Modern Aerospace Coating Removal: Protecting People and the Environment

Modern Aerospace Coating Removal: Protecting People and the Environment

b-2 bomber coating removal

Modern Industrial Coating Removal:

Protecting People and the Environment

In the past, industrial brands had limited choices when it came to the products used for their industrial applications. Hazardous working conditions, dangerous chemicals, toxic waste, and environmentally-destructive processes were unfortunate occupational realities. For aerospace and automotive brands, removing paint coatings from metals and sensitive composites once required the use of toxic chemicals or hazardous manual sanding. Cleaning and deflashing parts required the handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals. These applications put both workers and valuable materials at risk.

Today, with advances in technology and a global focus on preserving our planet, companies are no longer forced to utilize these destructive and dangerous processes of the past.

Since 1901, Midvale Industries has been a pioneer for protecting both people and the environment, by leading the creation and evolution of processes to remove coatings, clean parts and increase efficiency in a safe and cost-effective way.

Multiple bio-based, renewable blasting mediums, developed by Midvale Industries and ADM, allow aerospace and automotive brands to quickly remove layers of coatings from sensitive materials or metals, in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. These abrasives, initially developed for military use, are as soft as a human fingernail, are corn starch based, and are a 100% renewable resource.

When utilized as part of an engineered blasting process, this process:

  • Is 8-10 times faster than sanding
  • Preserves component integrity and protects from material fatigue (common with traditional blasting)
  • Eliminates dangerous toxic chemical exposure
  • Eliminates the need for harmful hand-sanding and potential for HAVS (Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome)
  • Decreases long-term production costs

Even in 1996, before green approaches became a major trend, Midvale was featured as a green solution for removing coatings from the B-2 Bomber, a unique military aircraft made almost entirely of sensitive carbon-graphite composite material.

Clients from coast-to-coast, including the US Navy and the US Coast Guard, utilize Midvale’s environmentally-friendly processes for coating removal, composite tool cleaning or metal bond deflashing projects of all sizes. 

Midvale’s engineers are trained in developing custom, holistic finishing processes and serving as a strategic partner to our clients. In building and refining industrial processes, we search for bottlenecks, possible waste, and potential safety issues, and provide regular inspection reports on equipment and consumables. We offer training and troubleshooting for clients, working to build and streamline processes in the most efficient, cost-effective and safe way. 

Pressure vs Suction Blast Cabinet

Pressure vs Suction Blast Cabinet

pressure vs suction blast cabinet

Pressure vs. Suction Blast Cabinet

Abrasive blasting is a versatile process used to clean or prepare surfaces for various applications. Choosing the right equipment and media is crucial for a successful project. This guide will focus on the two primary types of abrasive blasting systems: pressure blasting and suction blasting (also known as siphon blasting). Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each method to understand which one best fits your needs.

Pressure Blast Cabinet

Pressure abrasive blast equipment utilizes a pressurized vessel and meters the media into a flow of compressed air, propelling the media onto the blasting surface. The media is processed in a single, heavy-gauge hose with the blast particles being accelerated throughout its length.

pressure blast system

Advantages of a Pressure Blast System:

  • Higher media velocity
  • Greater media volume
  • Faster blast cycles
  • Wider variety of abrasive options
  • Increased standoff distance flexibility

Disadvantages of a Pressure Blast System:

  • Higher capital equipment costs
  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Limited continuous blast cycle time

Typical Pressure Blasting Applications:

  • Removing heavy coatings, such as paint, rust, and scale
  • Preparing surfaces for painting or powder coating
  • Cleaning and roughening concrete surfaces
  • Removing graffiti
  • Shot peening metal parts to improve their fatigue life

Suction Blast Cabinet

Suction blast cabinets are distinguished by having two hoses (one for air and one for abrasive) running to the blast gun. Utilizing air pressure, a suction gun pulls the media from a hopper through the hose for blasting. The media is mixed with the air at the blast gun.

suction blast system
suction blast gun

Advantages of Suction Blast System:

  • Lower capital equipment cost
  • Easier maintenance
  • Less air and abrasive demand
  • Continuous blasting is possible

Disadvantages of Suction Blast System:

  • Frequent Media Changes
  • Limited Repeatability
  • Adjustments to Media Volume and Flow Cannot be Positively Indexed and Locked-In

Typical Suction Blasting Applications:

  • Cleaning delicate surfaces, such as wood and plastic
  • Removing light coatings, such as dust and dirt
  • Sandblasting glass
  • Preparing surfaces for bonding or painting
  • Etching metal parts

Choosing the Right Blasting Method

When you are choosing which abrasive blasting method to use, there are several factors that you need to take into consideration: surface type, desired finish, parts volume per hour, media restrictions, budget, and safety.

Surface Type: The type of metal you’re blasting may affect your blasting options, as well as the contaminant/coatings you are removing. If there is a thick coating or heavy cleaning to be done, pressure is ideal. If there is a thin coating or less aggressive cleaning required, suction is an ideal solution.

