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Wire brushes – the smart choice in weld cleaning

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World Pipelines,

Osborn has always been a driving force in product developing and testing and is therefore able to create innovative surface cleaning solutions providing best values. Constant improvement has created products that are specifically tailored to fulfil workers’ needs whether on tough onshore or offshore exploration jobs or in construction yards, pontoons, drill rigs or steel framework. Especially in the oil and gas industry, wire brushes are common solution providers in exploration, pipe manufacturing, weld cleaning or pigging. The following shows a few of the traits that make brushes the preferable tool for challenging surface treatment jobs.

Cost effective cleaning

Wire brushes are non-stock removing tools. They remove debris like slag, silicates or oxide layers on the weld seam, but without taking off the welded material as such. A grinding disc applied for the same job would not only remove the debris, but would also inevitably remove up to 30% of the welded material. Thus, steel wire brushes for weld cleaning help saving costs: the number of weld seams applied can be reduced by 30 - 50% and additional time needed for soldering work can be avoided.

Effective but also gentle

Internal tests that compared the use of typical abrasives to wire brushes for cleaning welds, found that the micro surface of the weld cleaned with wire brushes were virtually identical to the original surface and kept the material’s structure intact while debris was taken off layer by layer. Chances of corrosion, grooving and micro fissures are therefore significantly lowered.

Further testing showed that welds cleaned with wire brushes allowed carbon to settle in a layer during the dissolution process, which boosted the surface’s protective properties, slowing further dissolution.

Worker safety

In comparison to abrasive discs, brushes produce 95% fewer sparks in action. When working in a narrow space like a tent on a pipeline construction site, on a ship or platform, sparks can be a safety issue, particularly when several people are working next to each other. In addition, noise can cause fatigue and disturb concentration. Also, here the use of brushes shows distinct advantages over abrasives. Tests in the Osborn lab showed that brushes in action are approximately 6 - 8 dB/a less noisy than abrasive discs. To put this in perspective: A 3 dB/a increase (or decrease) means that the intensity of a sound is doubled (or divided in half).

Osborn test set-up revealed: brushes can produce 95% fewer sparks in action


Preferred tools

Plastic bonded or so called encapsulated wheel brushes are an often-preferred tool for weld cleaning in the oil and gas industry. They offer aggressive cleaning. And while risk of wire breakage is minimised through the encapsulation, the service life of the brush is significantly higher. Less known and sometimes neglected: users should always look for the right size of angle grinder in regards to the size of the wheel brush and to the wall thickness.

Especially when welding joints it is preferred to use brushes with pointed ends for cleaning. Operators can quickly move the wheel into the joint and have the wire tips do the job without applying too much pressure. In order to do so, users often try to remove the encapsulation at the outer diameter of the wheel brush prior to operation. Running the wheel on a hard surface or heating it up are common methods. However, the procedures bear severe safety risks and are absolutely not recommended.

While Osborn already had an encapsulated knotted wire brush with pointed end in offering, a similar brush with crimped, brass-coated wire was not. Reacting to market demands, this product is now available. In the manufacturing process, the encapsulation on the outer diameter is slightly reduced, which leads to a smaller working width of the brush in this area. This assures better handling – weld layers in root position can be reached easily and the wire tips are set free for immediate cleaning action. Needless to say, also time is saved as the brush can be used right ‘out of the box’ without prior preparation work.

New (left side) and old (right side) product in comparison.

Weld cleaning advisor tool

It is not always obvious which tool is the most appropriate one for cleaning welds. Depending on the position of the weld (root, fill or cap), the welding method (MMA, TIG, MIG, MAG, Plasma) and the type of debris (silicates, slag, splatters, thermal bluing) different tools may provide the best solution. Having gathered a lot of experience in the area through tests and supported by customer feedback, Osborn has come up with a weld cleaning advisor. The online tool leads you through six questions to analyse your application. The multiple-choice questions can be answered quickly by a few clicks. Upon completion, a recommendation for the perfect cleaning tool is presented to you.

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