Aqueous Part Washers
An aqueous part washer is an automated or semi-automated machine manufactured to clean, remove tough grease, and dry large or small parts before distribution or surface treatment. The washing is necessary since...
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This Article takes an In-depth look at Types of Parts Washers
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Parts washers are designed to clean, degreasing equipment, and drying mass quantities of small or large parts in preparation for surface treatment, assembly, inspection, or shipment. Newly machined, forged, or fabricated parts are coated in oils, chemicals, burrs, abrasive dust, debris, paint, and residue left from the fabrication process. For a part to be coated or included as part of the further assembly, it has to be cleaned.
Using different forms of solvents and chemicals, parts washers efficiently remove any form of debris that may inhibit the parts used for other operations. Finishing coatings, such as zinc and electroplating, need clean and dry surfaces to adhere effectively. Parts washers solve the problem by using various cleaning media to remove contaminants.
Hot water, detergents, solvents, vapors, acids and alkaline solutions, synthetic or natural, break down and remove contaminants in the parts washing process.
With so many varieties of parts to be cleaned, parts washer manufacturers offer custom designs that may be stand-alone basket immersion types or complex, five-step deburring, aqueous tumbling, rinsing, drying, and paint coating machines. Industrial technology makes it possible to combine finishing processes, as well as include CNC programmable equipment.
Industrial parts washers are used to clean carbon, grease, metal chips, cutting fluids, and contaminants from metal pieces. They are designed to clean small metal pieces, such as nuts, fasteners, screws, or large metallic bodies, like automotive assemblies, rail bearings, diesel engine blocks, and wind turbine gearboxes. The electronics, automotive, and medical industries use industrial cleaning washers to clean equipment, furniture, and machinery that need painting, powder coatings, zinc coatings, lubricants, electroplating, and surface treatments.
The types of parts washers are determined by the type of cleaning agent, which can be aqueous or solvent. Aqueous cleaners are water based cleaners that combine water and detergent with mechanical and heat energy. Solvents include some form of petroleum compound, which can be mixed with a water based cleaner.
There are three methods of parts washing operations – manual, semi-automated, and automated.
Uses a drum or vat style system suitable for low volume cleaning of small parts and takes 30 to 40 minutes for each cycle.
Have automated stages, require manual loading and unloading, and work in conjunction with a conveyor system.
are a 45 minute cleaning process that saves time and money without the need for human intervention
As technology and new efficiency methods have developed, parts washers have been enhanced and improved. Although the manual operation of parts washing is still prevalent, most parts washing has become automated or semi-automated to improve efficiency.
Parts washer cabinets are designed for low volume batch processing of parts. They are sufficiently small to fit into any type of manufacturing process but provide a cost effective method for cleaning parts. They avoid the need for the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by using water under pressure that removes contaminants that collect on the surface parts and are designed to properly dispose of the removed materials.
Spray angles ensure that every crevice, corner, and hole is reached and cleaned. Parts washer cabinets can have a fixed, nonmoving platform for placing parts inside the cleaning chamber or have a rotating platform. The fixed form of the platform is similar to the traditional dishwasher found in homes. The rotational version has a platform that rotates and moves parts past a set of pipe sprayers. In either case, water is applied at high pressure. The compact and enclosed design of parts washer cabinets makes them economical by controlling the use of water, which is substantially lower than other forms of parts washers.
The loading of a cabinet parts washer can be done manually or through the use of a robot or powered conveyor. Parts are placed in baskets, on holders, or on turntables depending on the parts washer’s design. When the washer is activated, water is sprayed from pipes at pressures of 100 psi up to 3500 psi. The force of the spray combined with the heated water forcibly removes material on the surface of the items to be cleaned.
Cabinet parts washers are an aqueous form of parts washer that uses aqueous chemicals that are a combination of detergent, hot water, and alkaline. The solutions used in cabinet parts washers are environmentally safe, biodegradable, and economical. They assist in saving water and enhance the efficiency of the parts washer.
