Dip Tank Technology for Low Waste in the Parts Cleaning Industry

As manufacturers move closer toward zero waste business models, the technology required becomes necessarily more advanced and complex.

In 2010 Volkswagon established a $30 million eco-friendly paint shop in its Chattanooga, TN assembly plant as a part of its process of becoming a more environmentally friendly company. The paint coating process was designed to produce essentially no waste and use 60% less energy than traditional paint processes. This was accomplished in part by employing dip-tank technology. All air in the shop was filtered and recirculated.

Some years later Durr Building Paint Shop From Ground Up was constructed in Detroit to train automaker customers to get the most out of their investments. It was equipped with a fully functioning robotic spray booth, oven, industrial cleaning machines, conveyors, and other equipment for application of adhesives and seals.

Although Volkswagon was on the forefront of high technology use in the automobile industry, they are certainly not the only manufacturer using this dip-tank process. Hiab, part of Cargtec, based in Poland, is also using dip-tank technology to apply an anti-corrosion layer to the cranes it manufacturers. This is the first in a three-step process, and the dip tank is used in order to assure that even difficult to access areas and cavities will be protected with the applied anti-corrosion coating. Again, Hiab will achieve significant energy and water savings and will produce virtually no waste by designing its process this way.

AEC Systems is proud to be involved in continuous improvement manufacturing, working to limit waste and toxic chemicals in the parts cleaning industry. The part cleaners we design tend to be smaller than those built to coat car frames and cranes, but the advances that engineers make in the auto and construction industries can only be of help to all researchers and engineers. AEC frequently employs dip tank technology in the industrial part washers we create for our customers – who are also invested in controlling corrosion in their manufactured products.

If you need a washing system to address a specific need or are looking to add a rust preventative to a washing system, contact us at AEC. We will be happy to discuss your parts washing needs and design an efficient, environmentally friendly solution for you.

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How Do I Remove Swarf and Produce as Little Waste as Possible?


A number of AEC Systems clients have needed parts washers designed to clean recently turned or machined parts, and with these types of products swarf typically is an issue. Swarf, for the unfamiliar, is “material (as metallic particles and abrasive fragments) removed by a cutting or grinding tool.

It is not always easy to remove swarf, particularly when the parts involved have complex geometries. Another consideration is waste. Because of increasing EPA regulation of waste generation in industrial parts washing, it is critical to design systems that come as close as possible to being zero waste producers. For this reason, it is encouraging to see processes, such as the one recently demonstrated in Fagersta, Sweden, that are designed to recycle swarf and oil.

Mireco AB in Sweden built a plant that would allow for the briquetting of oil-drenched swarf captured from a steel polishing process. Previously, this swarf would have gone to a landfill, but the reclaiming of the swarf through briquetting allows for the steel waste products to be reused, accomplishing two complementary goals: waste reduction and resource recycling.

While the initial waste recovery was less than hoped for, Mireco’s own customers have implemented this technology on site in their own plants, and Mireco’s original briquette press is now being used for other metals, such as aluminum foil produce as a byproduct from battery manufacturing.

Other technologies for cleaning and removing swarf are also emerging, including one that utilizes an aqueous surfactant washing technique and another that uses supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. Complicating the evaluating process, cost-benefit analyses of these competing technologies must factor in the regulatory environments in which they would be used. In places that regulate swarf as hazardous waste, there is additional incentive to find further ways to reduce landfilling and produce usable metal material for industrial reuse.

Since one important goal of AEC Systems is to continuously update our knowledge base to help our clients balance profitability and regulatory considerations, it is encouraging to see new technologies emerge, particularly those with industrial parts washers applications. If your company needs assistance in creating a cleaning process to remove swarf and oil from machined parts, please contact us today, so we begin developing a solution together.

By: Ryan Westphal

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AEC Understands the Consequences of Solvent Exposure in Parts Cleaning

solvent exposureAEC Systems understands that we live in a world filled with dirt and grime and that our clients, whether they are in manufacturing, small engine repair, construction, automotive, or the oil and mining industries, battle this every day in order to maintain services or production to specification. EPA regulation continuously challenges business to do better with less damage, to leave a lighter environmental tread mark, and AEC remains committed to both thorough parts cleaning and stringent environmental standards.

