By William A. Goldstein
Smoke and water damaged machinery and electronics have given insurance adjusters problems for years. Contamination to machinery and electronics pose particular difficulty because of the technical nature of the property and the generally misunderstood chemical interactions that are at the root of smoke and water contamination losses.
For example, when an office building has a fire, the technical contents including computers, telephones and copiers may look pretty bad. Smoke, water and ceiling tiles can appear to have created a total loss. A closer look at the science of smoke and water damage may reveal an entirely different picture.
The first issue is the composition of the smoke itself. There are corrosive smoke types and inert smoke types. Corrosive smoke contains Chlorides or Sulfates which combine with water to form Hydrochloric or Sulfuric acids. Inert smoke is primarily Carbon based. Carbon based smoke is like a fine dust, without corrosive properties. It can be cleaned off from equipment without harm.
Another issue is the effect of water on equipment. For example, industrial milling machines transported across the ocean may arrive with a fine powdery rust on their outermost surfaces. The first reaction of an insured may be to submit a claim for a total loss.
However, a closer look at the science of rust tells us that the outermost layer of a metal is in a state of motion (even though it certainly looks solid). A couple of layers of molecules are so active, that they sort of shed, like fur from a cat or dog in the summer.
Since there are billions and billions of molecules per square inch, nobody notices. When these free-flowing molecules are exposed to a saltwater enriched environment, such as ocean-air, they react to the saltwater by rusting.
This type of rust can almost be wiped off by hand. Although a tedious process, there often is no pitting or change to the actual metal surface after this type of rust is removed.
A truly innovative approach to the removal of smoke, rust and water-residue is available through Cryoblasting. Cryoblasting is a state-of-the-art technique where super-frozen gases or cryogenics, are propelled through high pressure sprayers. These crystallized-gases vaporize harmlessly when they come in contact with smoke or other contaminants, but not without first thoroughly cleaning a surface.
One of the most striking features of Cryoblasting is in its degree of control. The pressure and cryogenic flow can be set strong enough to remove rust and metal from a surface or it can be toned down so finely, that it can clean dust from a painted surface without even scratching the paint!
That flexibility of control permits its use on equipment ranging from electron microscopes to immense printing presses. However, the most attractive feature of Cryoblasting is the speed at which it is accomplished.
The average time for highly skilled technicians to clean a Heidelberg, 6 color printing press (over $1 million replacement cost), is reduced by more than two thirds by using Cryoblasting. That means both the cost for restoration is lowered and the business downtime is reduced considerably.
It is also worth noting that since the material used in a Cryoblaster is dry ice, or frozen Carbon Dioxide, there is no waste, volatile organic compounds or ozone depleting substances to cause secondary contamination problems. All environmental, health and safety standards are met using this process.
By utilizing available techniques, such as Cryoblasting, to eliminate smoke, water-residue and surface rust, it is possible to decrease the costs for what appear to be total losses of high-tech equipment. It might not solve all of an adjuster’s problems with high-tech equipment losses, but Cryoblasting may be the treatment for at least one of their headaches.
William A. Goldstein is the President of LWG, Inc. an international consulting firm specialized in advising the insurance and legal industries in matters involving electronic and industrial equipment losses.
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