Ultrasonic parts cleaning is based on the cavitation effect. Transducers in an ultrasonic cleaning tank generate vibrating power that is transferred to liquids in the tank to form billions of microscopic bubbles that implode. The process creates a scrubbing action on the surface of parts and any crevices, holes, or indentations. The all inclusive nature of the process makes it possible to clean the most complex and intricate aspects of parts and devices.
The components of an ultrasonic parts cleaner include a bath, transducers, and heaters in different sectors with a source of power. The transducers and heaters are positioned strategically on the bottom and sides of the cleaner for the most efficient operation. The size of the bath or tank has to be large enough to accommodate the parts to be cleaned and is determined early in the selection process. Tanks are normally made of various grades of steel or 316L or 304 stainless steel grades.
Transducers can generate extremely strong vibrating power with common kilohertz per second frequencies of 20KHz, 80KHz, 100KHz, and 120KHz. The lower the frequency, the more powerful the vibrations are. Large capacity ultrasonic parts washers have a frequency of 28KHz with most ultrasonic parts washers operating between 35KHz and 45Khz. The bubbles from high frequency ultrasonic parts cleaners implode large amounts of cleaning energy capable of removing abrasives and polishing paste.
The various transducers require electrical energy to produce the necessary vibrations. How power is supplied is determined by the design of the parts cleaner and the manufacturer, with producers having their own proprietary methods. The necessary and required factor is sufficient power to complete the cleaning process.
Parts to be cleaned by an ultrasonic parts cleaner can be loaded in various ways. The most common methods are baskets suspended from the top of the cleaner or placed on racks. In all cases, they must be able to be totally immersed in the tank for proper cleaning and should not be in contact with each other.
Ultrasonic parts cleaner features:
Temperature Controls are used to set the temperature to meet the requirements of the cleaning solution.
Timer Controls control the cleaning cycle, which can be set to begin cavitation when the set temperature is reached or immediately when the cleaner is activated.
Degas Mode is used to remove trapped air in the cleaning solutions. This can also be achieved by operating the cleaner without a load.
Sweep Mode creates a ± fluctuation in the ultrasonic frequency to help even out the cleaning action and avoid “hot spots”. It helps prevent damaging cavitation action, dead zones where there is no cleaning action, and harmonic vibrations.
Pulse Mode is necessary to remove stubborn or resistant contaminants. It is designed to increase power by 20%.
Power Settings are a very delicate and precise part of an ultrasonic parts cleaner and have to be set with precision and care. Although more power may indicate faster and more efficient cleaning, it may not be necessary for certain components. Excess power can damage parts, while less power may not complete the cleaning process.
The development of biocycle parts cleaning systems is based on the desire to remove the use of unsafe chemicals and solvents. It is a water based immersion, spray, or turbo system that uses bio safe chemical solutions as parts cleaning agents. It uses a mixture of biological factors and scientific research. Microbes are used to break down grease, oil, and contaminants. The key to the process is living microscopic organisms that break down oil, grease, and hydrocarbon materials.
A biocycle system is self-cleaning using biodegradable formulas. Its development is based on creating a natural and safe method for parts cleaning. After materials are cleaned by the microbes, the remaining hydrocarbons are converted into carbon dioxide and water, which is filtered and reused. Oxygen is pumped into the solution to keep the microbes alive. This form of system is beneficial for the environment, can be reused indefinitely, is cost-effective, and is eco-friendly.
The major benefit of biocycle systems is the lowering of cost and the elimination of waste. The cleaning solution has lasting stability over time and allows for all aspects of the process to be reused. A control box mounted on the system monitors the cleaning level and oxygen supplied to the microorganisms.
There is a wide array of biocycle parts cleaning systems ranging from tubs for hand cleaning of parts up to large and sophisticated spray designs. The critical element of the process is the biochemical cleaner and its application.
Spray parts washers are cabinet aqueous parts washers that spray heated water and solutions on parts at highly increased pressure. Nozzles in the cabinet spray a jet or swirl of washing solution onto parts. As with other forms of parts washers, spray parts washers are enclosed in a steel or stainless steel cabinet. They can have a fixed table or turntable, depending on their design.
