Big impact, surprisingly little effort
Blast wheel upgrades are one of the easiest ways of giving your blast operations a performance boost – and can be surprisingly cost-effective too. We’ve asked Ulrich Goos, Wheelabrator’s Director for Equipment Modernisation, three quick-fire questions on the benefits, possibilities and misconceptions of getting a new set of wheels.
Ulrich, why are wheel upgrades such a good idea?
It’s quite simple: The blast wheels are the heart of every wheelblast machine. It’s where the abrasive is accelerated to do its job on the part surface. How well and efficiently it is accelerated is down to the design of the wheel – it’s where a lot of the innovation in blast technology happens. Changing it can change the performance of your machine.
The wheels also contain the main wear parts of a blast machine, so not only could an upgrade give you a performance boost, it can also improve uptime and reduce maintenance cost. With a wheel upgrade you can get impressive levels of performance even out of quite old machines. But what makes them a particularly good idea is cost. Most people think that, to really improve the performance of a machine, you have to spend a lot of money. But wheel upgrades are quite cheap, especially compared to the cost of a new machine or repeat repairs on old wheels.
When should I consider a wheel upgrade? When is it the most beneficial?
When your existing blast wheels are starting to require major repairs - on the motors or the housing, for example. In that situation it is much more sensible to use the inevitable downtime to upgrade to new technology rather than spend a lot of money on patching up old kit.
Sometimes customers go for an upgrade because operational requirements have changed – they have to achieve higher outputs, faster cycle times, better quality or are processing different types of parts. Instead of buying a whole new machine, a blast wheel upgrade could be all it takes to adapt the machine to changed needs.
Another (very good) reason is to upgrade to Wheelabrator technology. If you have blast equipment from another manufacturer, maybe a slightly less high-spec model, then an upgrade to Wheelabrator blast wheels can lift the quality of the whole machine, with improved uptime, enhanced performance and reduced maintenance.
And finally, we increasingly perform wheel upgrades to reduce overall energy consumption. Evolving blast wheel technology means we can often achieve the same or better blast results with a smaller new wheel, replacing older, more energy-hungry blast wheels.
How far can you go with a wheel upgrade? What’s possible?
We can definitely do more than just a simple like-for-like swap. Within reason, we can change the number, position and angle of the blast wheels, in addition to the input power and overall effectiveness of the wheel arrangement. That gives us a lot to play with!
Our blast wheels are also very flexible in design and come with plenty of options. In particular, we can fine-tune the wear behaviour of each wheel to perfectly suit the operating conditions at the customer. We’ve got a broad range of materials to choose from for various components, which means the wheel we put together is never over- or under-engineered.
In summary, I’d say it’s always worth considering if your machine is ready for a wheel upgrade. It gives a significant performance boost at a relatively insignificant cost. And you get to reuse what’s already there, which means less waste and less disruption. It’s a no-brainer, really!