Parts Cleaning

Just the Ticket for Ultrasonic Cleaning

This shop saw the benefits of its cleaning system and purchased a second one to handle increased workload.


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Nothing indicates a happy customer more than those who come back to buy a second parts cleaning machine. That was the case with Ushers Machine and Tool Co., located in Round Lake, New York, who returned to buy a second system, even larger than the company’s original. It has been using Ultrasonic Power Corp.’s 39-gallon parts washer console for several years to clean machine coolant from stainless steel gas tips before they are sent to be chrome plated.

After doing the cleaning work by hand for several years before that, Ushers’ Quality Control Manager Nick Jones says the equipment has been a blessing for his lean operation. “It’s really been tremendous for us,” Mr. Jones says. “As soon as we saw what it could do for us in saving man hours as well as giving us better performance, we knew this was the ticket.”

Mr. Jones says the parts at Ushers, a precision machining, welding and fabrication company, were being cleaned by hand using wire brushes, chemicals and paper towels, which was labor intensive and time consuming. Producing about 250 parts per day, too much manual labor was being consumed. But more importantly, the process wasn’t yielding very good results, as the parts weren’t clean enough for chrome plating, and thus the chrome wasn’t adhering well to the threads on the gas tip.

Mr. Jones had heard about Ultrasonic’s machines and called the company. Lisa Serafini, a technical sales representative with Ultrasonic, did some parts testing for Ushers.

Ultrasonic Testing

“I did ultrasonic parts testing on stainless steel cavities, cores and bearings,” Ms. Serafini says. “The parts were covered in water scale and oil. These contaminates needed to be removed from the parts before another manufacturing process could take place.”

Ultrasonic Power Corporation has manufactured ultrasonic parts washers since 1972. Its standard product line offers capacities ranging from 1- to 204-gallon systems, and also includes ultrasonic immersible transducers and generators as an economical solution for retrofitting existing non-ultrasonic cleaning equipment.

The system has custom multi-stage clean, rinse and dry systems that are available to fit application-specific needs. “We make the generators and transducers in our facility,” Ms. Serafini says. “We never buy ultrasonic components offshore from another company and then assemble them under our name.”

5- to 7-Minute Wash

The testing was done using a benchtop ultrasonic parts washer with Brulin 815GD detergent at a dilution of 10 percent per gallon at 140°F. The stainless steel parts were immersed in the ultrasonic bath for 5 to 7 minutes, rinsed with warm tap water for a minute and dried with a forced air parts dryer.

When Ushers decided to purchase and install the system, Ms. Serafini says the company immediately realized a cost savings with the new equipment. “Because they no longer needed waste removal of their old chemical, they saved $15,000 in the first year alone,” she says. “The system paid for itself in less than a year. The company has since purchased several other ultrasonic cleaners for its other locations.”

Mr. Jones says his company is cleaning 304 and 410 stainless steel gas tips covered in coolant from machining. The parts are fully immersed in the ultrasonic bath for 20 minutes, rinsed with warm tap water for 15 minutes, and then air dried. The entire process takes about 45 minutes per batch of 30 to 50 parts.

This compares with the previous process, which required as long as 3 hours of manual cleaning per batch, Mr. Jones says. Since the company cleans at least 600 parts per week, the time savings has really added up.

Better Cleaning

“We knew we had to get a better cleaning process in place,” Mr. Jones says. “Using a can of spray just wasn’t getting the job done. Obviously, the time savings is fantastic, but in the end we had to get clean parts before moving them on to be plated.” Now, the shop is moving about 300 parts per day through the plant. “We could have never done that before, especially by hand,” he says.

The previous slow cleaning process was especially apparent when it came to large orders coming in, or those that needed to be turned around quickly. “When it came to crunch time, we were really in trouble,” Mr. Jones says. “It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see what we needed to do.”

Ms. Serafini says her company’s line of cleaners uses ultrasonic vibrations to generate millions of microscopic bubbles that provide the motive force to reach into the smallest crevices on precision machined parts. She says the high-energy release following the bubbles’ vacuum collapse accounts for the ultimate level of clean that ultrasonic precision washers can provide.

The Ultrasonic Power machines have a Vibra-Bar transducer module, which consists of a radiating bar approximately 2 inches by 5.5 inches that is permanently attached to the stainless steel radiating surface by high temperature bonding. Ms. Serafini says on the radiating bar are two active piezoelectric stacks, which consist of PZT elements bolted between the radiating bar and backing plate.

Low Dissipation

“The PZT element is specially formulated to obtain low dissipation, high density and low porosity, which results in improved performance and negligible aging,” Ms. Serafini says. The machines also boast Simultaneous Multi-Frequency, which she says is done by driving the radiating bar at the two areas of the active stacks, which are energized by the 40-kHz oscillation from the generator modulated by either the full wave or half wave mode of operation.

She says the absence of any stack adhesive allows the stack to vibrate and resonate not only in the thickness mode, but also in other modes such as circular and transverse.

No matter how the machine works internally, Mr. Jones and Ushers Machine and Tool Co. are happy to have it. That’s why Ushers has ordered a new, larger model that can hold as much as 135 gallons of water for a second plant near the main shop.

“It’s been a great addition to our operation, and we’re trying to get leaner all the time,” Mr. Jones says. “It’s turned out to be less expensive to operate than the way we were doing things, and the result is a better, cleaner part.”