The cleaning solution is pumped through oscillating nozzles that blast the part’s load continuously from various angles. The solution level, temperature, suction pump filter, various safety devices, and electrical connection are managed from a sophisticated control panel. For best results, spray parts washers have rinse, steam exhaust, and blow off cycles.
The key to the efficiency of a spray parts water is its pumping system that has to be perfectly aligned and capable of performing without the need for adjustments. The spray manifold attacks the surface of parts from several directions including top down, bottom up, and across from the sides. The oscillating motion of the spray manifold makes it possible for the spray to reach every aspect of a part’s surface.
There are several designs of nozzles for spray parts washers. Regardless of the different types, all nozzles are made to aim, spray, and offer complete coverage without intersecting spray. Each nozzle blast is on its own plane straight at the surface of the batch of parts. When selecting a spray parts washer, assessment of nozzle spray is a necessity.
Spray parts washers come in several varieties, with ones that have a turntable with a turntable drive while others have a fixed table and do not move in relation to the spray. The common factor between the different types is the effectiveness and efficiency of the spraying system.
In mass production facilities, spray parts washers may have a conveying system that sends batches of parts through spraying chambers. They are inline systems that are combined with other industrial and assembly processes. The complexity of conveyor spray washers requires the use of a CNC system, software, or some other form of automation. The sprayed solution is set at temperatures between 130o F up to 200o F with spray pressures that reach between 30 psi up to 70 psi.
Rotary drum parts washers are a very economical method for high volume parts cleaning. Parts are washed using spray and immersion, where the spray cleans the surface of parts while immersion flushes and cleans the insides. Rotary drum parts cleaners are designed to clean small parts in volume. They have a rotating internal helix to tumble and convey parts through various stages of the cleaning process.
The drum of a rotary drum parts washer acts like an agitator to move parts to cleaning stations. Although rotary drum parts washers are designed to clean small parts, they can continuously clean parts as they move along the long, cylindrical drum of the washer. The screw-like helix is the part of the mechanism that moves parts along the process. During the washing and rinsing cycles, parts are gently tumbled to expose all of their surfaces, edges, and crevices.
Use bio-matic, a mixture of biology and scientific research, as a method for cleaning. Parts are placed in a heated washer containing a Ph neutral solution combined with a microbe colony. The microbes breakdown grease, oil, and contaminants in a highly effective and environmentally safe way.
After materials are cleaned by the microbes, the remaining hydrocarbons are converted into carbon dioxide and water, which is filtered and reused. Oxygen is pumped into the solution to keep the microbes alive. This form of system is beneficial for the environment, can be reused indefinitely, is cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.
The combination of rotation and spraying enhances the efficiency of the cleaning process of rotary drum parts washers and removes grime, chemicals, dirt, and debris from the exterior and interior of parts. The force of the spray removes surface oils, dust, and contaminants while the immersion in the tumbling process flushes out holes, deep indentations, hollow areas, and blind holes.
Different sizes of rotary drum parts washers:
Minis are used for small parts, metal stampings, and die cast components. They can be used to clean plastic moldings and rubber parts with drums that are 15 inches to 20 inches in diameter.
Large versions are for high volume cleaning of fasteners, casings, and battery cans. They are highly efficient and provide high cleaning power. Diameter sizes for large rotary parts cleaners range from 30 inches up to 50 inches.
Dual types have two drums on one machine that share tanks, heating systems, and dryers. The drums operate at different speeds and are made to clean separate parts. They are highly efficient and take up less floor space.
Conveyor parts washers use an inline parts conveying system and are designed to have parts fed directly from stamping presses, CNC machines, and other forms of manufacturing processes. They have a variety of belt sizes that can meet the needs of any number or size of parts.
In a standard conveying parts cleaning system, the different cycles are designed to wash, rinse, blow off, and dry parts as they move along the conveying system. Additional stages can include more rinsing, rust inhibiting, phosphate applications, and sealing.
As with many other parts cleaning equipment, high efficiency maintenance free pumping systems are used to ensure a steady flow of water and cleaning solutions. The drying cycle is engineered to provide spot free flawless drying application.
