As we have addressed in previous blogs, it is essential to keep industrial parts clean in any industrial setting, for any industrial process. Clean parts help keep machinery running smoothly; they help to mitigate any process flaws or errors; they protects 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 industrial parts cleaning, there are several cleaning methods to consider. Specific methods are appropriate for specific applications—in other words, no one method is ideal for all applications. That said, ultrasonic cleaning, which serves as the foundation of the products that we at UltraSonic LLC sell, is ideal for many industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical applications.
In this blog post, we provide an economic comparison between ultrasonic cleaning and other alternatives. First though, we’d like to briefly recap what ultrasonic cleaning is, and how it works to clean parts.
How Ultrasonic Cleaning Technology Works
Ultrasonic cleaning uses cavitation bubbles induced by high-frequency pressure (sound) waves to agitate a liquid. The agitation produces high forces on contaminants adhering to substrates like metals, plastics, glass, rubber and ceramics. This action also penetrates blind holes, cracks and recesses. The intention is to thoroughly remove all traces of contamination tightly adhering or embedded onto solid surfaces. Water or solvents can be used, depending on the type of contamination and the part.
Watch a video that shows how ultrasonic cleaning technology works.
To compare the cost of ultrasonic cleaning versus alternative cleaning methods, let’s first consider how much it costs to operate and maintain an ultrasonic cleaning machine over time.
The answer really depends on how many dirty parts you put into it, and how often you use it. Suppose you consider purchasing an UltraSonic LLC 3200FA, our high-performance 65-gallon workhorse, and one of our most popular ultrasonic cleaning machines. Let’s outline your costs. The purchase price on that 3200FA is $15,000. Conversely, for a five-year lease, the monthly payment is about $310 per month, give or take a few dollars.
Next, estimate approximately $90 per month to properly maintain the 3200FA. Figure an additional $90 per month for disposal of the used water and the contaminants removed from your parts during the ultrasonic cleaning process. And finally, add $50 per month for the electricity needed to power the 3200FA (that’s probably a high figure, but to be fair, we want to err on the high side).
In total, your approximate monthly cost for the 3200FA is $310 + $90 + $90 + $50, or $540.00.
It should be noted that contaminants cleaned from parts must be disposed of properly. Disposal codes vary by municipality, so there may be disposal costs to figure in as well. Check with your specific municipality on disposal regulations to learn more.
Price Comparison: Ultrasonic Cleaning vs. Hand Washing
Ultrasonic cleaning delivers significant cost savings over hand washing in nearly every situation we can think of. Ultrasonic cleaning is quick and easy, and it takes a fraction of the time of hand washing industrial parts. Even when you’re tasked with cleaning a small number of parts, the labor savings can be significant. But when you need to wash hundreds, or even thousands, of parts over the course of an entire year, the savings really add up.
Let’s say our UltraSonic LLC 3200FA can save you one hour per day in cleaning time. That’s conservative – many of our customers report saving two hours or more of cleaning time each day – but again, we want to err on the conservative side. If your hourly shop rate is $75, then five hours per week of time saved equals $375. Twenty hours per month of time saved equals $1,500. Annually, your 240 hours of time saved equals $18,000. And over five years – the term of your 3200FA lease – your savings comes out to $90,000.
Suppose the 3200FA saves you two hours of cleaning time per day. Those numbers double. Suppose your hourly shop rate is $100; again, the numbers significantly rise.
Additionally, ultrasonic cleaning can often clean parts more thoroughly than hand washing, which leads to an increased lifespan for clean parts. Simply put, clean, well-maintained parts are likely to last longer and perform at optimal efficiency. This saves potential capital and repair costs.
Price Comparison: Ultrasonic Cleaning vs. Solvent Cleaning
Ultrasonic cleaners from UltraSonic LLC utilize hot soapy water and UltraSonic’s green-friendly cleaning solutions to clean industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical parts. Conversely, solvents include a variety of commonly used chemicals, such as alcohol, mineral spirits, petroleum distillates, turpentine, benzene, toluene, xylene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), gasoline and kerosene. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were perhaps only a dozen or so known and commonly used solvents during the early part of the 20th century. By 1981, there were approximately 350 solvents commonly in use in the U.S.
