How does ultrasonic cleaning work?
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.
How long does ultrasonic cleaning 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.
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).
Will it clean plastic parts?
Answer: Yes, ultrasonic cleaning is ideal for plastic parts.
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!
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.
What solvent is used with ultrasonic cleaning?
Answer: UltraSonic LLC offers a variety cleaning solutions in our online store.
How does ultrasonic cleaning save money over hand washing and other methods when it comes to cleaning industrial parts?
Answer: There are several ways to capture cost savings through ultrasonic cleaning for industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical parts:
- Lower labor costs drive increased profits. 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.
- Lower cleaning product cost keeps more money in your pocket. Ultrasonic cleaners from UltraSonic LLC utilize hot soapy water and UltraSonic’s green-friendly cleaning solutions to clean industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical parts—unlike other cleaners and cleaning methods that use hazardous solvents. Such solvents are not environmentally friendly; they also are expensive, and the EPA fees to dispose of them properly can eat away at your bottom line.
- 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.
Are there advantages to a side-mounted transducer ultrasonic cleaning machine design?
Answer: Yes, there are significant advantages to this type of design. At UltraSonic LLC, we offer a stainless steel container that has ceramic transducers attached to the side of the tank, or in immersible containers. These side-mounted transducers give you more enhanced cleaning ability. The cleaning action from the top of the tank to the bottom of the tank remains the same. We offer horizontal cleaning from two directions, meaning you do not lose any cleaning power with the transducers on the side versus mounted on the bottom.
With traditionally mounted transducers, dirt and/or debris falls to the bottom of that tank, robbing you of cleaning power. An UltraSonic LLC machine with our side-mounted transducers provides 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.
How much does it cost to operate and maintain an ultrasonic cleaning machine over time?
Answer: That really depends on how many dirty parts you put into it, and how often you use it. For comparative purposes, an ultrasonic cleaning machine that’s used to clean automotive parts (which often are the toughest parts to clean) can run for up to two months before it’s necessary to change out the filters. An UltraSonic LLC 3200FA 65-gallon machine uses two filters which cost approximately $15 each, and it requires about five gallons of carbon cleaning solution, which costs $144 and lasts anywhere from two to six months, depending on the number of parts being cleaned. So given regular use, and the cost of filters and normal use of cleaning solution, the approximate cost range to operate and maintain an UltraSonic LLC 3200FA is $45 to $87 per month.
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.
As mentioned earlier, other manufacturers’ machines that use solvents are generally significantly costlier to operate. In these cases, you’ll pay hundreds of dollars per month just to dispose of the used solvents—and that doesn’t include the cost of the solvents themselves, or a service fee for removing these hazardous chemicals.
As for disposing of the soap and water that was used to clean your parts, each municipality has its own regulations, so it’s essential to check with your municipality and adhere to its laws and regulations.
What sort of cleaning and maintenance are required for ultrasonic cleaning machines?
Answer: Ultrasonic cleaning machines require regular care and maintenance in order to ensure that they run efficiency, effectively and do so over a long period of time. Thankfully, proper cleaning and maintenance essentially boils down to changing the filters, changing the soap, and cleaning the tank. That’s essentially it.
Are there ways to test out whether ultrasonic cleaning is best for me before investing in the cost of a machine?
Answer: Absolutely. At UltraSonic LLC, we now offer our ultrasonic cleaners for rent. Through UltraSonic’s Try Before You Buy rental program, you can rent the following UltraSonic units:
Rental agreements are for one month or longer, and rent-to-own agreements are available as well. We believe the Try Before You Buy program offers a great opportunity for people in a variety of industries to try ultrasonic cleaning for their parts and see the dramatic results up close.
Additionally, UltraSonic LLC offers a free parts test-cleaning program for people who want to see first-hand how ultrasonic cleaning can clean their dirtiest industrial, automotive, aerospace or medical parts. If you’re interested in finding out more, please fill out this contact form, and an UltraSonic LLC representative will be in touch shortly to discuss your requirement.