Previously solvent exposure has been linked to liver and kidney damage, reproductive damage, respiratory problems, and cancer. One study revealed that exposure to solvents has consequences for memory and cognition not just in the present, but indefinitely into the future. Researchers now believe that even decades later people exposed to paints, degreasers, glues, and adhesives may continue to experience problems with thinking and memory.

Up until now it was commonly thought that exposure to solvents does affect short term brain functioning and cognition, but after studying some 2,143 male retirees (all of whom worked for a French national utility company) with long-term, even long ago exposure, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health now believe the damage is more pervasive and permanent. “When we looked at those where the exposure happened a long time ago, 30 to 50 years before, we found that the effects of solvents on cognitive function didn’t necessarily fade away,” said Erika Sabbath.

Twenty-six percent of the men studied were exposed to benzene, thirty-three percent to chlorinated solvents, and twenty-five percent to petroleum solvents. The amount of exposure was noted carefully. The men were all tested for cognitive function at about ten years into retirement, and fifty-nine percent of them showed some sort of cognitive impairment on between one and three of the eight tests, with twenty-three percent of them showing cognitive impairment on four or more of the eight. Only eighteen percent showed no impairment at all.

The highest rates of impairment in all areas of memory and thinking were measured in men who had the most and most recent exposure to solvents. For instance, the men with high recent exposure to chlorinated solvents, such as those found in engine cleaners and degreasers, were sixty-five percent more likely to to have poorer scores for visual attention, task switching, and memory than those with no solvent exposure.

AEC Systems designs parts washers for our customers deliberately and with consideration of their environmental impact, efficiency, and cost. Aqueous cleaning, which uses heat, water, and corrosion-free detergents, is a much more environmentally friendly alternative to solvents which are frequently harmful, or even poisonous, to the people and environments exposed to them.

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What Does Immersion Do?

immersion dip tank
The vast majority of the parts washers that AEC Systems manufactures utilize more than one process in order to remove contaminants from industrial products. With the correct combination of certain physical processes (in addition to heat and the
cleaning products utilized) working together, parts can be cleaned to a very particular specification. Here we will break down some of these processes in order to understand what kinds of parts and contaminants an immersion style washer cleans best.

What Does Immersion Do?


Most people are familiar with how soaking dishes makes them much easier to clean. Immersion utilizes the same concept, but in regards to parts washing. A part is submerged in a solution bath of water and a cleaning agent where it soaks for an adjustable time frame. Typically, immersion systems are used more for removing heavy soils that have been caked onto parts. These washers are also ideal for larger, heavier parts that do not require high volume of parts output per hour.

What Types of Processes Can Be Utilized in an Immersion Style Washer?

An immersion style or dip tank washer can utilize a number of processes: dip agitation, chemistry, heat, and water agitation, to name a few. Continuing with the same concept of cleaning your dishes, you always want  to start with hot water and dish soap. This is also the first process in your dip tank system, but instead of dish soap, we use customized cleaning chemistry. The heated solution will soften baked-on contaminants while chemistry begins to break up the soils.

Other processes that can be incorporated into your dip tank system are dip and/or water agitation. Water agitation is created by using eductor nozzles that create a jacuzzi effect inside the wash tank. Dip agitation is a mechanical process where a platform gently raises and lowers parts in the solution bath. The benefit to agitation is that it allows the solution to work its way into all areas of the part, including blind spots and channels. It also aids in knocking off the contaminants from the parts.


Heat and chemistry are the first two and most important processes in regards to a dip tank system. However, without any form of agitation your washer may not be able to remove all of the grime that is stuck onto your parts. With the added process of agitation, your washer’s ability to clean parts more effectively will increase significantly. Keep in mind that this is a slower cleaning process that is best suited to remove contaminants that are baked on large, heavy parts or for parts that have channels and blind spots.

In terms of energy, immersion style washers require the least amount of any mechanical washing process. Therefore, an immersion parts washer will be one of the most affordable to buy and run.

