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18 min read

Parts Cleaning Checklist Before Buying Ultrasonic Parts Washer

As we have covered in previous blog posts, it is essential to keep industrial parts clean in any industrial setting, for any industrial process. Clean parts help machinery run smoothly; they help to minimize process flaws or errors; they protect sensitive components from damage, contamination and corrosion; and they promote quality in just about every facet of an industrial operation.

As a brief recap, 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.

If you are thinking about integrating ultrasonic cleaning into your industrial operation – and for most industrial applications, we strongly believe you should – there are important considerations to keep in mind before you invest in a machine. These include: (1) what size and type of ultrasonic cleaning machine is right for you; (2) design considerations; and (3) cost considerations.

We have summarized these considerations in general “checklist” points below, and where applicable, we have included links to previous UltraSonic LLC blogs for additional information that we hope you find helpful.

Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine Purchasing Checklist

Checklist Consideration #1: What size and type of ultrasonic cleaning machine is right for you?

The size and type of ultrasonic cleaning machine you choose for your industrial application is dependent on six main factors:

  • Parts: The parts you need to clean – and their particular characteristics, from shape and size to durability and composition – can dictate what unit and size is best suited to do the job.
  • Ultrasonic Power: The most common ultrasonic power is 40 kHz, and there are many frequencies available for different applications, ranging from 25kHZ to 200 kHz. Generally, the smaller the kHZ, the larger the cavitation bubble, and the more power it packs. The larger the kHZ, the smaller the cavitation bubble. In this latter case, smaller bubbles deliver high-precision, gentle cleaning. Also note that the watts of the generator will match the watts of the transducers, as well as the kHz. One thing to consider in your decision is watts per gallon (WPG). Most tanks will be under 40 WPG, which works on low-density materials like plastic and aluminum.

Conversely, when steel, cast iron and other metals are introduced into the tank, it will absorb the watts of the tank and may not clean parts as effectively. In most cases, our UltraSonic LLC tanks are 80 WPG. For larger tanks, such as 210 gallons, there is less room on the tank for transducers; but there is benefit in that the larger tank’s cavitation is better than that of smaller gallon tanks. In cases such as these, the higher WPG is not as important.

  • Portability: Do you anticipate that you’ll need to move your ultrasonic cleaning machine to different locations in your facility? If so, you may want to consider a cleaning machine with casters for easy movement. UltraSonic LLC’s 2400FA cleaning machine is a 30-gallon cleaner with attached casters. You may also want to consider 120-volt machines versus 220-volt machines.
  • Contaminants: When you’re cleaning oils, water-based coolants and light dirt from industrial parts, a unit with side-mounted or bottom-mounted transducers should be adequate, since oil floats and minimal dirt will settle on the bottom of the tank. Still, you will lose the performance of the side-mounted transducers attacking the part in different directions. Also, agitation enhances the cleaning action of an ultrasonic cleaning machine, moving the parts through the cavitation.

For heavily soiled items, it’s best to choose a unit with side-mounted transducers, since the large volume of dirt, carbon and grime that falls to the bottom of the tank during cleaning could sit atop transducers in a bottom-mounted unit and muffle the sound, thus limiting the cleaning power.

  • Multi-stage options: Ultrasonic industrial parts cleaning machines generally come in one-, two- and three-stage systems. The part or parts you need to clean, as well as the filtration that’s necessary to get the job done, and the extent to which hot drying is necessary, usually determines which one is right for you.
  • Location and environment: Within a facility and outside of it, location and environment are important factors in determining where ultrasonic cleaners should be located in a facility, and what, if any, special equipment is necessary to protect them from atmospheric and temperature elements.

Additionally, ultrasonic cleaning machines come in a variety of shapes, sizes and types. Generally speaking, these fall into three main categories:

  • Table-Top Ultrasonic Cleaners
    Table-top units 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
    Medium-capacity ultrasonic industrial 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
    Large-capacity ultrasonic industrial cleaning units 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).
Checklist Consideration #2: Design Considerations

Different ultrasonic machine designs will yield different cleaning results.

