Roller Coaster Manufacturer adopts Baking Soda Surface preparation to extend life of steel frames

A prominent US-based roller coaster company has been manufacturing and refurbishing roller coasters for over 100 years. Their shop is full of skilled tradesman whose high quality work has made the company as successful as it is today.

At the end of every amusement park season this company receives into their plant fully assembled roller coaster cars to be completely disassembled and checked for safety. The safety check uses non-destructing testing, and concentrates primarily around testing the welds and also the parent material from which each roller coaster car is assembled. The manufacturer specifies that each car undergoes this testing every year.

In order to use their preferred non-destructive testing method each part must first be brought down to bare metal. This is made very difficult because all of the pieces are heavily coated with thick grease and are also painted. For the surface to be prepared properly both the grease and the paint need to be completely off of the surface and each weld has to be 100% clear of paint and debris.

The surface preparation method originally used was to send the cars, each weighing around 1,000 pounds, several hundred miles away to be degreased in a chemical bath. They would receive the coasters back and then send them out to a traditional sand blaster for paint removal. Abrasive blasting was certainly the best way to remove the paint, but the shops master welder also noticed that all of his dimensions were becoming slightly off on his coaster pieces. He realized this was due to the hardness of the abrasive – not only was it removing the paint, but it was also removing mils of steel each time the pieces were sand blasted, resulting in an unwanted and unacceptable change in material integrity.

Soda blasting offered the perfect solution to this situation due to its very soft nature and cutting power. Using baking soda as an abrasive allows for the parts to be fully degreased and depainted all at once. The steel is left completely un-profiled and intact, extending its useful life for many years. Since Baking soda also acts as a great rust inhibitor, steel that has been soda blasted will last weeks with no surface corrosion forming, perfect for an application with this type of testing. Previously, this company had to try to schedule the tester to come in immediately after the part was depainted. Now the scheduling process is much easier, with much greater flexibility possible.

This company has been able to use the above method effectively for several years with no problems at all. Soda blasting has allowed them to not only shorten the handling of each piece, but has achieved a far superior final product. This company looks forward to maintaining their client’s coasters with soda blasting for another 100 years.