If your business has a need for an energy efficient system like our dip tank washer, please call one of our AEC Systems representatives at 616-257-9502. We would be glad to discuss with you what kind of system would best clean your parts to specification.


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How Do You Manage Aqueous Cleaning Waste?

aqueous cleaning waste
Aqueous cleaners offer an
effective and safer clean than solvents by using heat, agitation, and detergent instead of harsh or toxic chemicals. Businesses that utilize aqueous cleaning methods do not expose their workers to unsafe working conditions. They also realize cost savings in the long run. 

Aqueous parts washers do use cleaning products, however, and those cleaning products must be changed out periodically. The aqueous cleaning waste byproducts must be disposed of safely as well. What do businesses have to consider when they dispose of the wastewater from an aqueous parts washer?

Laws Regarding Aqueous Cleaning Waste

Local laws about waste disposal, including wastewater disposal, vary considerably, so every business will have to do some research about wastewater disposal. There are some things that every business should bear in mind, however. They are:  

  • The disposal of parts washer solutions into drywells, onsite septic systems, storm drains, or onto the ground is illegal. Never do this. In some areas, municipal sewer systems allow for disposal of aqueous solutions with permission from the sewer utility. Always contact your municipal wastewater utility before disposing of wastewater this way.
  • Do not dispose of industrial waste into onsite septic systems. Not only is this illegal, but it can contaminate your system or your drain field requiring costly maintenance of the system or its complete replacement.
  • Aqueous solutions may be evaporated since most of them do not contain VOCs. Evaporation leaves a much smaller amount of sludge to dispose of.
  • After evaporation, the remaining sludge, which often contains toxic heavy metals and solvents, is considered hazardous waste. Skimmed oil sludge and solution filters must also be considered hazardous waste depending on testing results.

Businesses should use a waste disposal vendor to dispose of either sludge or untreated wastewater. Licensed waste disposal vendors have the necessary experience, and using one limits liability for a business. Waste disposal vendors will offer different disposal management options for different types of waste. Most will accept some solids in a waste solution. Testing by a waste disposal vendor will determine how the waste must be categorized and disposed of. Aqueous cleaners are less toxic than petroleum solvents, which makes their disposal less expensive for businesses.

wash solution option

Aqueous cleaning is a safer, economical way of cleaning industrial parts. Contamination removed from those parts should not be considered safe to handle or simple to dispose of. Always err on the side of caution and consult your local waste utility and waste disposal vendor before you dispose of any byproducts of the cleaning process. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to either your employees’ safety or your business’s liability.

If you are looking for a parts cleaning system that minimizes waste byproducts, whether hazardous sludge, heat, or other wastes, contact us at AEC Systems, LLC. We would be happy to discuss your unique situation and design a cleaning system specific to your needs.


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Communicating Expectations of Washer Quality, Production, and Cost

As part of AEC Systems’ design process we discuss with each of our customers what their expectations are for the washer we will manufacture for them in terms of washer quality, production, and cost. This communication process typically requires several weeks to complete. We work with the manufacturer’s engineers regarding the selection and configuration of the components used in the parts washer and test the design of the washer, if necessary. 

Here are some questions we ask our customers: 

  • What are your cleaning requirements?
  • Do you need a batch washer or a continuous washer?
  • What time and temperature will be needed to fully clean your parts?
  • How many parts will need to be cleaned in what specific window of time?
  • What results do you need for parts testing?

We also will ask about the specifications for the equipment itself. For each washer we design we need to know what our customer’s needs are in terms of the equipment dimensions, the materials used, and the controls package. 

complex parts cleaning

The customer’s own manufacturing environment also plays a part. How much experience does the manufacturer’s build team have designing equipment like this? What is the factory testing like? What is the checklist for quality control? Is there a sign-off procedure? 

Parts Washer Pricing

Pricing is an important element of this communication process as well, and we will discuss pricing of the base equipment and pricing for additional options. We will discuss the terms of the sale, our shipping and delivery schedule. If there are design changes that occur during or after the manufacturing of the parts washer is completed, this can affect pricing and delivery. We want to be clear about our pricing and make sure everyone’s expectations are the same so everyone is satisfied.