There are several up-front and hidden costs associated with solvent cleaning. Let’s start with the up-front costs.
Up-Front Costs of Solvents vs. Ultrasonic Cleaning
The solvents themselves: Chemical solvents are expensive—especially when compared to the cost of soap and water used in ultrasonic cleaning. If you are considering solvent cleaning, you will need to purchase or rent a solvent tank. That tank contains the solvent, and it generally comes at a cost of about $200 to $300 per month for service, or for removal of the solvents. One tank alone is expensive enough; but if you run a large operation and clean many parts regularly, you may need several tanks, so that cost can really add up.
Infrastructure and safety costs: When you use chemical solvents in an industrial or commercial setting, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that adequate ventilation and safety systems are built into the area where the solvents are being stored and used. This entails several associated costs for the following:
- Infrastructure improvements to your facility or facilities
- The cost of safety equipment
- Administrative time (and the associated costs) to devise and implement controls to minimize employee exposure to chemicals (for example, rotating workers through different jobs or locations, and coordinating maintenance during off-hours so that any accidental release of toxic substances will affect fewer workers).
Disposal costs: Solvents – and the contaminants they clean off of parts – cost much more to dispose of than soap and water—and the contaminants they clean off parts through ultrasonic cleaning. With solvents, you’re not only paying for the acquisition rental cost of the tank and the solvent, you’re also paying a disposal fee for the solvents and contaminants—and that fee can vary based on the specific municipal and state regulations where you operate. Furthermore, if you don’t comply with mandated regulations, you could face stiff fines for non-compliance.
Hidden Costs of Solvents vs. Ultrasonic Cleaning
Employee costs: Ultrasonic cleaning uses soap and water to clean parts, and soap and water are environmentally safe. Conversely, chemical solvents used to clean industrial and other parts are hazardous, non-environmentally friendly and non-employee friendly.
What do we mean by non-employee friendly? Chemical solvents are smelly; they give off unpleasant odors, and while we at UltraSonic LLC haven’t come across anyone who’s claimed to like those odors, we’ve heard from numerous shop floor employees who complain bitterly about the chemical solvent odors they’ve had to endure in the course of their daily work.
Health risks and health-related expenses: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that there are nearly 10 million workers potentially exposed to organic solvents in the workplace, and NIOSH officials state that this number will likely increase over time.
Some chemical solvents have been known to cause skin irritations and turn skin white after repeated exposure, and chemical solvents in general can be extremely hazardous when misused. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, health hazards associated with solvent exposure include toxicity to the nervous system, reproductive damage, liver and kidney damage, respiratory impairment, cancer and dermatitis.
If or when chemical exposure causes health problems for employees, there could be disability, workers’ compensation and lost personnel time costs that result—and these can prove very costly to your business.
Our UltraSonic LLC ultrasonic cleaning machines don’t use solvents—they don’t have to. Hot, soapy water actually does clean even the toughest dirt, grime and contaminants off of industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical parts, thanks to the power of cavitation, and our unique side-mounted transducer tank design.
In addition to soapy water, UltraSonic LLC offers the following cleaning solutions for use with our ultrasonic cleaning machines:
- UltraSonic Ultra Soap Multi-Purpose Cleaner
- UltraSonic Ultra Soap Carbon Cleaner
- UltraSonic Ultra Soap Moderate-Duty Cleaner
A Note about Additional Cleaning Methods
There are several additional parts cleaning methods—most notably, vapor degreasing, acoustic cleaning and parts washer cleaning. Each of these methods is useful for specific applications and circumstances. For example, vapor degreasing is necessary for some steel parts. Therefore, an apples-to-apples comparison between these methods and ultrasonic cleaning might not be relevant if the method in question is really the required method for cleaning a specific part. Yet in general, we hope you see how cost-efficient and effective ultrasonic can be for precision-cleaning parts for industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical applications.
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 our contact form, and an UltraSonic LLC representative will be in touch shortly to discuss your requirement.