Monorail parts washers have a similar function as conveyor systems. Unlike conveyor systems that have a metal mesh belt to move parts through the various cycles, monorail systems have an overhead conveying system where parts are hung or placed in baskets to pass through the cleaning cycles.
The method of conveyance is ideal for use with ultrasonic cleaning of small and large parts. For the ultrasonic method to be successful, parts pass through a pre-wash prior to being exposed to the ultrasonic process.
Monorail systems are normally a part of continuous processes where parts are cleaned, prepared, and sent on for further processing. Much like conveying systems, monorail systems can have multiple stages that are closed looped or inline. A closed looped system allows the operator to load and unload the system at the same station.
Spray nozzles are attached to headers that spray pressurized cleaning solution onto the parts. Monorail systems have multiple access panels for maintenance, monitoring, and service access. A variety of methods are used to prevent parts from falling into collecting tanks. With very large monorail systems, catwalk style gratings allow personnel to walk through the monorail tunnel.
Since most monorail systems are part of ongoing production, they are customized to fit seamlessly into the production process. Hooks, hangers, fixtures, and other movement devices are matched to the existing customer’s system.
Agitating parts washers are an aqueous immersion method of parts cleaning that uses energy to create vibrations and mixing action to clean surface dirt from parts. The vibrating motion is produced by impellers or paddles that cause cavitation on part surfaces. The agitation method is designed for parts that can withstand being shaken, rapidly moved, and bounced without being damaged.
The agitation process is excellent for placing the cleaning agent in contact with the surfaces of parts and depends on the chemical action of the surfactant. The drawback of agitation cleaning is the amount of time necessary to remove grime and contaminants. Parts that are delicate, complex, or intricate do not fare well in agitation parts washers.
Agitation parts washers require more time of operation that can slow down other processes in an assembly operation. Additionally, they need loading and monitoring while processing but cost less and use less energy.
Immersion parts washers clean parts by submerging them in a cleaning solution. They are known as dip tank parts washers and expose items to be cleaned to a mixture of solvents, detergents, and various types of cleaners. Much like agitator parts washers, immersion parts washers are a cost effective method for cleaning parts and are energy efficient. Immersion parts washers are a flexible cleaning method that is capable of cleaning large bulky parts and very small parts in batches with odd shapes, grooves, holes, and blind spots.
There are several varieties of immersion methods, but all types have certain basic features, including a large washing tank or series of tanks that churn the cleaning solution. Parts are placed in baskets and put through one or more of the following cleaning steps:
Soaking is the least vigorous of the immersion methods and is used for easy to clean parts that will be moved on to other cleaning processes. Soaking is a very common method for preparing parts for more intensive cleaning. How long a part needs to soak varies depending on the required cleanliness and type of part.
Agitation is a part of the majority of immersion parts washers, which can be lift platform agitation or turbo agitation. With platform agitation, parts are lifted up and down in the cleaning solution in an up and down motion designed to scrub and agitate the part’s surface. Turbo agitation involves the use of a pump that continuously circulates the cleaning solution. In many cases, turbo and platform agitations are used together for superior cleaning.
Submerged nozzles are used in some immersion tank parts washing models. The process involves the use of underwater nozzles that perform like turbo agitation by rapidly moving the water through the use of spray nozzles.
Ultrasonic cleaning is included in several immersion methods and performs exactly like ultrasonic cleaning.
Heat immersion is an ideal method when there are concerns about the environmental impact of the process. Using water that is heated to high temperatures in conjunction with water based cleaners is an excellent eco friendly alternative to parts washing.
Small parts washers are specially designed for washing very small parts such as screws, bolts, nuts, bullets, pipe fittings, scrap metal, castings, and stampings. Much like larger parts, small parts have blind holes, complex configurations, and interior and exterior threads that must be cleaned and decontaminated.
Part of the manufacturing of small parts involves using various types of oils, lubricants, and solutions designed to make the shaping and forming of them smoother and more efficient. The lubricating materials must be removed before passing the parts on to other processes. Although large parts cleaners can be the cleaning solution, their use can be time consuming and costly. To meet the needs of manufacturers, parts washer producers have developed small parts washers that are the right size and have the efficiency that small parts cleaning requires.
