Ultrasonic Cleaners – Technology:
Ultrasonic cleaning is a process that uses ultrasound (usually from 20–400 kHz) and an appropriate cleaning solvent (sometimes ordinary tap water) to clean items. The ultrasound can be used with just water, but use of a solvent appropriate for the item to be cleaned and the type of soiling present enhances the effect. Cleaning normally lasts between three and six minutes, but can also exceed 20 minutes, depending on the object to be cleaned.
Ultrasonic cleaners are used to clean many different types of objects, including jewelry, lenses and other optical parts, watches, dental and surgical instruments,tools, coins, fountain pens, golf clubs, fishing reels, window blinds, firearms, car fuel injectors, musical instruments, gramophone records, industrial parts and electronic equipment. They are used in many jewelry workshops, watchmakers' establishments, and electronic repair workshops.
Ultrasonic Cleaning Equipment Benefits
Reduced process time
Ability to clean inaccessible areas
Improved cleaning quality
Non labour intensive
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Ultrasonic Cleaning?
Ultrasonic cleaning is the rapid and complete removal of contaminants from objects, achieved by immersion in a tank of liquid which is then flooded with high frequency sound waves.
These non-audible sound waves create a scrubbing action within the fluid, brought about by high frequency electrical energy that is converted by a transducer into high frequency sound waves – ultrasonic energy.
How does it work?
Ultrasonic energy enters the liquid within the tank and causes the rapid formation and collapse of minute bubbles; a phenomenon known as cavitation. The bubbles travel at high speed within the tank, causing them to implode against the surface of the immersed item with an enormous release of energy. This gently lifts contaminants from both the surface and innermost recesses of intricately shaped parts.
As the bubbles implode and cavitation occurs, the cleaning solution rushes into the gap left behind by the bubbles. When the cleaning solution makes contact with the item in question, any contaminants, dirt and tarnishing which are present simply falls away.
What is cavitation?
Cavitation is the rapid formation and collapse of millions of tiny bubbles (or cavities) in a liquid. Cavitation is produced by the alternating high and low pressure waves generated by high frequency (ultrasonic) sound. During the low pressure phase, these bubbles grow from microscopic size until, during the high pressure phase, they are compressed and implode.
What is degassing, and why should it be done?
Degassing is the initial removal of gases present in the solution. Useful cavitation occurs after gasses have been removed from the cleaning solution, leaving a vacuum in the formed bubble. When the high pressure wave hits the bubble wall, the bubble collapses; it is the energy released by this collapse that will assist a detergent in breaking the bonds between parts and their soils.
How do I get the best ultrasonic cleaning?
There are many considerations important to ultrasonic cleaning. Optimizing these variables will produce the best cleaning. The most important decisions to be made are choosing the proper cleaning solution, cleaning at the right temperature for the correct amount of time, and choosing the right size and type of ultrasonic cleaner.
Can ultrasonic cleaning damage my parts?
With certain cautions, ultrasonic cleaning is considered safe for most parts. While the effects of thousands of implosions per second is very powerful, the cleaning process is safe since the energy is localized at the microscopic level. The most important cautionary consideration is the choice of cleaning solution. Potentially adverse effects of the detergent on the material being cleaned will be enhanced by the ultrasonics. Ultrasonic cleaning is not recommended for the following gemstones: opal, pearl, emerald, tanzanite, malachite, turquoise, lapis and coral.
What is direct and indirect cleaning?
Direct cleaning occurs when the parts are cleaned in a cleaning solution which fills the cleaner, usually inside a perforated tray or mesh basket. The limitation of direct cleaning is that a solution must be chosen that will not damage the ultrasonic cleaner. Indirect cleaning involves placing the parts to be cleaned in an inner non-perforated tray or beaker that often contains a solution that the user may not want directly filling the ultrasonic tank. When choosing indirect cleaning, make sure that the water level inside the tank itself is maintained to the fill line (about 1″ from the tank top) at all times.