At UltraSonic LLC, in addition to standard-design table-top machines, we offer stand-alone console ultrasonic cleaning machines with clear advantages over competing models. These advantages include:

  • Side-mounted transducers
    Our stainless steel tanks on our console machines features ceramic transducers attached to the side of the tank, or in immersible containers. These side-mounted transducers deliver enhanced cleaning action through a more effective cleaning process. What do we mean by that? While the cleaning action from the top of the tank to the bottom of the tank remains the same, the side-mounted transducers offer horizontal cleaning from two directions as well. Traditionally, transducers have been mounted on the bottom of the ultrasonic cleaning tank, so when dirt and/or debris falls to the bottom of that tank, it falls on the transducers, robbing you of cleaning power. An UltraSonic LLC console machine with side-mounted transducers eliminates dead spots to deliver consistent cleaning action every time.
  • V-bottom design
    Our V-bottom design on our console machines makes it easy to clean between batches. V-bottom tanks are also designed to collect particles that fall off in the cleaning process without disturbing transducers and inhibiting their ability to deliver effective cavitation. Many ultrasonic cleaner manufacturers offer only flat-bottom tanks with transducers mounted on the bottom of their console machines. This creates fundamental problems. Parts being cleaned should be placed at least 1-2 inches away from the transducers. Yet when you cover the transducers with parts and dirt, the cavitation gets distorted, which mitigates its cleaning power.
  • Automatic cycles and agitation
    UltraSonic LLC machines take ultrasonic cleaning to new levels of ease and effectiveness by featuring automatic cycles and agitation, which makes operation much easier. In fact, once an operator presses the cycle/start button, they can walk away while the UltraSonic LLC cleaning machine automatically goes through agitation and filtration cycles. Once the parts are clean, an indicator signal lets the operator know.
  • Oscillation
    UltraSonic LLC’s 3200FA and 2400FA machines offer greater cleaning power through oscillation (i.e., up and down, and in and out), which attacks the part or parts from different spots and angles throughout the cleaning cycle as the part or parts pass through different parts of the tank. Many manufacturers don’t offer oscillation; in their machines, parts are simply set in a basket and stay motionless once the cleaning cycle is started. When that occurs, dirt or oil that floats on top of the water comes to rest right back on the parts it originally came off of.
  • Sales and service
    It’s not a design or engineering consideration, but an ultrasonic industrial parts cleaning machine is only as good as the sales and service capabilities of the people who stand behind it. At UltraSonic LLC, we offer highly personalized service, and we stand behind our products 100 percent. If you have a problem or a question, troubleshooting is a phone call away, and you’ll never have to navigate a menu of automated attendant options on the phone. If we can’t resolve a problem with a tank or a part through personalized troubleshooting, we’ll fix it or replace it with little or no disruption to your operation.

Combined with our line of Ultra Soaps, filters and baskets, our UltraSonic LLC parts cleaning machines are employee and environmentally friendly, reducing/replacing the need for hazardous solvents, saving labor costs and delivering increasing profit for your industrial, automotive, aerospace or medical operation.

Checklist Consideration #3: Pricing

If you’re considering ultrasonic cleaning to tackle your industrial cleaning challenges, it’s likely that you’ve looked at several cleaning methods. As we’ve said before, different cleaning 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.

To get a handle on whether ultrasonic cleaning makes sense for your company, let’s first consider how much it costs to operate and maintain an ultrasonic cleaning machine over time.

The specific cost to operate an ultrasonic cleaning machine 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.

To put this into context, it is helpful to compare the representative cost of ultrasonic cleaning versus alternative cleaning methods. We wrote a blog entitled Price Comparison – Ultrasonic Cleaning vs. Alternatives, and we encourage you to click here to read it.

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.