Peak Performance: A Case Study of How Ultrasonic Cleaning Protected High Performance Engines and Lowered Costs

They seem to be surging ahead even when standing still. Two pro-stock drag racers, one bright yellow, one emerald green, sit in their lanes, their engines loud even at idle. Once it begins, the race will last less than seven seconds.

Suddenly the yellow lights on the “Christmas tree” between the lanes flash in sequence from top to bottom, then green! With a deafening roar the cars streak down the track. But then, disaster! Just a second into the race, the yellow car is pulling slightly ahead when fire blossoms from beneath its hood. The hood scoop is launched into the air by the force of the explosion and bounces down the strip. The car falters; flames continue to peek out from beneath the destroyed hood and it veers off the center line before rolling to a stop. The driver emerges, throwing his gloves down in disgust. Track crew members rush in to put out the flames and pour absorbent on the fluids that have poured out onto the pavement. They also pick up twisted parts and place them on a divider wall, the only remains of an engine tens of thousands of dollars were invested in.

What does this have to do with your aerospace operation? Cagnazzi Racing faced this situation all too often, and their solution—ultrasonic cleaning—is perfect for any industry with expensive components, close tolerances, massive pressures and sizable investments riding on performance.

The Cagnazzi Problem

Victor Cagnazzi founded his Mooresville, North Carolina company in 2000 and competed in NHRA Pro Stock truck races beginning the following February. His vision was to combine cutting edge technology with proven methods to secure championships. As the racing seasons rolled past, they formed a Pro Stock car team and began to rack up wins and records.

But they also racked up failures and disappointments from engine damage. They traced the problem to tiny impurities remaining on engine parts even after they were cleaned in an industrial spray washer that could supposedly remove contamination of any type. Impurities plus high temperatures and enormous pressures equaled investments and opportunities lost.

The Ultrasonic Solution

Fortunately, there was a better way to clean. In 2007 the Cagnazzi team changed to ultrasonic cleaning and chose Ultrasonic Power Corporation as their provider. Ultrasonic cleaning matched the Cagnazzi philosophy: a cutting edge technology that’s also a proven method.

But the main reason was effectiveness. Ultrasonic cavitation reaches everywhere liquid can go, so there are no “shadows” where a spray would fail to reach, no particular pressure threshold needed to blast a substance away and no need for special chemicals. Instead, microscopic bubbles forming and collapsing under the pressure of ultrasonic waves scrub impurities off the surface with localized bursts of enormous pressure and heat. It’s therefore more powerful, more gentle, more effective and less expensive than spray washing.

“Pro Stock is the most competitive form of racing on the planet,” Cagnazzi said. “We can win or lose a race by less than a thousandth of a second, so any advantage we can get on the track, or back in the shop is important to the team. The Ultrasonic Cleaning System gives us one of those advantages.”

Joe Hornick, Director of Engine Development, agreed: “Having a system like this allows us to use the latest technology to make sure our engine components are as clean as possible before final assembly. Now we can do that better, cheaper, and in an environmentally friendly way.”

Results also spoke loud and clear. One of Cagnazzi’s Pro Stock drivers, Jeg Coughlin Jr., won back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008. In the years since, the company remains at the top of the sport, garnering wins and national top speed and elapsed time records in multiple classes.

The space and aviation fields demand performance under high stresses at high temperatures, and your customers are demanding greater cleanliness. Ultrasonic cleaning and an effective validation program will allow you—and them—to be certain you’re delivering a spotless product. Get in touch with us today, and let’s explore how our systems can meet the exact needs of your operation.

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