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Ultrasonic Cleaning for Industrial Parts: Common Questions, Part I

In any industrial setting, for any industrial process, it is essential to keep industrial parts clean. Clean parts help keep machinery running smoothly; they help to mitigate any process flaws or errors; they protect sensitive industrial parts and components from damage, corrosion or contamination; and they help to promote quality in nearly every facet of an industrial operation.

When it comes to ultrasonic cleaning for industrial parts, we at UltraSonic LLC field many questions—about how ultrasonic cleaning works, which parts can be cleaned, the cost of ultrasonic cleaning, the savings that it offers, and what it takes to get started.

In an effort to educate people about ultrasonic cleaning, we thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), along with answers to each one. Given the number of questions we receive, we’re presenting this as a two-part series. We hope you find it helpful.

Question: How does ultrasonic cleaning work for industrial parts?

Answer: Ultrasonic cleaning is a precision parts cleaning technology that uses high-frequency sound waves to remove dirt and contaminants from parts. Energy is transferred to and stored within micron-sized bubbles that are formed from the alternating pressure waves generated from high-energy transducers. As the bubbles contact the parts to be cleaned, they implode, releasing the stored energy and creating a micro jet, with a scrubbing action that dislodges contaminants from the parts.  Dirt, oils and other dislodged contaminants then settle to the bottom of the tank.

The process of formation and collapse/implosion of these tiny bubbles is called cavitation, and is common to all ultrasonic cleaners. What is unique about UltraSonic LLC’s solutions is the placement of the transducers on the side of the tank, rather than on the bottom (as virtually all other manufacturers do).

Unlike bottom-mounted transducers, side-mounted transducers provide a consistent cleaning action from top to bottom, with no “blind spots.” To further ensure that all surfaces are cleaned, an agitation table, which holds either the parts or part baskets, oscillates within the tank. This movement guarantees that all surfaces of the components contact the transducer waves. A V-shaped bottom also allows dough, dirt and grime to collect on the bottom without interfering in the transducer’s wave path, and it allows for easy cleaning.

Question: How long does ultrasonic cleaning for industrial parts generally take?

Answer: We can’t say there is a set amount of time for specific cleaning cycles. Really, that depends on several factors: the amount of dirt and contaminants on a given part; how clean that part needs to be; the ultrasonic cleaning solution being used; the temperature of the tank in which the part is being cleaned; and so on.  That said, it takes dramatically less time to clean most parts for industrial, automotive, aerospace or medical applications using ultrasonic cleaning than by using other methods, most notably hand washing.

As an example, for automotive parts cleaned in one of the ultrasonic cleaning machines that we at UltraSonic LLC sell, the cycle time is three minutes. During that short amount of time, that machine is removing carbon, grease and any number of other contaminants from that automotive part. On a manufactured part, the cycle time can be much less—in many cases, less than a minute.

Conversely, cleaning the same part by hand can take hours. Now, think about the time savings per part over hand washing – if you can save just an hour a day, and that hour is worth $100, and you multiply that by five work days, then you’ll realize a $500-per-week savings. Multiply that by 52 weeks and that’s big money.

The savings are just as big – if not bigger – for large-scale manufacturers. Even if they look to save just one second of cleaning time, those seconds add up if they clean thousands of parts per year.

Question: How many parts can we put in a tank?

Answer: That really depends on the size of the tank. At UltraSonic, LLC, we offer ultrasonic cleaners in several popular sizes to service a broad array of applications. We group our ultrasonic cleaners in three categories: table-top ultrasonic cleaners; medium-capacity ultrasonic cleaners; and large-capacity ultrasonic cleaners. Specific information on each is below.

Table-top ultrasonic cleaners are small; feature single tanks (usually a half-gallon to eight gallons); and can sit on a table, on a shelf or on a workbench. They’re also portable, and they’re ideal for small and light-duty applications. UltraSonic LLC offers two table-top ultrasonic cleaners: The Ultra 1300 (2.6 gallons / 9.8 liters); and the Ultra 2000 (5.2 gallons / 19.7 liters).

Medium-capacity ultrasonic cleaners are ideal for a variety of industrial, automotive, aerospace and engineering industries. UltraSonic LLC offers the following medium-capacity ultrasonic cleaners: 2200A (10 gallon); 2400FA (30 gallon);

Large-capacity industrial ultrasonic cleaners are designed to handle large and heavy-duty equipment and parts, including a variety of industrial parts, automotive and aerospace parts.  These units typically feature rinse and dry stations and other features. UltraSonic offers the following large-capacity ultrasonic cleaners: 3200FA (65 gallon); 3800FLT (115 gallon); and 6000FLT (210 gallon).

Question: Will it clean plastic parts?

Answer: Yes, ultrasonic cleaning is ideal for plastic parts.

Question: Will it clean contaminants off of circuit boards?

Answer: Again, yes—circuit boards can definitely be cleaned using ultrasonic cleaning. As you might be starting to see, we get quite a few questions about what types of materials can be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaning machine, and whether ultrasonic cleaning can clean certain contaminants off of certain parts. We’ll address this issue in more detail in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned!

Question: What things shouldn’t be cleaned with ultrasonic cleaning?

Answer: Some electronic components such as MEMS devices like gyroscopes, accelerometers and microphones can become damaged or destroyed by the high-intensity vibrations they are subjected to during ultrasonic cleaning. We do not recommend that these items be subjected to ultrasonic cleaning.

Question: What solvent is used with ultrasonic cleaning?

Answer: UltraSonic LLC offers the following cleaning solutions:

In our next installment, we’ll include additional FAQs, along with answers. In the meantime, if you have questions about industrial parts cleaning methods or industrial parts cleaners – or if you would like information about ultrasonic cleaning for industrial applications and UltraSonic LLC industrial cleaning machines, fill out this contact form, and an UltraSonic LLC representative will be in touch shortly to discuss your requirement.