Macomb Community College students learn firsthand about all things automotive while earning their associate degrees in Automotive Technology. In well-equipped lab settings, which are essentially top-of-the-line full-service auto repair shops, they put theory into practice diagnosing and repairing brakes & suspensions, electrical & air conditioning systems, drivelines and engines. With a full machine shop that includes an RMC V-20 CNC machine center, rebuilding automotive engines is a substantial portion of their lab work. Students get their hands dirty in every aspect of the process – from diagnostics to estimating parts and time required, to the actual removal and rebuilding of engines and components. A new ultrasonic cleaner from UltraSonic LLC is helping to get components cleaner, and speed the process of rebuilds so students can spend more time learning, not cleaning.
A Clean Start
Diagnosing problems is a critical first step in the repair process. Removal and rebuilding components is hands-on work, which is very satisfying for many of the students— cleaning the components, not so much.
The Automotive Lab is well equipped with parts cleaning equipment, and houses a Sunnen oven, a Sunnen shot blaster, a PMW high pressure wash cabinet, a Kwikway parts tumbler, several Safety-Kleen solvent tanks and Smartwasher (an Ozzy-Juice bio-remediation system). Before the UltraSonic LLC cleaner, they employed a lot of hand scrubbing.
“We do a lot of cast iron cylinder heads and engine blocks in the oven and shot blaster” said Professor David Roland. “Everything we couldn’t bake and blast went into the cabinet washer, or the other cleaners for small components. But the results we’ve gotten with all of these methods— even with the hand scrubbing— fell far short on aluminum.”
So Roland began to research options. He found the market for ultrasonic cleaners crowded, but liked the fact that UltraSonic LLC has some unique features. The side-mounted transponders and an oscillating/agitating table, which combine to clean every nook and cranny of even the most oddly shaped parts especially intrigued him.
He purchased a 65-gallon model 3200FA from Cincinnati-based UltraSonic LLC in December, 2015. Since then, the machine has been used every day that school is in session. Roland said the school uses the cabinet washer to blast through the heavy-duty grime, and then the UltraSonic LLC cleaner for deep cleaning.
“The 3200 does a great job on pistons, aluminum cylinder heads, cam shaft caps and bolts, or whatever we put in it. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the results we get with this machine,” he said.
Each semester in the beginning of his AUTO 2200 Automotive Upper Engine Service class, Roland shows the students—none of whom have used the cleaner at this point—a display of dirty and cleaned parts. He takes a set of caps off an overhead cam cylinder head, cleans half of the caps and bolts in a single 3-minute cycle with the 3200FA. The other half he leaves as is, and labels the parts “Three minutes in UltraSonic—no hand scrubbing” and “original condition—as removed from engine.”
“Even the instructors are impressed, they can’t believe how clean it gets them.”
How ultrasonic works— and how UltraSonic LLC works for students
Ultrasonic cleaning is a precision parts cleaning technology that uses high frequency sound waves to remove dirt and contaminants. Micron-sized bubbles are formed from the alternating pressure waves generated from the high-energy transducers. Energy is transferred to and stored within these bubbles. As the bubbles contact the parts to be cleaned, they implode, releasing the stored energy and creating a micro jet with scrubbing action which 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 the UltraSonic LLC technology is the placement of the transducers on the side of the tank rather than the bottom, as most UltraSonic LLC competitors’ cleaners do. Unlike bottom-mounted transducers, side-mounted transducers provide a consistent cleaning action from top to bottom, with no “blind spots.” A v-shaped bottom also allows the dirt to collect on the bottom without interfering in the transducer’s wave path, and allows for easy cleaning.
The 3200FA combines both of these unique design features with a large 55-gallon main tank capacity and a 10-gallon weir tank. Professor Roland and his students find the 3200FA perfect for the larger parts and components like engine blocks and cylinder heads, With 5040 watts of ultrasonic power, dual 2000 watt heaters, and a basket capacity of 27”L x 18.5”D x 5”H, the 3200FA has the power to clean a wide range of parts and components—even rubber and plastic parts.
With a digital control system, students can control the type of cleaning required for different cycles of different loads. But they find that the standard 3 minute cycle works great on just about anything that needs cleaning. They simply load the machine, press the “Green Button”, and let the machine run. When the cycle is complete, they remove the clean parts. In addition to achieving a much cleaner part than could be accomplished with hand scrubbing, classes are also saving time with the 3200FA.
“Cleaning engine parts is a tedious, time-consuming task. With this ultrasonic process, the students understand what “Assembly Ready” cleaning means. We spend less time on cleaning and more time with hands-on learning.” added Roland.
Although the amount of time saved varies per component cleaned, Roland estimates that they save 4-5 hours or more per engine. He stresses that the hand scrubbing still falls far short of the ultrasonic results.
“When you hand scrub them, you can’t get into the nooks and crannies of the parts. You just can’t get them as clean as they come out of the ultrasonic.”
In addition to saving time formerly spent hand scrubbing parts, the UltraSonic LLC cleaner is saving time in other ways too. Roland uses Ultra1, a heavy carbon soap from UltraSonic LLC with an anti-corrosive characteristic to it. Now Roland and his students no longer have to treat the cleaned parts with oil, grease or a rust preventative.
“When we clean a crankshaft or a set of connecting rods, we don’t have to take them out, dry them off, and then oil them up. They can come out of the tank and sit there for a couple days up to a couple weeks without getting rusty which was a real problem with some of the other processes.”
In fact, the UltraSonic LLC cleaner only requires one person to load it, start it and unload it, freeing up students to perform other tasks around the shop. With no dangerous chemicals or solvents, it’s a much safer alternative for cleaning parts off the line.
The 3200FA is cleaning engine components more thoroughly, and in less time than previous methods. In addition to saving time that was formerly spent hand scrubbing parts, Roland and his students eliminate the need to apply rust preventative, saving additional time and labor. Perhaps the best aspect of all from a student perspective is the elimination of the hand scrubbing that was required. Elimination of this mundane and repetitive task means that students are more engaged in the learning process, creating a more positive environment for students and teachers alike.