Rapid Prep Blasting Equipment Does the Job of Several Machines

Blasting equipment that collects and separates debris and cleaning media offers competitive advantages like requiring less manpower

Rapid Prep Blasting Equipment Does the Job of Several Machines

R.J. Forbes Painting technician Weston Forbes uses the Rapid Prep VB 1200 blast and recovery system to clean a tank at a chemical manufacturing facility.

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Ross Forbes loves how Rapid Prep VB 1200 blast and recovery systems help his company, R.J. Forbes Painting, clean tanks, pipelines and industrial machinery to rigid specifications in preparation for painting. He also loves what they don’t do: Require as many employees on the job. Or as much equipment.

As the name implies, the machine first scours surfaces, typically using garnet granules or steel grit, then recovers the media for reuse. Crews at the Massachusetts-based company can get the job done with just four men instead of six, Forbes says, and they do the work with one machine instead of several.

“We used to need those two extra guys to do more manual jobs, like shoveling and sweeping up debris,” he explains. “But the VB 1200 blasts the abrasives, then vacuums up both the spent media and any debris.

“This helps us allocate our manpower more efficiently and reduces labor and media-buying expenses, both of which help us compete better on price. Sometimes we can clean 25% to 50% faster than if we used other systems. It’s just a very efficient machine.”

The unit, which weighs about 3,000 pounds and is skid-mounted on a trailer, is 8 1/2 feet long, 4 feet wide and just more than 10 feet high. It features a 16-cubic-foot-capacity blast pot with two blasting outlets, a 16-cubic-foot storage hopper and a dual-jet vacuum system (1,400 cfm).

The media gets vacuumed into the blast pot and is sprayed through 1.5-inch-diameter blast hoses. At the same time, a vacuum system uses filters to separate the collected media into one tank for reuse and the debris into another tank for disposal. The media can be reused an average of three times, Forbes explains.

Tackling tough jobs

Established in 1981, the company — which employs 75 people and is based in Attleboro — does commercial and industrial painting throughout New England. The company cleans and paints things like water-filtration clarifiers, pipelines and tanks in the water and wastewater industries, plus storage tanks and pipelines in the petroleum and chemical industries.

Cleaning clarifiers (essentially large concrete tanks that house metal agitating devices) ranks among the toughest jobs. “They’re cleaned about every 15 years, so they’re usually extremely deteriorated by the time we get there,” Forbes says. “We’re removing heavy rust scale, usually about a 1/4 inch thick. … It can take about a month to clean and paint one.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the company recently spent about three weeks cleaning and repainting a massive, 18-ton press-stamping machine that was covered with about 50 years’ worth of oil and grease buildup.

“There was about an inch of oil and grease caked on the surface and mixed with dust, which created a claylike substance,” Forbes says. “That was a tough job.”

In many cases, cleaning jobs are subject to prepainting inspections by independent third parties. This ensures that whatever is being painted is clean enough to meet stringent standards and specifications. “Good prep work is everything.”

No time to waste

In addition, many industrial painting jobs are performed during plant shutdowns. As such, deadlines are tight, leaving little margin for machine breakdowns. That’s where the VB 1200 offers another benefit: A simple, well-engineered design that helps to minimize breakdowns, Forbes says.

“Less moving parts means there’s less to maintain and fewer things that can go wrong. Downtime on jobs is a real killer, especially on the municipal side where the state dictates the hourly wage we have to pay (under a prevailing-wage law). So every minute counts.

“And on the manufacturing side, we’re often working during plant shutdowns. So if we miss a deadline, customers can’t get back online, which can ruin your reputation with that customer.”

The machine is easy to use; Forbes says an operator can become fairly proficient after a couple days.

The company uses other Rapid Prep equipment — including a dust collector, a 600-pound portable abrasive blast system and a couple of 755 vacuum systems — and a 6- and 8-ton-capacity Schmidt bulk abrasive blast system.

“Using Rapid Prep’s technology to get jobs done instead of older technology speeds up our processes and helps us build a reputation as a good contractor to work with,” Forbes says. “That leads to word-of-mouth referrals, which are the best kind of advertising.

“These machines are critical to our operations. We wouldn’t be in business without them.”


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