What Can We Clean? Ultrasonic Cleaning and Aerospace Applications

Ultrasonic Cleaning – Aerospace Industry

In our previous blogs, we’ve looked at how you can make your aerospace operation more efficient with ultrasonic cleaning. But you may still be wondering if it will clean the specific items you work with.

The short answer? Ultrasonic cleaning will remove almost any contaminant from anything that can be immersed. But let’s take a look at that in detail. We need to cover two main subjects: Why it works and what aerospace items it works with.

The Why: Ultrasonic Cavitation

An object only needs to meet two “eligibility requirements” for ultrasonic cleaning: It needs to be immersible and able to be dried relatively easily.

When ultrasonic waves travel through liquid and meet a solid surface, they create millions of microscopic bubbles on the surface of the item in a phenomenon called cavitation. As these bubbles form and collapse, they blast away contaminants. So the items need to be submerged, but it also means areas a human worker or spray washer would have great difficulty reaching are scrubbed spotless.

As for “relatively easy” drying, most items meet this requirement unless they are especially absorbent. Anything that can be air dried (with or without a blower) can be cleaned ultrasonically.

That leaves us with an immense list of cleanable objects, encompassing everything from nuclear waste cleaning robots to jewelry. But what about the specifics of aerospace?

The What: Aerospace Applications

It might be easier to list the items in this field ultrasonics can’t clean, but here’s a review of common items:

Vehicle components

Whether you’re cleaning parts before you reinstall them on an airframe or clearing grime from a hydraulic part prior to refurbishment, ultrasonic cleaners will remove contamination more thoroughly and quickly than personnel can. Because cavitation works through a mechanical scrubbing action, there’s no need to attack the contaminant with specific chemical compounds. Any type of dirt seen in the aerospace sphere–including oils and greases–can be completely removed.

When you need tools or equipment from your aerospace operation cleaned, you can use the same ultrasonic cleaners and be sure the gear will be spotless in just minutes.

Newly manufactured parts

Of course, this category covers parts that are formed in a CNC machine, items that are bored out on a press, etc. But we’re including some others here, such as certain ceramics, glass and polished metals. If an item has been machined, honed, lapped, buffed, or polished, there will be residue on it in the form of chips, dust, polishing compounds or cutting oils.

Here the strength of ultrasonic cleaning is in its versatility—the cavitation in the cleaner will remove oils just as easily as chips or dust—and its thoroughness. You won’t have to worry about something being missed and ruining a later step where paint or some other coating is applied.

Avionics and other electronic items

Most of us would recoil with horror at the idea of combining expensive avionics and water. However, as long as proper drying techniques are used, an ultrasonic cleaner will not only clean electronic devices, but clean them more quickly and completely than any other method. It will also do so in a safe and green way. In the past, it was common to use trichlorethylene to clean avionics, but ultrasonic cleaning usually requires only water and a mild detergent additive.

Glass and other fragile items

After years of entertainment media portrayals of high frequency sound shattering glass into bits, it may seem like an atrocious idea to clean fragile components 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.

Being sure

In a field where quality expectations and manufacturing and repair costs are stratospheric, ultrasonic cleaning excels. But if there’s any doubt whether this technology is the right fit for items you clean, we offer free testing. You can arrange to submit a typical item from your facility and our staff will test clean it, providing you with detailed results.