Company reject rate drops from 10% to 1% after Ultrawave intervention

Using Ultrawave ultrasonic cleaning systems has allowed a bathroom fixture manufacturer to considerably reduce its reject rates. Used everyday the bespoke ultrasonic system has meant an improved production process, customer deadlines to be met and operations to run as smoothly as ever before.

One of the UK's leading bathroom fixture manufacturers has recently undergone an overhaul in its final stage cleaning process leading to a dramatic drop in product reject rates.

The company specialise in customising their own fittings for end user requirements but also supply their products to the sub contract market.

David Campbell, manager at the company, says "Since the company was formed in 1980 the market has become more competitive despite the UK manufacturing sector losing out to overseas, lower running cost companies. Since we formed we have always looked to keep ourselves at the head of the game by adopting new processes to maximise efficiency. Ultrasonic cleaning has been an integral part of our business for a few years now.

After initially adopting a customised ultrasonic process from another UK manufacturer to carry out the final stage cleaning process for the fixtures, they began to suffer a number of problems. The initial design of the unit did not suit the application as had been intended, meaning the process was not running as efficiently as it could have been. This problematic situation was intensified when issues that arose were not resolved effectively.

After some discussion it was decided that the ultrasonic cleaning process needed to remain part of the day to day manufacturing operation as it is renowned for being the most effective method of cleaning hard substrates. Ultrawave were approached to see if they would be able to help with the problems that were being encountered. David continues Ultrawave originally designed two submersible transducers for each of our existing tanks. After a site visit from Ultrawave the project requirements were reassessed and it was decided that using two submersibles would lead to unnecessary down-time during the installation process. This design was abandoned and replaced with a four sub per tank design, thus eliminating the problem. Coupled with this Ultrawave honoured their original quote figure which showed us they are committed to providing their customers with a system that will not only work, but will meet our exact requirements while removing any issues relating to the installation. The decision was made and Ultrawave received the order. Furthermore the system was installed with higher specification generators to power the submersibles thus maximising the process even further.

Ultrawave have been manufacturing ultrasonic cleaning equipment for over 15 years and during this time have built up a wealth of knowledge, using technologically advanced equipment. In this instance the fitted submersibles are powered by PLC controlled generators. Housed in a purpose built cabinet the PLC system uses a millennium controller which is pre-programmed at Ultrawave. All the variable factors of the system can be programmed including cycle time, heaters and ultrasonic power, meaning the process can be tailored to exact requirements. David continues. The cabinet has a series of cooling fans which helps us to maintain a dust free environment. We run a relatively short cycle time of 5 minutes, although this can be changed should a longer, deeper clean be required. The simple on/off design of the system prolongs the life of the submersibles and helps to lower energy consumption. This system has improved our production process more than we had initially anticipated. Before the final clean stage our components are soiled. This contamination has to be removed before we apply the final Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) finish to our products. We need to ensure that no drip marks remain in order to get a top grade PVD finish and we have found that ultrasonics is the only way to clean items effectively. PVD is an expensive finish to use both in utility energy and time. We need to ensure that we do not get adhesion failures because of the cost of this coating method, and this system has done exactly that. It has allowed us to reduce our reject rate from around 10% to 1% meaning an almost total eradication of defective products.

When asked what the impact of this has been on the operators and the customers David replied "It has given our operators the ability to concentrate better due to an increase in confidence over the repeatability of the process. This has meant we have met every customer deadline since the system was installed and this is paramount to the success of our company. The efficiency of the Ultrawave equipment means we achieve all of our lead times. Previously we were forced to ask for extended lead times but this is now a thing of the past, which is enabling our operations to run far smoother than they previously did."

"Ultrasonic cleaning was expensive to incorporate into our operational procedures so we had to trust that the system was tailored to our requirements. You need an experienced engineer to solve your problems by making them into opportunities, and as cost effectively as possible. Ultrawave did this for us and their equipment has given us the opportunity to meet our customer deadlines."

This system has now been in place for over four months during which no reliability issues have arisen even though it is used throughout every working day. Ultrawave offer a range of standard submersible transducers and generators which can be adapted to suit any client requirements. Bespoke cleaning systems, using submersibles and generators, can also be manufactured if a standard system does not match the requirements. It is this flexibility which has made Ultrawave what it is today in the ultrasonic cleaning equipment market and with the list of highly satisfied customers growing daily they look set to go from strength to strength.

As featured in Surface World magazine July/August 2006