Volume: Do you have a small or large volume of parts to finish each day? Do you have need to blast 1 hour per day or constantly over two shifts? If the former, suction blasting may be just fine. For the latter, the speed and efficiency of pressure blasting is a must.

Budget: Evaluate your budget and long-term operating costs. Pressure blasting systems may have a higher initial investment but can result in cost savings over time due to material recycling.

   Characteristic Pressure Blast Cabinet Suction Blast Cabinet





More aggressive

Less aggressive


More expensive

Less expensive

Ease of operation

More difficult



Time To Evaluate

Both pressure blasting and suction blasting are great options for various metal finishing needs. Ultimately, your decision is going to come down to the needs of your project and your budget. Understanding the differences and the main uses of each blasting process, and the requirements of your parts, you’ll be able to evaluate and select the process that will best fit your blasting operation.

If you’re interested in finding out more information on abrasive blast equipment or running tests on your parts, contact our team today.

The Importance of Chemistry in Vibratory Finishing

The Importance of Chemistry in Vibratory Finishing

The Importance of Chemistry in Vibratory Finishing

The Importance of Chemistry in Vibratory Finishing

How the Right Chemistry Can Transform Your Vibratory Finishing Process

Vibratory finishing equipment, or mass finishing, provides batch finishing processes for a multitude of parts such as descaling, deburring, polishing, cleaning, surface preparation, and other applications. These systems reduce labor and cut down on the total processing time spent on parts. There is a variety of vibratory equipment, media and chemistry utilized in the process. Each of these play a role in the final outcome of the part which is why it’s important to learn about each to ensure it’s the best fit for your process. This article will break down chemistry and how it affects the vibratory finishing process.

Types of Vibratory Chemistry

Vibratory finishing chemistry is engineered for specific applications to provide the best surface finish. These compounds ensure that your media and equipment continue to run at high production levels to meet your surface specifications. There are multiple types of chemistry for vibratory finishing processes:

  • Burnishing Compound – creates a highly polished and bright surface finish. Can also develop additional colors to the part.
  • Cleaning Compound – enhances the feed and roll of the mass as well as cleans the parts.
  • Deburring Compound – assists in removing burrs and provides smooth and refined surfaces while providing lubrication and reducing impingement.
  • Descaling Compound – removes tough oxide and carbonized oxide films.
  • Inhibiting Compound – protects parts from oxidation, corrosion, and tarnishing.

Why Vibratory Chemistry Is Important

Chemistry improves the vibratory finishing process through a variety of factors. It’s important to dial in each aspect of your process. Here are a few ways the chemistry will affect the process:

  • Cleaning and degreasing – The chemistry acts as a lubricant and surfactant, facilitating the breakdown and suspension of oils, greases, and other contaminants. This prevents them from redepositing on the parts and ensures thorough cleaning.
      • pH Control – Depending on the type of contaminants and workpiece material, the pH of the solution can be adjusted for optimal cleaning. Alkaline compounds are effective for greasy soils, while acidic solutions might be used for rust removal. Balanced pH also protects against corrosion.
  • Preventing media wear – the chemistry will keep the media clean and sharp, reducing the ‘glaze’ effect that can happen to tumbling media. The chemistry will also act as a lubricant, reducing friction between media and parts.
  • Process Control – Foam build up can hinder the finishing process by reducing the cutting action of the media. The chemistry can be formulated with anti-foaming agents to maintain appropriate foam levels.
  • Corrosion – Protecting parts from corrosion by utilizing rust inhibitors in the chemistry formula.

Improper use of chemistry or ratios can result in severe quality issues. If the chemistry is not suited for your process, or you don’t have the ratio correct, there can be inadequate contaminant removal, surface staining, corrosion, or pitting. There will also be a decreased life on your media, longer cycle times, and extra waste generated.

Best Practices for Utilizing Chemistry In Your Vibratory Finishing Process

Chemical Composition – There are many pre-mixed chemistries on the market. However, your process may need an engineered solution. It is recommended to run tests based on the part and the contaminants to create the most optimal solution for your cleaning process.

Concentration – Finding the best ratio for your finishing process in crucial. During testing, you will have an opportunity to develop the ratio of media, chemistry, and water. If your concentration is too low, there will be a drop in effectiveness and increase in cycle time. If the concentration is too high, there may be corrosion and damage done to the surface of the parts.

pH – The acidity or alkalinity of the solution can affect its cleaning power and compatibility with different materials. For example, acidic solutions might be ideal for removing rust but could damage delicate surfaces.

Temperature – Higher temperatures can increase the cleaning effectiveness by accelerating chemical reactions. However, certain materials can be damaged if the temperature is too high. It’s important to understand how the substrate will react with the chemicals.

Foam control – Excessive foaming can hinder the cleaning process by reducing contact between the solution and the surface. Anti-foaming agents are often used to control foam levels.

