Cold Jet Dry Ice Blaster Machine: Adding Functionality, Industrial IoT, and a Digital HMI
Inspired by driving his Tesla electric vehicle, the owner of Cold Jet — the pioneer and global leader in dry ice blasting technology — challenged his firm to design and build a modern ice blaster that was both robust and functional.
Cold Jet envisioned an aesthetically pleasing design that included (1) new functionality; (2) global Industrial IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) cloud connectivity and data analysis, and (3) a Digital HMI (Human Machine Interface) that offers, amongst other things, the ability to save settings and to improve the overall user experience.
What Is a Dry Ice Blaster? A dry ice blaster uses dry ice for cleaning instead of sand. The advantage of a dry ice blaster is that the only particulate left over from the cleaning process is the debris itself. The dry ice cleaning material simply evaporates away, so unlike a sandblaster, a dry ice blaster is exceedingly clean and environmentally friendly.
To assist with this product development strategy, Prodigy’s electrical engineering and project management teams worked with Cold Jet’s mechanical engineers to design a new and revised dry ice blaster machine in alignment with this vision.
1. Adding new functionality.
As for new features and functionality, Cold Jet wanted to give their machines the ability to control the size of the ice particles and the ability to create and save settings profiles. This is important because — depending on the nature of the cleaning project — it could require a larger particle for tough blasting jobs or a smaller ice particle for delicate blasting jobs.
Cold Jet also wanted to add the ability to create and save individually named program settings (or “recipes”) for particle size settings and pressure settings. This way, users could activate a precise settings recipe depending on the job — such as for rust removal, sidewalk gum removal, and other use cases.
Finally, Cold Jet wanted a feature that allows companies with a fleet of multiple machines to remotely apply mass settings adjustments, and settings limitations, to all of their machines from a centralized management console. Prodigy helped integrate and enable all of the above features through its role in designing and building Industrial IoT into the machine as well as through its role in designing and building a new digital HMI into the machine.
2. Adding Industrial IoT connectivity and a Digital HMI.
Global Industrial IoT (IIoT) connectivity offers a number of benefits to the dry ice blaster machine. First, it allows the machine to download and install software updates from the cloud — eliminating the need to fly technicians to the customer when new features are added.
Second, it empowers Cold Jet and its customers to read data from the machine in real-time for data analysis — including predictive failure analysis and useful data for improving the overall functionality and quality of the device. Last, IIoT cloud connectivity makes it possible to enable control of a fleet of devices from a centralized management console.
To achieve global IIoT connectivity, Prodigy redesigned and updated all of the electronic controls from the ground up and developed all of the firmware. This involved creating a custom PCB (Printed Circuit Board) that would offer dramatic cost-savings and enable greater functionality than the expensive PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) used in the legacy devices.
As a final element of this product development strategy, Prodigy designed another board to integrate a cellular modem and antenna into the machine. These two boards control the sensors, the motors, gather data, store data, and send/receive data to the cloud.
3. Adding a Digital HMI to provide a better user interface and intuitive controls.
A key part of the project was designing, streamlining, and modernizing the user interface for the dry ice blaster machine by creating a Digital HMI. The predecessor machine included simple mechanical dials, so Prodigy designed a new digital interface with a screen and a single-hand operated encoder wheel to control settings and navigate the interface.
Cold Jet achieved clear ROIs from the above product development strategy, which completely modernized and redesigned its flagship dry ice blaster machine. Since the launch of the initial machine, Cold Jet has sold thousands of units. Customers have also reported the benefits of using new product features — like the settings recipe function, global IIoT connectivity, predictive analytics to prevent machine downtime, remote management of machines, and improved user experience via the modern Digital HMI.