One of the world’s leading specialists in the design and manufacture of exhaust systems for the motor sport industry – SS Tube Technology Ltd – has recently installed a Vapormatt wet blast machine as part of a dedicated surface cleaning and preparation cell at the company’s state-of-the-art exhaust production and refurbishment facility near Witney, Oxon, UK.
The new machine – a manual ‘Panther’, with a 995mm x 700mm x 700mm processing enclosure – is used primarily in refurbishment work to thoroughly remove heat scale and other surface contamination from exhaust systems prior to inspection and any necessary reworking. The systems designed and manufactured by the company are often complex and expensive to produce, normally in materials such as 321 stainless steel, Inconel or other exotic alloys, so maximising their operating life through refurbishment obviously makes economic sense.
The Vapormatt wet blast process (‘Vapormatting’) supersedes time-consuming manual cleaning, and has streamlined the refurbishment operation, enabling surface imperfections or cracks to be identified quickly and efficiently.
The process utilises water and a fine glass bead media in suspension, delivered by a slurry pump and accelerated by compressed air to the manually operated process nozzle (automatic nozzle manipulation is an available option for dedicated, repetitive tasks). The action of the slurry scours the surface to create a thoroughly clean and lightly abraded result, without impinging on the metal surface. As another option, the water can be heated and mild detergent added to ensure the effective removal of any grease or oil.
The ratio between the water pressure and air pressure in the process nozzle is variable, allowing an effective “water buffer” to be maintained between the abrasive media and the surface being processed. This creates a lubricating action and washes the surface continuously during processing.
No solvents or other potentially hazardous chemicals are involved, so the process is not subject to strict legislation governing solvent emissions (the EU Solvent Emission Directive, soon to become law), VOC or dust emissions.
As well as being used for its primary task during refurbishment, the Vapormatt machine is also employed for general component surface preparation and cleaning tasks. The machine is located next to an ultrasonic cleaning bath and a trichloroethylene sealed vapour degreasing unit, both of which are used for associated surface cleaning applications.
SS Tube Technology Ltd manufactures exhaust systems for F1, Indy cars, Champ cars, WRC rally cars and many other race and sports cars. The company continually invests in new equipment in order to ensure the optimum quality demanded by this sector and, as well as using a conventional CAD system, has introduced highly specialised 3D exhaust design software, which is believed to be the most advanced of its kind in the world. In addition to its mainline motor sport business, SS Tube Technology also undertakes precision tube fabrication for other high-tech and industrial applications.
The company has recently been appointed as the exclusive exhaust supplier for the new Elan-built ‘DP01’ chassis for the Champ Car Series 2007 through to 2009. This, says managing director, Stuart Barron: “Could only be achieved with our 3D CAD design and build software.”
Vapormatt Ltd manufactures a wide range of wet blasting cleaning and degreasing systems, extending from manual cabinets such as the ‘Panther’ installed at SS Tube Technology, to large automatic machines for special applications such as the surface preparation of wire products and the de-painting of aircraft wheels