Parts Cleaning

Selecting a Cleaning System for Small Parts


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A multitude of different systems and cleaning technologies are available for getting dirty parts clean. To budget funds appropriately for the right system, it is important to carefully evaluate all variables surrounding getting the parts clean and dry.

System Options

The purchase of a wash system, as with any capital equipment expenditure, should be closely analyzed to make certain maximum value is gained at minimal cost. However, this does not necessarily equate to the lowest cost equipment yielding the best cleaning results. System types designed for the processing of high volume, small parts include continuous drum, batch drum, rotary basket, dunk tank and conveyor belt systems. Each system type can vary greatly in size, features, material handling complexity and process enhancements such as ultrasonic and mass solution flow.

Cleaning equipment projects for small parts can sometimes be viewed as lower budget projects. To budget funds appropriately for this type of project, it is important to first carefully evaluate the best possible cleaning system that will sufficiently meet the cleaning and drying objectives of the application. Other factors that can impact the selection of a cleaning system type are process flow and the availability of plant space. Consequently, it is of utmost importance that the cleaning and drying requirement are fully understood, and a basic understanding of the process flow and facility considerations should be defined prior to deciding what cleaning system type is best for a project.

Application Requirements

Important considerations for all cleaning applications include the production requirements, sensitive part geometries, critical part areas of cleaning and drying, and the best possible material handling method for processing. In addition, understanding the utility and space requirements, plant environment and overall process flow are factors that can influence the system type best suited for the application.

Selecting the best cleaning system type for the application is paramount to the success of a project; that is, the system should meet both the cleaning and drying objectives and work best with the entire flow of a process. Clean and dry parts are inevitably the goal, but selecting to purchase a standard cleaning system, custom, or even a more complex cleaning technology depends on what first is defined as an acceptable level of clean and dry for the part after being processed. Once defined, the requirements inside and outside of the cleaning process can be more clearly recognized, and the best cleaning system type for the application can be selected.

Prior to the purchase of a new parts cleaning system, it is essential to have a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of all project details in order to properly evaluate the system type that is best suited for an application. Equally important is recognizing what material handling method works best with the equipment outside of the cleaning process, such as manual parts handling or transitions between mechanical handling systems. Understanding these details will not only assist with selection of the cleaning system type, but can help prevent unnecessary labor for manual operations, and possibly limit or eliminate the need for additional material handling equipment.

Project Details

The following key project details need to be clearly communicated to cleaning equipment suppliers quoting a project.

  • The contamination that needs to be removed from the parts. Oils, chips, and other fine particles all require different removal methods as well as unique solution separation systems.
  • The acceptable level of cleanliness or the part cleaning specification. Visually clean parts, or parts cleaned to a weight or particle size specification, require different solution delivery as well as heating systems, impact techniques, and chemistries, as well as filtration types.
  • The acceptable level of solution removal or the exact drying requirement. Parts delivered at exit simply blown off with no dripping, as opposed to those that are completely dry, require vastly different air delivery technologies, air handling techniques, and heating systems.
  • The material flow into and out of the work system. Various processes could be used for moving parts, including manual parts load/unload, manual basket load/unload, continuous load/unload (or feed) from a mechanized material handling system, or a mechanized batch loading system. Each process can require vastly different material handling methodology inside the wash process as well as transitions between handling systems, which impact system complexity and project scope.

Many other project parameters not mentioned can obviously affect what wash system type is best suited to process small parts; however, production, the cleaning and drying requirement, and also material handling methods are the major factors that determine system type. These important factors also have the greatest impact on complexity, size, project scope and overall cost. Understanding these key factors at the start of a project will ensure that the correct system type can be selected for integration into the process.

— International Thermal Systems, LLC


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