Customer Support 

AEC Systems works closely with our customers after the delivery and installation of their parts washers. We often will work with them again later down the line, making adjustments to the washer as their needs change. Customer support is important to us, so we discuss and determine what support we will provide as a part of this process. This can include:

  • Installation
  • On-site operator training
  • Documentation, including equipment manual and spare parts’ lists
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Spare parts kits 
  • Assistance with service part issues

All of the above are elements of our process. AEC Systems wants to ensure that every customer we have will receive a washer that fully meets their parts cleaning needs, so this communication period is vital to the manufacture of the washer itself. Washer quality doesn’t just happen. It’s a result of the collaborative process we create with our customers, and we take it seriously.

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How Do You Know If You Have the Right Parts Washer?

right parts washerMost people inherently understand what is required to clean things from doing dishes or washing the car. Some dirt will come off with soaking or spraying. Grease requires soap to remove. Stickiness or baked on grime will require scrubbing with varying degrees of pressure. It’s the same with industrial parts. To choose the best kind of parts washer you need to understand what needs to be removed from it.

Why are there so many different kinds of parts washers? If you browse our product line page or our Parts Washer of the Month pageyou’ll see a wide variety of parts washers. If you’ve never before purchased a parts washer before or have only used a washer that was purchased “off the rack,” you might be overwhelmed by the number of choices available. What is the right parts washer for your need? How do you know where to begin?

rolled sheet metal

Aqueous parts washers utilize water to clean. Water is the primary solvent, the universal solvent, and it can be heated, sprayed, or agitated to increase its cleaning action. In addition to water, various chemicals will be added to add in removing contaminants like grease, rust, scale, or coolants. These cleaners may be alkaline, acidic, or chelating agents.

dual door cabinet washer

The benefit of working with AEC Systems is that we have designed a spectrum of parts washers specifically for our clients’ needs. We have the experience and knowledge to make choosing which parts washer would work simpler, and we can design a system to clean any part, no matter how complex or large.

Our design process begins with understanding what our clients’ requirements are in terms of cleanliness, system operation, work space available, and environmental impact. If you’d like to have the right parts washer that will work most efficiently and cost effectively for your need, you can depend on us to supply you with that system. Contact us today. 



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Design for Degradation

design for degradationAs the scientific community’s understanding and exploration of the boundaries of chemistry grows, we begin to see how we can accomplish two goals that previously were thought to be incompatible: environmental responsibility and modern living with large-scale economies and manufacturing. Another one of those principles is degradation, or as the American Chemical Society calls it, design for degradation.

Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.

Ultimately, the goal for green chemistry is to leave the environment as it was, and to avoid any harm to the people who must handle these chemicals. Many people are familiar with the concept of biodegradation and assume that it’s an unqualified good. If the material in a chemical process is organic and will degrade, then it’s not harmful, right? Two examples of biodegradation we appreciate and promote as a society are composting and water treatment plants.

However, just because something is organic and will decompose does not mean that it isn’t harmful in the wrong environment or quantity. One example is the molasses pipeline spill that occurred in Honolulu, Hawaii in September of 2013.

Molasses is, of course, edible, and it’s soluble in water, but it’s also a very dense material, and when 200,000 gallons of it spilled from a pipeline and sank to the bottom of Honolulu Harbor, it smothered the sea life there. The good news is that via bioremediation, bacteria in the water should be able to consume the sugar in the molasses and restore the harbor much faster than an oil spill. The bad news is, thousands of dead fish and a huge mess that takes time to fix.

The parts cleaners that AEC Systems designs rely on aqueous cleaning rather than solvents. This means that they are safer and do not have the same amount of toxic byproducts or wastes that must be disposed of after the fact. However, our clients are looking for solutions that have no after-the-fact wastes, including wash water or heat byproducts, both because these processes are green and because governments are becoming ever more restrictive about heat and water wastes.

Designing safer chemicals and waste prevention and management work in tandem with other goals like design for degradation. It’s AEC’s goal to design and manufacture parts cleaning solutions that are efficient, inexpensive, and green to operate while meeting stringent requirements for cleanliness. Every stride made in green chemistry will eventually be incorporated in everyday products like ours, which is why every new discovery in modern chemistry is exciting to read about.

