Ultrasonic Cleaning

Written by Linda Alexander
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Ultrasonic cleaning uses sound waves and vibrations to clean. Various industries use ultrasonic cleaning, such as automotive rebuilders, golf club users, jewelers, machining, the medical and metals industries. It cleans contaminants such as bacteria, compounds, dust, dirt, fingerprints, grease and mold, oils, sludge and wax.

Ultrasonic cleaning works by converting electricity into high frequency sound waves (humans can't hear these) and alternating between high and low pressure within a cleansing bath. The low pressure causes bubbles to form, called "cavitation."

The bubbles implode under the high pressure, releasing an enormous amount of energy, which cleans the dirt. Because the bubbles work in all directions, ultrasonic cleaning works even on surfaces with many recesses, crevices, and holes. Almost all areas of industrial cleaning use some form of ultrasonic cleaning.

Surfaces Ultrasonic Cleaning Will Clean

It is very effective for cleaning hard surfaces like metals, glass and ceramics, but not as effective at cleaning soft materials. The cleaning process can be used with aqueous, semi-aqueous, and solvent-based systems. Numerous solvents are used, such as fluorocarbons, acids, alcohols, or ether.

When using ultrasonics, you must comply with regulations by such organizations as OSHA, the EPA and the FCC, as well as other federal, state, and local requirements. You must also control interference with computers. Radio frequency (RF) filters will control some interference.

Types of Contaminants Cleaned and Energy Used in Ultrasonic Cleaning

The more stubborn the contaminant, or the more complex the part configuration, the more likely ultrasonic cleaning will work. Buffing compounds and baked-on carbon, for example, are good candidates for ultrasonics. There are other factors that contribute to the cleaning process, such as type of soil, temperature, cycle time, volume of the part, etc.

Thermal energy, chemical energy, and mechanical energy are the types of energy that may be used in the cleaning process. Ultrasonics is one type of mechanical energy and is not the only factor in successful cleaning. Other forms of mechanical energy that can be used in cleaning are immersion, spray, agitation, and rotation of the part.

Before finding the right cleaning process for your application, you must consider using a combination of these energies and finding the right balance. It can be difficult. The relationship of the chemistry, the temperature of the bath, and the degree of mechanical motion that the parts can withstand are factors to consider when choosing the right cleaning process for you.

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