by a single operator in minutes. It adapts to a variety of exchanger sizes and offers thorough, consistent cleaning and proven durability in the harshest environments.
Yellowjacket Online Boiler Cleaner
The StoneAge Yellowjacket is an automated high flow water lancing system specifically designed for on-line boiler cleaning. The system features a pivoting lance that allows the water jet to be precisely aimed for productive removal of excessive slag from key locations inside a boiler while it is still on line. Coming in 2015!
BTC-100 Boiler Tube Cleaner
StoneAge’s Boiler Tube Cleaner is designed for safe and productive cleaning of package boiler conduit tubing. These tubes emerge radially from a drum in rows and are particularly challenging to clean due to their configuration and confined space entry specifications. Utilizing a remotely operated drive system armed with proprietary armored hose technology and an indexing camera, the BTC-100 effectively navigates the system of tubes inside the mud drum with exceptional results — no vessel entry required.
AutoBox ABX-500 Hands-Free Hose Handling System
The AutoBox ABX-500 is a lightweight and simple-to-use hose control device for hands-free pipe and vessel cleaning operations. You can connect any StoneAge rotary pipe or tank cleaning tool to the hose depending on the application. It accommodates a wide range of hose sizes and passes couplings up to 1.75 inches OD.
Equipping our industry’s workforce with new “hands-free” hydroblasting technology is integral to achieving the vision of a more efficient and safe industry.
Plants and contractors interested in working with StoneAge to automate their processes and go hands-free can call (866) 795-1586 or visit www.stoneagetools.com.