How Ultrasonic Cleaning Protects Your Components From Rust

Rust never sleeps. Fortunately, we have stainless steel.

However, if you work with stainless steel components, you know that these alloys are not completely corrosion-proof. Handling damage, contamination and even the act of machining or cutting the steel can compromise the amazingly thin layer that protects the part from rust.

How thin? Try one-ten millionth of an inch thick (0.0000001) which is around 1/100,000th as thick as a human hair. This layer is composed of chromium oxide, and is so thin it literally can’t be seen. The chromium oxide isolates the steel from atmospheric oxygen, preventing it from causing rust. Because the layer forms automatically, in theory it will cover every surface of the component exposed to air.

So, how does the layer become compromised? Mainly through contamination. Any contaminants that contain iron are especially troublesome, because the iron inevitably brings rust with it, and places it in contact with the steel below the layer. Common dirt or shop dust can not only interrupt the layer, but are almost certain to contain some tiny amount of iron. Cutting tools used to machine the steel can leave microscopic bits of their blade surfaces on the part. All these contaminants tend to be invisible to the naked eye.

A sort of contamination can even come from within the steel itself. Some stainless steel contains sulfur added to make the metal easier to machine, and spots where sulfides are exposed at the surface can corrode.

The best way to deliver a part to your customer that will remain corrosion-free is to reestablish the chromium oxide layer with a passivation bath of nitric or citric acid. But prior to that, it’s essential that the part be perfectly clean. For that task there’s no substitute for ultrasonic cleaning. Let’s look at three reasons why:

Hand cleaning is expensive and may not remove all contamination

Instead of paying an employee (possibly a highly paid specialist, such as a machinist) to clean the part, you can place batches of parts in an ultrasonic cleaner and know they’ll be spotless in a few minutes. And since the bubbles from ultrasonic cavitation will reach anyplace liquid will reach, there won’t be any missed spots (or scratches, dings, etc.) due to human error.

Ultrasonic cleaning is excellent for eliminating greases and oils

A common problem in passivation is the presence of cutting oils or other grease on the parts. These will react with the chemical bath, creating bubbles that keep the acid away from the surface and prevent passivation. This can lead to pitting or rusting later on. But an ultrasonic cleaner will remove these oily materials without error.

You can’t afford a contaminated passivation bath

Some contaminants can cause what’s called a “flash attack.” This change in the chemical makeup of the passivation bath causes the surface of the part to be darkened and may also cause etching. The parts will require rework at least, and may be ruined.

To give your customer a corrosion-resistant component they can depend on, you need a cleaning process you can depend on, and ultrasonic cleaning delivers unsurpassed results.

Need more information on the results ultrasonic cleaning can produce in an industrial environment? Click here to learn how Ushers Machine and Tool used ultrasonic cleaning to increase production by 20% while reducing costs. Or see Ultrasonics to the Rescue, a case study of the results Componex saw when they used ultrasonic cleaning to reach grime they couldn’t otherwise clean.

Versatile Controls, Greater Efficiency: How Improved Ultrasonic Cleaning Controls Can Make Your Processes More Efficient

In our previous post, we examined how the Sonic Touch® II control system for ultrasonic cleaners not only works with tablets, smartphones and facility networks through Virtual Network Computing (VNC), but provides better data. Having broader and more complete data sets can make your cleaning more effective, make maintenance easier and help protect your investment.

Access to better information is only one side of the coin. The other side of incorporating advanced digital technology into this new control system is, well, better control. To put it simply, the Sonic Touch® II allows you to do more with your system, and make it more dependable. Let’s take a look at some of the system’s features and the benefits they can bring to your facility:

A countdown timer for perfected cleaning sessions

We aren’t saying this feature is new or unique, but it definitely saves time and money. This digital timer  ensures the cleaner will run only for the amount of time it needs to in order to clean the items in the tank. Over the long run, this will save power, reduce errors and allow your unit to last longer. It may also save labor costs, because you won’t need to have a worker stand by to monitor the unit.

Seven day timers that adapt to your operation’s schedule

It saves time and energy if your ultrasonic cleaner is ready to go “just in time.” In other words, it’s not running idly before it’s needed, but the cleaning medium is already properly heated the moment items are ready to go in the tank and be cleaned.

The Sonic Touch® II features seven day timers for the heating system, pump and filtration system and oil skimmer. If, for example, your operation will need to clean cutting oil off new parts at approximately 10am every Tuesday and at 6am on Wednesdays, you can set the Sonic Touch® II to activate the systems on the appropriate unit just before those times on those days.

VNC app lets you control or monitor from anywhere

Using a Virtual Network Computing app, you can perform all of the monitoring and control functions of the Sonic Touch® II remotely, using a tablet or smartphone. As we mentioned in our previous post, you’ll also be able to receive important alerts and scheduled maintenance reminders on your device via email or text, and/or designate any account you wish as the recipient. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices.

More features that protect your investment

In our previous blog we explored how better information flow, alarms and alerts could help you protect your investment in an ultrasonic cleaner. The Sonic Touch® II also includes built-in protections against generator overheat, liquid overheat and low liquid level. On top of that, it incorporates security features such as a panel lock and password protection, preventing unauthorized use.

Year after year, each piece of equipment employed by the workforce becomes smarter and the mobile revolution changes more and more about how we work. Choosing ultrasonic cleaners that integrate that technology is the smartest kind of change you can make.

