Tackling the Long-Term Sustainability Challenge of Critical Cleaning

In the modern landscape of machining, one crucial step stands out: cleaning. Parts must exit the production line impeccably clean, dry, and primed for subsequent processing. Yet, the intricacies of manufacturing processes often leave parts tainted with grease, machining oils, metal filings, and other industrial residues. Such contaminants not only compromise finishing methods but also jeopardize the reliability of components. To meet rigorous inspection standards and cleanliness specifications, these contaminants demand thorough removal.

Amidst a plethora of critical cleaning solutions, finding a long-term, adaptable process proves challenging. Cleaning industrial parts and surfaces presents several obstacles, including miniaturization, intricate designs, novel materials, and delicate coating technologies. Moreover, the pressing need for cost reduction, compliance with revised environmental regulations, and adherence to workplace safety protocols further complicates the task.

Future-Proof Cleaning Solutions

As industry trends evolve and standards undergo revisions, cleaning processes must demonstrate flexibility and rapid adaptability. Merely achieving effective cleaning is insufficient; the process must also be future-proofed.

Vapor degreasing, in tandem with modern cleaning fluids, emerges as the linchpin for ensuring long-term cleanliness of critical parts. Beyond ensuring component cleanliness, it addresses the economic, environmental, and regulatory imperatives sought by manufacturers.

Vapor Degreasing

A vapor degreaser operates as a thermo-mechanical process comprising two chambers: the boil sump and the rinse sump. In the boil sump, the cleaning fluid is heated, immersing and cleansing the parts. Subsequently, the cleaned parts are mechanically transferred to the rinse sump for a final rinse in pristine, uncontaminated fluid. Consequently, components emerge clean, dry, at ambient temperature, and immediately primed for packaging or further processing.

The advantages of vapor degreasing for parts cleaning are manifold. It offers swiftness, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, worker safety, and exceptional efficacy in trapping and eliminating soils from even the most intricate component designs.

Addressing the Sustainability Imperative

Over the years, the cleaning and preparation of parts for subsequent processing have evolved. Traditionally, the metalworking industry employed water cleaning or vapor degreasing with legacy solvents such as nPB (n-propyl bromide), PERC (perchloroethylene), and TCE (trichloroethylene).

While these legacy solvents may have been highly effective and competitively priced, governmental bodies worldwide are increasingly restricting their usage due to environmental concerns. For instance, Europe banned the use of nPB as an industrial cleaner in 2020, citing its unreasonable risk to human health. Manufacturers are now re-evaluating their cleaning methods and turning to vapor degreasers and safer cleaning fluid alternatives to future-proof their parts cleaning.

Modern vapor degreasing liquids typically boast a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 10 or less, a stark contrast to the GWP ratings in the thousands associated with past cleaning solvents like HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) and HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons). Moreover, these updated fluids, classified as non-hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) with zero Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) and low Volatile Organic Content (VOC), comply with stringent environmental regulations while maintaining uncompromised cleaning performance.

Prioritizing Worker Safety

While sustainability is a top priority for parts manufacturers, ensuring the health and safety of their workforce remains paramount. The properties of new cleaning fluids make them an excellent choice for their enhanced environmental safety and improved personnel protection. These fluids are compositionally stable and non-flammable, enhancing workplace safety. Moreover, many substitutes for nPB, PERC, or TCE boast improved Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), signaling safer working environments for employees.

Ensuring Cleaning Power

Despite addressing environmental and safety concerns, consistent and effective cleaning remains essential. Parts must undergo critical cleaning to avert reliability issues and downstream production complications. Modern cleaning fluids feature attributes conducive to thorough cleaning and surface preparation. Their low surface tension, reduced viscosity, and density enable penetration into hard-to-reach areas and effective removal of foreign particulate. Additionally, these fluids evaporate rapidly, leaving behind no residues—a crucial advantage for materials susceptible to flash rusting.

Matching 'Like Cleans Like' Principle

The effectiveness of cleaning hinges on matching the fluid to the contaminant through the 'like cleans like' principle. For instance, nonpolar pollutants such as oils and greases require nonpolar fluids for optimal removal. Modern cleaning fluids undergo rigorous lab testing to ensure reliable and consistent cleaning results. Formulated using a blend of ingredients, these fluids maximize cleaning effectiveness while minimizing surface damage.

Looking Ahead

In today's production facilities, stringent cleanliness standards for departing parts necessitate a multifaceted approach that emphasizes safety, compliance, and energy efficiency. Vapor degreasing emerges as a cost-effective, consistent, and environmentally friendly solution adaptable to evolving regulations and environmental demands. It not only prioritizes worker health but also offers a long-term, sustainable cleaning process when coupled with modern cleaning fluids.