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Design for Energy Efficiency

energy efficiencyA core principle of green chemistry deals with the energy that a chemical process uses, rather than the interactions of the chemicals themselves. This is Principle #6: Design for Energy Efficiency. It states:

Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.

In this video, Chemistry students at the University of Toronto explain this principle in terms of controlling energy use within a lab.

Much of the time when we think of green chemistry we think of Principle #4, Designing Safer Chemicals. This is because the results of using toxic chemicals are easily detected and quantified. We can measure soil that can no longer be used after a chemical spill or leak. However, when it comes to energy, it’s much more challenging but just as important to determine how much is used, especially when evaluating the costs of using certain processes.

For instance, it’s much easier to quantify what goes into a parts washer – electricity, water, solvents, and surfactants. Aqueous cleaning is a greener and safer alternative to cleaning with solvents, but heat is an essential part of the process. Parts washers also contain multiple moving parts that act to spray or spin objects clean. The heat or steam that is allowed to escape after the parts washing process is over must be considered wastes along with the waste water, sludge, oil, dirt, and other contaminants.

The students in the above video discuss how much energy is wasted in a typical lab, but on a larger scale all of that waste is multiplied exponentially. Manufacturers must consider the expense of any industrial process, whether it is manufacturing or cleaning in order to operate profitably, but large scale heat waste can impact the environment or communities in a very negative way as well.

It’s our job at AEC Systems to design parts cleaners that use water, chemicals, heat, and energy as efficiently as possible, so that waste byproducts are produced at a minimum. Many companies today are striving for zero waste processes, and we want our parts washers to conform as closely to that ideal, whether that means reusing water, chemicals, heat, or motion or using less of any or all of those things. As the principle above states, environmental and economic impacts should be minimized so that our customers can operate profitably and are not faced with disposal hassles and costs.

How efficiently is your parts washer operating right now? If you’d like to discuss a better, more economical and environmentally friendly option, contact us AEC Systems today.


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How Often Do I Need to Change My Aqueous Cleaning Product?

When business owners begin to do their research on industrial parts washers, they have questions. They think about what kind of parts washer would be best to use for their specific needs. They wonder whether they can purchase one already made or should have one designed to clean parts to specification. They calculate how much space the parts washer will take up on the shop floor and how many employees it will take to operate it.

Another question they should ask, particularly when it comes to aqueous parts washers is: How often will the aqueous cleaning product need to be replaced? If you’re a business owner in the market for a parts cleaner, how do you know the answer to this question?

While aqueous parts washers use water-based solutions to clean instead of petroleum-based solvents, those solutions require cleaning formulations to do their work (in addition to heat, agitation, and soap action). Those cleaners have a limited lifespan. Even when a parts washer is combined with a washer washer, the cleaners do not last forever; they degrade. A number of factors influence how long they will do their job effectively. These are:

The amount of dirt, grease, or swarf the cleaner has to remove – This would include how dirty the individual parts are and how many parts there are to clean. Is the “dirt” just dirt or is it debris or swarf? What is the overall workload? If the parts are very dirty, the cleaner will lose its effectiveness sooner and have to be replaced.

How big the parts washer’s sump is – The size of the sump determines how much soil in solution the parts washer will be able to accommodate before the solution no longer works to clean. The smaller the sump, the sooner the cleaner will need to be replaced.

Because the soil composition varies based on the parts themselves and how they are used, it’s difficult to estimate how long a cleaner will last. It’s a good question to ask of your parts washer manufacturer, however. The engineer who designs the parts washer will have an idea.

After you have installed your parts washer and begin to use it, you can monitor how clean your parts are bath after bath and then determine when the cleanliness levels dip below specification. After observing this process several times, you’ll have a better idea of how often you will have to replace the cleaning product for your parts washer to remain effective.

If you are looking at parts washers and would like to know how a specifically designed washer can and would work to clean your parts better and more efficiently, call us at AEC Systems. We would love to talk to you about your needs and how we can design a system to meet them.


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