Two common methods used to clean small parts are immersion and rotation each of which can be designed with small tanks or helixes. In the case of small parts rotary washers, the rotating system gently tumbles the parts in a basket. Like large parts cleaners, small parts washers can be made of metal such as steel and stainless steel. Due to the size of small parts, small parts washers can also be made of plastic.
There are a wide variety of tasks that a small parts parts washer can perform, aside from its function as a small parts washer. Small repair shops use several tools in the completion of projects. In the majority of cases, the tools get covered in grease, oil, lubricants, and dirt. The traditional method of cleaning tools has been rubbing them down by hand with a cleaner. This can be acceptable for a few tools but can become labor intensive for large numbers of tools.
Small parts washers are designed to clean tools as well as parts. Washers include a basket or tank where tools can be immersed in a solvent for cleaning. Helix rotation, agitation, or sprayers release solvents and detergents that clean substances off tools efficiently with little effort. Small parts washers provide far superior cleaning of tools than can be accomplished by manual cleaning.
The majority of parts washers are automatic or semi-automatic and are controlled by computers for loading, washing, rinsing, drying, and unloading. The convenience and efficiency of automatic parts loaders leave personnel and workers available to perform other tasks while parts are being cleaned.
There are several varieties of automatic parts washers, with ones that are connected to assembly processes while others are stand alone. Production line parts washers vary in size according to how clean parts have to be and the number of stations that are included in the parts washer. Parts are fed into the system using metal mesh conveyors or monorail systems where parts are in baskets, hung from hooks, or conveyed using some other system.
All forms of parts washers are used in automatic parts washers including immersion, agitation, rotary, and spray with spray being the most common and widely used. The configuration of automated systems makes it possible for parts to be mechanically machined and passed directly through an automated system into the parts washer without the need for manual transfer. The design of such processes improves efficiency and decreases the time of production.
The advent of computer numerical controlled (CNC) systems and PC software has further increased the efficiency of production and made it possible to time machining and cleaning such that they work together in unison. Cleaning specifications for certain parts require the parts to be subjected to several processes. Formally, each of the cleaning procedures had to be completed independently. With the development of automated parts washing systems, parts washers can be designed, engineered, and configured to complete all of the required processes in one parts washing system with multiple stations.
There are a few limitations to the sizes of parts that can be washed using an automated system. Using gantry or robotic delivery methods, parts are placed directly into the automated parts washer, which moves them by a conveying system through the computer controlled stations. As with the loading process, unloading is completed by a computer controlled mechanism that passes parts on to their next processing location.
As antiquated as manual parts washing may seem, it is still necessary in special circumstances. The standing rule for manual parts washing is safety since the chemicals necessary to complete the task can be harmful to humans and cause serious injury. Regarding that aspect of the process, the first steps in manual parts washing are the use of safety equipment, which involves safety glasses that completely enclose the eyes and very sturdy durable rubber gloves.
Modern manual parts washing has moved beyond the basin and drum method but still requires concern for safety and protection. At the center of modern manual parts washing processes are high pressure sprayers that significantly decrease the time required to clean parts. In most cases, a cabinet, enclosure, or special area is set aside for cleaning with devices to protect against overspray.
Most chemicals used in manual parts washing are water based and biodegradable. They are designed not to pollute the environment or cause damage. Regardless of the design of these cleaning materials, it is still wise to take safety precautions. Whether using a spray, immersion, or agitation, it is important to be properly trained and prepared for the process.
Manual parts washers are the lowest priced form of parts washing devices and are used for sporadic cleaning for more complex or intricate part designs. Manual parts washing includes soaking, brushing, heated fluids, spraying, directed streams, and fluid agitation. In most cases, manual parts washing includes immersion.
Soak- Soaking is the simplest of manual methods and is most effective when the immersion lasts for an extended period of time. It is the ideal solution for cleaning dirt, grease, and grime that is easily removed.
Brush- Manual brushing is a supplementary action that is used when there are stubborn materials to be removed or are hard to reach. There is a wide assortment of cleaning brushes with different bristle textures.
