Industrial Cleaning A New Perspective

The benefits of an ultrasonic cleaner in the manufacturing process offer advantages not only in the production process but also for environmental and cost considerations.

The use of Ultrasonic cleaning in the manufacturing process has been around for several decades but many manufacturing companies seem either unaware of the benefits it could offer to their company or simply do not know enough about it to consider incorporating it into their manufacturing processes. So what are the advantages of ultrasonic cleaning over alternative methods?

Until relatively recently the process of cleaning metal items during the production process has, in most cases, been carried out by the use of solvents. These solvents have now been recognised as being potentially hazardous to the health of those working with them, not to mention the damage they cause to the environment. This has lead companies to seek out an alternative which is safer, more cost effective and better for the environment.

It is in this situation that ultrasonic aqueous cleaning becomes the most viable alternative to solvents for a number of reasons.

Ultrasonic cleaning uses transducers, which are either bonded to the outside of the tank or immersed inside the tank as a submersible transducer element, contain piezo ceramic crystals. When an electrical current is passed through the crystals they vibrate somewhere in the region of 30,000 times a second. This creates sound waves which then pass through the liquid causing the formation of millions of microscopic bubbles. The sound waves force these bubbles to expand until they reach a point where they cannot support their own density, causing them to implode. This is the phenomenon known as cavitation. As the implosion occurs the surrounding fluid rushes in to fill the gap left by the bubble which creates an action similar to that of a scrubbing brush, but on a microscopic scale. This process can be further intensified by adding a detergent to the water. Adding a detergent to the cleaning process will be reduce the time scale of the cycle whilst also increasing the saturation of the solution. This means a faster cleaning process and more debris can be held in the solution so it cannot re-bond to the surface of the item being cleaned.

Due to the micron sized scale of the cavitation bubbles they have the ability to penetrate even the smallest places and unseen areas of the item. In simple terms, if a space is large enough to house a water particle then cavitation, and therefore ultrasonic cleaning action, will occur. This is what makes it such an effective method of cleaning for industrial use. Cylinder heads and other complex items have unseen areas which can be difficult to clean but by immersing them into an ultrasonic tank the cleaning action can easily penetrate these areas and lift off any residues.

Ultrasonics is also a highly flexible process. New systems can be incorporated into production lines with relative ease and can be custom built to the user�s requirements. If a company has already got large tanks where solvent cleaning was previously carried out these can be easily adapted for ultrasonics. In this situation a submersible transducer (a number of transducers sealed in a steel case) can be submerged into the water within the existing tank and powered by an external generator. These will then create cavitation in the tank, thus making the cleaning process ultrasonic.

Filtration systems can be added to keep the solution within its optimum cleaning boundaries for longer and all the detergents used in industrial aqueous cleaning are environmentally friendly, have a longer lifespan than solvents and are bio-degradable meaning they can be disposed of without the worry of pollution and contamination.

Ultrasonic cleaning systems have now embraced the digital age meaning systems can now be fully automated and simple to operate. In many cases operating such a system can be as simple as three button presses to begin the procedure. This eradicates the need for extensive training for users and operation can be carried out still wearing protective clothing, so employee's health and safety is not compromised.

In practice this means that ultrasonic aqueous cleaning can be highly beneficial to manufacturing companies. Its ability to clean intricate items in a short time scale means that production and quality can be increased along with a reduction in harmful waste. Money savings on consumables and improved cleaning results should all be seen inside a relatively small timescale, and when coupled with the flexibility to incorporate ultrasonic cleaning into almost any application or stage of production it makes it the perfect alternative for any business looking to move away from solvent based cleaning.

Whether you produce automotive or aerospace components or medical devices, ultrasonic cleaning can help to optimise business operations.

As featured in Metal Working Production Magazine, Jan 2006