Why is a special solution required for cleaning?
Soils adhere to the parts… if they didn’t, the soil would just fall off the parts! The purpose of the solution is to break the bonds between parts and their soils. Water alone has no cleaning properties. The primary purpose of the ultrasonic activity (cavitation) is to assist the solution in doing its job. An ultrasonic cleaning solution contains various ingredients designed to optimize the ultrasonic cleaning process. For example, increased cavitation levels result from reduced fluid surface tension. An ultrasonic solution will contain a good wetting agent or surfactant.
What cleaning solution should I use?
Modern ultrasonic cleaning solutions are compounded from a variety of detergents, wetting agents and other reactive components. A large variety of excellent formulations are available, designed for specific applications. Proper selection is crucial for acceptable cleaning activity and to preclude undesirable reactivity with the part being cleaned.
What cleaning solution shouldn’t I use?
Flammables or solutions with low flash points should never be used. The energy released by cavitation is converted to heat and kinetic energy, generating high temperature gradients in the solution, and can create hazardous conditions with flammable liquids. Acids, bleach and bleach by-products should generally be avoided, but may be used with indirect cleaning in a proper indirect cleaning container, such as a glass beaker, and appropriate care. Acid and bleach will damage stainless steel tanks, and/or create hazardous conditions.
When should solutions be changed?
Cleaning solutions should be replenished when a noticeable decrease in cleaning action occurs, or when the solution is visibly dirty or spent. A fresh batch of solution at each cleaning session is usually not required.
Why must I keep solution at the tank’s level indicator?
The solution level should always be maintained at the level indicator in the tank, with trays or beakers installed. The ultrasonic cleaning system is a ‘tuned’ system. Improper solution levels will change the characteristics of the environment, can affect the system frequency, decrease effectiveness, and potentially damage the cleaner. Maintaining the proper solution level provides optimum circulation of solution around parts, and protects heaters and transducers from overheating or stress.
What is the length of cleaning time?
Cleaning time will vary, depending on such things as soil, solution, temperature and the degree of cleanliness desired. Highly visible removal of soils should start almost immediately after the ultrasonic cleaning action begins. Cleaning time adjustment is the easiest (and most often misapplied) factor used to compensate for process variables. Although new application cycle duration can be approximated by an experienced operator, it usually must be validated by actual use with the chosen solution and the actual soiled parts.
What is the purpose of the unit heater?
The primary purpose of the unit heater is to maintain a solution temperature between cleaning cycles. The tremendous energy released by cavitation will generate the heat for cleaning.
Why must trays or beakers be used?
Items being cleaned should never be placed directly on the tank bottom. Transducers (which produce the ultrasound) are bonded to the bottom of the tank. Items resting directly on the tank bottom can damage the transducers and/or reduce cavitation. Additionally, a tray or beaker will position the item within the optimal cleaning zone of the tank. The tray or beaker will also hold the load together and allow for easy, no-touch removal, draining and transport of the items to the next step in the cleaning process.
What is the optimum cleaning temperature?
Heat usually enhances and speeds up the cleaning process, and most detergent solutions are designed to work best at an elevated temperature. The best way to find the optimum temperature, which will give you the fastest, cleanest and safest results, is to run tests. Usually, the best results are within the 50°C to 65°C range.
Is rinsing required after cleaning cycles?
Rinsing is recommended to remove any chemical residue, which could be harmful to the part. Parts can be rinsed right in your ultrasonic cleaner, using a clean water bath, or in a separate tub containing tap, distilled or deionized water
Why shouldn’t I leave my cleaner on constantly?
Low solution levels can seriously damage your cleaner. Running your unit continuously runs the strong risk of lowered levels as the solution evaporates, especially when heated. Getting into the habit of shutting off the ultrasonics when not in use, and monitoring the solution level when in use, will yield many years of trouble free service from your ultrasonic cleaner.