Heavy Parts Degreasing with Industrial Ultrasonic Cleaners

A Tova Pro industrial ultrasonic cleaner
A SHIRACLEAN industrial ultrasonic cleaner

Heavy parts degreasing engines and other heavy, complex machinery components can be accomplished quickly and effectively by cavitation action in industrial ultrasonic cleaners. This post provides guidance on the benefits of ultrasonic cleaning, how to use an industrial ultrasonic cleaner, and how to get the best performance from your industrial ultrasonic cleaning equipment.

But first….

Why Use an Industrial Ultrasonic Cleaner?

Cleaning and degreasing heavy parts can be accomplished several ways. Commonly used options include high-pressure steam cleaning and degreasing, solvent-based wash tanks and high-pressure sprays. 

Common disadvantages of these options in addition to being time-consuming is that they are unable to penetrate and remove grease and other contaminants lodged in cracks, crevices and blind holes found in complex-shaped industrial parts.

Yet another disadvantage is that solvent-based wash tanks and sprays may introduce environmental concerns both in terms of use and solvent disposal.

In contrast…

As explained below, industrial ultrasonic cleaners quickly and thoroughly clean heavy industrial parts in a far more environmentally friendly way than time-consuming scrubbing and brushing in a solvent parts washer with associated solvent disposal problems.  

Instead, biodegradable ultrasonic cleaning solutions employed can usually be disposed of in sanitary drains. 

How Do Industrial Ultrasonic Cleaners Work?

Before describing how to use an industrial ultrasonic cleaner, here’s a short tutorial on how ultrasonic cleaners work.

They operate on what is called cavitation action.

Cavitation action is the implosion of billions of minute bubbles created in the ultrasonic cleaning solution by generator-powered ultrasonic transducers. 

These bubbles implode with tremendous energy to safely remove the most tenacious contaminants – even those in tiny cracks and crevices common to heavy parts degreasing. The process leaves a clean surface. 

In most but not all instances satisfactory cleaning can be accomplished in about 10 to 20 minutes without supervision

Check our blog post for more information on how to specify an industrial ultrasonic cleaner.

What Is An Example Of An Industrial Ultrasonic Cleaner?

An example of an industrial ultrasonic cleaner is the SHIRACLEAN series available from Tovatech in 5 models with cleaning solution capacities from 25 to 110 gallons. 

Caster-mounted for portability the series operates at an ultrasonic frequency of 40 kHz (40,000 cycles per second) produced by generator-powered immersible transducers placed on the interior tank bottom and protected by a grill.  

Units are equipped with weirs, spray bars and filters to prolong the cleaning solution life (see Solution Maintenance section below). These industrial ultrasonic cleaners also have a sweep mode to provide uniform distribution of cavitation action throughout the bath for more efficient ultrasonic cleaning industrial parts.

How To Use An Industrial Ultrasonic Cleaner?

Most ultrasonic cleaning cycles follow similar procedures.  Routines are based on what is being cleaned and its condition.  You’ll develop your processes based on experience.  Here’s a typical cycle on how to use an industrial ultrasonic cleaner using the SHIRACLEAN series.*

First Steps

  • Fill the cleaning tank with water to the top of the overflow weir. Add water to the weir tank until it is a minimum 2/3 full.
  • Add the correct amount of cleaning solution concentrate based on the capacity of the cleaning tank. 
Elma tec clean A4 

An example is the alkaline and demulsifying elma tec clean A4 formulated to remove oil, grease and other organic contamination from metal surfaces. Recommended dilution is to 2 to 5%; recommended solution temperature is approximately 120⁰ to 175⁰F. For temporary corrosion protection add elma-KS in accordance with instructions.

  • Accommodate displacement by parts being cleaned so that the cleaning solution level is at the fill line when parts are immersed. Do this by drawing off and setting aside enough solution to meet this requirement.
  • Fresh cleaning solutions must be degassed to remove trapped air. Close the unit’s lid, turn it on and let it run for approximately 10-15 minutes to both mix and degas the solution.  There is a noticeable difference in sound when degassing is completed.

The Cleaning Cycle

This description on how to use an industrial ultrasonic cleaner is based on the SHIRACLEAN model described.

Before cleaning and degreasing extremely dirty heavy industrial parts take the time to scrape or otherwise remove heavy deposits of dirt and grime.

During and after cleaning cycles keep the lid on the unit to reduce noise, to help maintain the solution temperature, and to reduce loss from evaporation.

  • If cleaning smaller parts in stainless steel baskets arrange them in such a way that they do not contact each other.
  • Suspend large parts in the cleaning solution but kept clear of the side walls and bottom grill. In this instance the unit’s lid remains open.
  • Set the temperature to the desired value. The control panel displays set and actual temperature.
  • When the set temperature is reached activate the ultrasound, lower the basket into the solution and let it rest on the bottom grill. Set the timer. The control panel displays set and actual time.
  • At the end of the cycle remove and inspect the parts. If further cleaning is required repeat the cycle.
  • If cleaning solution residues are not acceptable rinse parts with hot water.
  • Allow parts to flash dry or consider an optional hot air dryer.

Parts are ready for further processing or assembly.

How to Maintain Ultrasonic Cleaner Cleaning Solutions?

Contaminants removed from parts remain in the cleaning solution. 

Oily contaminants rise to the surface; hard contaminants settle to the bottom of the tank. 

To prolong solution life the spray bar and weir direct floating residue into the weir tank. Residues can be skimmed off for either recycling or disposal according to local regulations.

The units are also equipped with a pump and dual cartridge filtration system that should be employed on a routine basis. 

The system draws from the weir tank, filters it then returns it to the cleaning tank via the spray bar.  The filtration system does not operate during the cleaning cycle as it diminishes cavitation efficiency.  

Although skimmers and filters greatly prolong the useful life of the cleaning solution eventually efficiency will decline signaling that the solution must be replaced. 

Drain the tank and dispose of the spent solution following local regulations. Clean the tank according to the operations manual then prepare and degas a new batch.

As stated above, industrial ultrasonic cleaners are available in several sizes, capacities and features. For help on selecting and using industrial ultrasonic cleaners contact the experts at Tovatech.

*Operating features for the SHIRACLEAN series can be customized to meet users’ requirements.  That’s why our example is just that – an example.

About Rachel Kohn

So how did an MIT Ph.D. end up selling refrigerators? When I figured out that a lot more scientists buy lab refrigerators than innovative leading-edge instruments. I hope that my many years of lab experience will help you find the right equipment for your work. Before co-founding Tovatech I worked in business development and project management at Smiths Detection, Photon-X, Cardinal Health, and Hoechst Celanese. And before that I spent 12 years as an R&D chemist at Hoechst Celanese and Aventis working on advanced drug delivery systems, polymer films and membranes, optical disks, and polysaccharides. Some day, eventually, I’ll make enough money to develop an innovative technology that will change the world. Read More