Heated Solution- The effects of water based cleaning solutions are dramatically enhanced by increasing their temperature, which is determined by the equipment used to complete the washing.
Directed Stream- Directed streams refers to some form of flexible hose that is used in the cleaning. It is used to direct a stream of cleaning fluid that flushes away extraneous material during brushing. It is normally used with other manual cleaning methods. Most manual cleaning tanks come with a hose attached and a pistol grip nozzle.
Fluid Agitation- Fluid agitation creates turbulence in the tank and assists the cleaning agent with its scrubbing action. The process helps manual cleaning by flushing out crevices and blind holes.
There are many accessories for parts washers that are designed to enhance and provide additional benefits for various types of parts washers. The four listed below are common types of accessories that are readily available from parts washer manufacturers. The initial investment in a parts washer may not require any accessories, which can become necessary after extended use.
Solvent filters help save money by making solvents reusable after completing a cleaning process. They are designed to filter out oil, grease, and other materials that are removed during cleaning. Solvent filters provide a continuous supply of filtered solvents that can be used multiple times.
Parts washers come equipped with containers designed to organize and separate parts during cleaning. Over time and multiple uses, these sturdy containers can wear out or be damaged. All manufacturers have a readily available supply of baskets and racks as replacements.
Work shelves have several uses that include storage of parts, providing additional space in certain types of washers, and replacements for worm shelves. They are made of heavy gauge steel and have a durable metal frame.
As grime, oil, and grease are removed from parts, their residue settles at the bottom of the washing tank. Sludge trays are designed to collect the sludge and keep it away from cleaned parts.
Cleaning parts is a necessity for modern industrial processes that rely on lubricants, oil, grease, and other substances during manufacturing. Once production is completed, the unnecessary materials have to be removed. Parts washers offer a safe and efficient method for parts washing through the use of water, heat, agitation, and environmentally safe chemicals.
Parts washers remove the need for labor in the parts cleaning process. In the majority of cases, the parts cleaning process does not necessitate human involvement until the cleaning process is completed. Handling, cleaning, rinsing, and drying are all completed safely and efficiently.
Parts washers can clean any form of parts or components regardless of size or complexity. The various solutions and cleaning systems can reach the most remote and isolated part of a part and remove any contaminants. Parts washers are only limited by the size of the required enclosure.
A parts washer gives a manufacturer total control of the production of a part from machining to completion. This increases quality assurance and guarantees proper production
Modern production methods require close attention to detail. Having the ability to initiate a process and not necessitate worker oversight increases individual productivity and efficiency. This particular feature for cleaning parts by using a parts washer frees up personnel to perform more critical and necessary tasks.
The purchase of a parts washer may seem to be a simple matter of providing an efficient cleaning process. Although this is a major feature of a parts cleaner, purchasing a parts washer can also lead to improved processing, more efficient operation, and cost savings regarding malfunctioning or damaged parts.
There are a number of things to consider regarding the care of a parts washer.
Parts that need cleaning should be moved from the production line to cleaning. Parts Stored with oil and grease on them accumulate dirt putting extra pressure on parts cleaning equipment, resulting in longer cycle times, increased operating costs, and maintenance and repair issues for parts cleaning equipment.
Metal parts with burrs complicate the cleaning process, making it difficult for detergents or solvents to penetrate areas around burrs. During washing, burrs come off, making it harder on filtration and cleaning systems.
Filling the parts cleaning basket to its limit leads to unsatisfactory cleaning. Output per cycle may decrease, but cleanliness will significantly improve.
If contaminants are oil-based, like cutting fluids or coolers, a hydrocarbon cleaning process is best. If contaminants are water-based, like grinding or lapping compounds, aqueous is the best choice. The proper selection of cleaning solution affects cleanliness levels and cycle times.
Humans unknowingly transfer contaminants, such as oils, skin cells, and strands of hair, which complicate a parts washers‘ performance. Operators should wear hairnets, lint-free gloves, work coats, and bodysuits, which will protect them from potential harm from corrosive wash materials or chemicals.
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