The latest technology in the exhibitor booths at the Parts Cleaning Expo (PCx) 2017 as well as a solid lineup of industry speakers at the PCx Conference will offer attendees a wealth of knowledge and information they can take back to their companies and implement.
PCx is being held in conjunction with the Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS) April 25-27 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Presented by the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), it is co-hosted by Production Machining, Products Finishing and Modern Machine Shop.
We asked expo exhibitors what technological advances attendees should expect to see and what industry trends they will learn about at PCx 2017. Here’s what we gathered.
Since the last PCx in 2015, several industry professionals say interesting shifts have taken place in the parts cleaning sector. Cory Nelson, general manager of the StillClean division of OSI Environmental, says he has seen a growing number of his customers entering the medical machining market, therefore requiring improvements in their precision cleaning process. He also sees many customers moving into the aerospace market, so he has responded by focusing on bolstering the abilities of the fluid filters and the distillation process. Not only does this improvement result in a cleaner part, but it decreases waste as the filtered cleaning fluid can be returned to the washer for additional use. As a result, the company has eliminated solvent service contracts in favor of recycling onsite, Mr. Nelson says.
Recycling, as well as other positive environmental practices, are becoming more popular within the parts cleaning industry. Melissa Page, marketing manager at Chemfree, knows that the industry is serious about how chemicals are discharged in cleaning systems, which has led to continuing research and development in bioremediation—the process that Chemfree specializes in. Bioremediation involves using various enzymes, bacteria or fungi to cause an accelerated breakdown of organic compounds. It takes place within the company’s SmartWasher heated parts washing system with OzzyJuice that contains active cleaning agents. Ms. Page says the process is so effective that the solution doesn’t have to be changed out.
Ed Tulinski, V.P. of Jenfab Aqueous Cleaning Systems, has not only detected the industry’s attention to precision cleaning and environmental concerns, he has recognized a desire to streamline operations so that parts cleaning equipment doesn’t take up as much space as in the past. Therefore, Jenfab will be displaying its LeanClean line of rotary basket parts washers that rotate parts under the solution, which aids in removing chips and oils from blind holes and complex shapes and features. Models range from a single-basket design to others that hold as many as eight baskets per cycle, and the machines are all front loading for ergonomic purposes, self-contained with a small footprint to preserve valuable shopfloor space and feature a 10-minute cycle time.
Cheryl Larkin, who is in sales and marketing at Miraclean Ultrasonics, says she and her colleagues have noticed a push toward using automation for parts loading and unloading, which in itself enables the process of data capture. With data-driven manufacturing increasing in popularity—especially with its emphasis on machine and process monitoring—Ms. Larkin says job shops are seeking more information from their parts cleaning systems. Customers can now establish the extent of the data they wish to gather when they’re making equipment choices, including process times, solution temperatures and the concentrations of chemicals and particulates found in the process. Ms. Larkin says data such as this helps dial in a process to meet a shop’s exact requirements, often dictated by the company’s own customers, so there is “actionable” working knowledge as well as a record supporting the cleaning process’s effectiveness.
The staff at Ultrasonic LLC has noticed that, as part geometries become more complex—especially tiny parts for aerospace and medical applications—manufacturers have more and higher requirements than ever before, says Lauren Arnold, the company’s office manager. That is why its machines feature varying degrees of agitation, oscillation and rotation to assist the cleaning fluid in dislodging and dissolving contaminants in deep crevasses and other hard-to-reach places on a finished part. Ms. Arnold says side-mounted transducers eliminate “dead spots” within the cleaning chamber, ensuring active and consistent ultrasonic action without the use of solvents.
Dave Melton, marketing manager of the Ransohoff division of Cleaning Technologies Group, sees automation as a main driver of new equipment purchases in recent years. Two machines in particular were specifically designed to incorporate robotic loading and unloading of parts, among other processes: the Ransobotic TT-180, which features robot-operated spray nozzles, and the Modular RT-Flex, which is tended by robots and has multiple rotary drying tables with moving cleaning and drying manifolds. The company will also have a LeanJet RB-1 on display, an immersion system that accepts a single basket per cycle, but clears 10 baskets per hour. The company’s parts washing process involves agitation, spray impingement, rotation, hydraulic purging through immersion and heated blow-off drying. The RB-1 can also be equipped for ultrasonic cleaning.
When it comes to parts cleaning equipment, it’s all about the chemistry, and MicroCare will be exhibiting new formulations to address regulatory changes that have recently been released by the EPA. David Ferguson, senior market and technical manager, says parts for medical, aerospace and automotive where electronics are sometimes embedded, increasing the challenge of cleaning the part, are becoming smaller. It is therefore harder to clear machining fluids and chips from some of the deeper and more intricate features using aqueous solutions.
However, with new regulations restricting the use of the chemicals trichloroethylene (TCE) and n-propyl bromide (nPB), new solvents must be developed in order for companies to be compliant. According to Mr. Ferguson, MicroCare has paid special attention to keeping the cost per part at a reasonable level so that end users won’t hesitate to buy these new formulations, such as the company’s new Tergo flux remover. The company’s chemists and technicians will be on hand to discuss the products in the booth.
Kyzen will be spotlighting its corrosion preventive chemistry as well as a selection of its aqueous cleaning chemistries and solvent solutions. Priscila Faester, global segment leader for metal finishing, says many of the new solvent regulations have to do with developing chemistries that decrease or eliminate health risks to machine operators. While some manufacturers are moving to aqueous solutions to address this situation, Ms. Faester says that’s not always possible for companies that clean extremely small or complex parts. So Kyzen is involved in R&D in order to engineer solvents that are safer and more environmentally friendly.
After discussing the parts cleaning industry with these exhibitors, we understand that more regulations of cleaning solution chemicals are to be expected, especially since these regulations are a global trend that is already more advanced in Europe than in the United States. The Association of the German Automobile Industry (VDA), for instance, backed the VDA 19 cleaning solution regulation—including cleaning process parameters and rules regarding “chemicals of concern”—to auto industry suppliers more than a decade ago. If similar regulations are implemented in the U.S., it would be prudent to possess an understanding of what would be involved for manufacturers.
The concept of data-driven manufacturing is another trend that’s making its way into parts cleaning. As skilled as we’ve become at gathering information, only now are we figuring out how to apply the data toward process improvement.
While technology is always advancing in terms of streamlining processes and creating new equipment designs, the drive toward more environmental awareness—admittedly driven by state and federal regulations and customer requirements—is an encouraging sign. Not only is it a move in the right direction morally and ethically, it also serves to protect companies by documenting their efforts to be good stewards of the planet.
For more about PCx and to register, visit pmts.com.