Better Information, Greater Efficiency: How Smarter Ultrasonic Cleaning Controls Can Increase Efficiency in Your Plant

In business, there’s simply no substitute for accurate information,  and there’s no doubt the mobile and digital revolution is changing the way teams work and interact with customers and suppliers. It’s also changing options in industrial cleaning, making ultrasonic cleaners more effective and easier to use with controls that work with mobile technologies to provide information and receive instructions.

That’s why we introduced the Sonic Touch® II, a control system designed to communicate with phones, tablets and facility networks. In fact, it can even automatically send you important updates via text or email.

Let’s take a look at four ways the information you receive from an advanced control system can make your operation more efficient.

Better information makes cleaning more effective

With the Sonic Touch® II, you can monitor a wide array of data or record it via USB onto a flash drive for later use. A number of these data streams can help you ensure the items you’re cleaning are not only spotless, but reach that condition via the least time and effort. For example, data from our patented Liquid Condition Sensor (LCS) will allow you to monitor the cavitation activity levels in your tank. The best cavitation results produce the best cleaning results. Other displays will show the frequency output of each ultrasonic generator and the accumulated power the generators have produced.

In short, you’ll always be able to know exactly what the operating condition of the unit is, monitoring it in real time if you wish.

Better information protects your investment

Ultrasonic cleaners are easy to use and maintain, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need protection from error or happenstance. The Sonic Touch® II makes that protection easier. Not only are you able to know the condition of the transducers, generators, heating systems, pump and oil skimmer through the standard monitoring channels, the system will alarm in the case of generator power problems, low liquid level or liquid overheat. These alarms will be logged, and can also be transmitted to a device or network, ensuring they alert a supervisor immediately.

Better information makes maintenance easier

We’ve covered monitoring and recording data, and it should be obvious how valuable that data can be when you’re troubleshooting or analyzing a potential problem. But what if your ultrasonic cleaner kept you updated via text or email?

The Sonic Touch® II will send problem alerts and scheduled maintenance reminders to supervisors at accounts you designate, and can even (if you choose) advise us at Ultrasonic Power Corporation. That means you’ll never skip a regular maintenance procedure, and you’ll know ASAP if any problem arises.

That means more uptime, and a better bottom line.

Better information has a controlled flow

As you’ve been reading, you probably noticed we used language like “can,” “be able to,” and “if you choose.” That’s because in an age of information overload, it’s important for you to be in control of what information is flowing to you and when. The ability to choose what you monitor and what alerts you receive (and how) ensures the data you collect will be the right data in the right form, data that helps you manage more effectively.

In our next post, we’ll look at how the latest advancements in controls for ultrasonic cleaners can make the processes in your plant more efficient.

What Can You Clean with an Ultrasonic Cleaner, Part III—The Last of the List

This is our third post in a series on exactly what you can clean with ultrasonic cleaners. In the first, we looked at why ultrasonic cleaning covers so many possible items and contaminants, while in the second, we took a look at an example list of items and elaborated on some of the applications for industrial environments.

Let’s dive back into the categories of items you can clean.

Tools and equipment from your plant

Whether it’s carbide cutting tools, food packaging machine parts, piping from inside an oil refinery or just standard-issue tools with contaminant on them, an ultrasonic cleaner can be an asset that keeps your own equipment spotless. Moreover, you’ll save time and money, because ultrasonic cleaning reaches every part of the item being cleaned and does so in less time than an employee would.

Glass, ceramics and other fragile items

After years of media portrayals of high frequency sound shattering glass into bits, it may seem like a very bad idea to clean items like beakers, cannulae and precision lenses with powerful sound waves above the human hearing range. But ultrasonic cleaning is perfectly safe for these items, and can actually save you money in the long run because they will experience less handling and therefore fewer opportunities for scratches or other damage.

Molds, blocks and other large items

Our ultrasonic cleaners come in a wide variety of sizes, so if you’re cleaning such large items the main consideration may be the operating frequency of your unit. Industrial molds and engine parts are often coated with contaminants that are thick and tenacious. They also tend to be extremely durable, don’t need to have a perfectly smooth finish, and often don’t have a complex geometry with narrow crevices and depressions.

A 25kHz unit may be perfect for cleaning these items. These relatively low-frequency ultrasonic waves (just above the upper range of human hearing, which is 18kHz) are “the big guns,” blasting away the most resistant grime. However, if the object has narrow areas, a 40kHz unit with Vibra-bar® Simultaneous Multi-Frequency® will be a better fit.

For more on the role of frequency in effective ultrasonic cleaning, see our recent post Finding The Balance.

Medical equipment and other superclean items

We covered some of these items under glass and ceramics above, but we want to note here that if you’re manufacturing items such as medical instruments and implants, you need them to be perfectly clean, and there’s no cleaning technology quite like ultrasonic cleaning. In addition, when there’s less human handling, there’s less chance of human contamination and other human error. You may want to review the information on 132kHz and higher options in Finding The Balance.

However, we do want to note again that ultrasonic cleaners do not sterilize; spores and viruses are not removed by this type of cleaning.

Being sure

Ultrasonic cleaning offers unparalleled versatility and effectiveness and is used to clean everything from golf clubs and dusty blinds to surgical instruments and nuclear waste cleaning robots. But that doesn’t mean it can clean absolutely anything. Don’t forget that we offer free test cleaning. You can arrange to submit a typical item from your facility and our staff will test clean it, providing you with detailed results.

Need more information on how some of our customers used these highly reliable machines in an industrial environment to reduce costs and deliver a cleaner product? Click here to learn about Ushers Machine and Tool or here to download Ultrasonics to the Rescue, a case study of the results seen by Componex.