Rinsing Chemical Residue – Improper rinsing or residue build-up from the cleaning chemistry can affect subsequent finishing steps, like polishing or coating, requiring additional cleaning or rework.

Cycle Time – Controlling the amount of time the chemistry is in contact with the parts will affect the overall results of your finishing process. Some contaminants may require longer exposure times to be removed.

Other considerations for your vibratory finishing process are whether agitation or ultrasonics are needed, the type of surface you are cleaning, the contaminants, water quality, waste removal capabilities, and health hazards.

It is important to regular test and monitor your cleaning bath and waste. Not only will this ensure you are operating an effecting cleaning process, but will help create a safe work environment for your whole team.

The Right Chemistry Can Transform Your Vibratory Finishing Process

In the realm of vibratory finishing processes, the role of chemistry cannot be overstated. As discussed, the right chemistry is pivotal in achieving efficient, high-quality results across various applications, from deburring to polishing and beyond. Understanding the nuances of vibratory finishing chemistry empowers manufacturers to optimize their processes, enhance productivity, and uphold stringent quality standards.

vibratory finishing chemistry

Refine Your Mass Finishing Process

Testing your vibratory finish components is vital for refining your finishing process. Send us your parts and our processing lab will determine the right media and chemistry combination for your finishing application.

Painting vs. Powder Coating

Painting vs. Powder Coating

Painting vs Powder Coating

Painting vs. Powder Coating: Which is Right for You?

When it comes to finishing metal surfaces, there are two main options: painting and powder coating. Each process has its own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you’re trying to decide on a finish for your outsourced parts, or maybe even looking to add a finishing application to your facility, it’s important to choose the right process for your parts.


Painting is the more traditional method of finishing metal. It involves applying a liquid paint to the surface, which then dries to form a protective layer.

The advantages of painting include:

  • It is relatively inexpensive.
  • It is easy to do yourself.
  • Easily touched up or repaired.
  • There are many different colors and finishes available.
painting ppe

The disadvantages of painting include:

  • Paint can be difficult to apply evenly, especially on complex shapes.
  • Paint can chip and peel over time, especially if it is not properly applied or maintained.
  • Paint can contain harmful solvents and VOCs.

Equipment needed for painting:

  • Paint booth (if painting indoors)
  • Paint mixing room (if mixing specific paints)
  • Paint sprayer/pump plus gun(s) and hose(s)
  • PPE
graco paint sprayer
enclosed paint spray booth

Powder Coating

Powder coating is a somewhat newer method of finishing metal that is becoming increasingly popular. It involves applying a powdered coating to the surface, which is then cured using heat.

The advantages of powder coating include:

  • It is more durable than paint and resistant to chipping, scratching, and fading.
  • Excess powder can be reused, creating less waste.
  • It can be applied to a wider variety of metal surfaces.
  • It is environmentally friendly, as it does not contain harmful solvents or VOCs.
advantages of powder coating

The disadvantages of powder coating include:

  • It is more expensive than painting.
  • It cannot be applied to complex shapes without special equipment.
  • It requires more equipment and facility space.

Equipment needed for powder coating:

  • Powder coating booth
  • Curing oven
  • Racks, hooks, or other fixtures
  • Powder gun(s)
  • PPE
powder coating booth
powder coating oven

Which is Right for You?

The best way to decide which finishing method is right for you is to consider your specific needs and budget. If you are looking for a low-cost option, with a variety of colors and finishes, painting may be a good choice. Painting is also an ideal application for large items and mobile coating jobs. However, if you need a more durable finish that is resistant to damage, powder coating is the better option. Powder coating is an ideal application for small and medium sized parts.

Below is a summary of the main differences between painting and powder coating:

   Characteristic    Painting    Powder Coating
   Cost of Utilities    Less Expensive    More Expensive
   Equipment Costs    Less Expensive    More Expensive
   Cost of Materials    More Expensive    Less Expensive
   Durability    Less Durable    More Durable
   Ease of Application    Easier To Apply    More Difficult to Apply
   Color & Finish Availability    Wide Variety Available    Limited Variety Available
   Waste    More Waste    Less Waste
   Environmental Impact    More Harmful Components    Less Harmful Components


Other items to consider when choosing are:

  • The type of metal being finished. Some metals, such as aluminum, are more difficult to paint than others.
  • The environment in which the finished product will be used. If the product will be exposed to harsh weather or chemicals, powder coating is a better choice.
  • The desired finish. Powder coating can produce a wider variety of finishes than painting.
  • The budget. Painting is generally the less expensive option, but powder coating may be worth the investment if you need a more durable finish.

In conclusion, both painting and powder coating have a place when it comes to finishing. Each have their strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of your choice, both can provide a fantastic finish on parts and equipment.

If you’re interested in finding out more information on equipment for painting or powder coating, contact our team today.