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?

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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What Your Parts Washer Performance Should Be

parts washer performanceDoes your business need a new parts washer? Is your current parts washer performing efficiently and to specification? Does it need frequent repair? AEC Systems has been designing and manufacturing parts washers for decades. We want our customers to know that a parts washer that is correctly designed and built will perform its job the right way the first time. There are five expectations you should have of parts washer performance. Your parts cleaning system should:

Remove contaminant from parts – Parts should no longer be coated with dirt or contaminants after they have been washed. In fact, a parts washer should be able to do this within one cycle. You should not have to run your machine repeatedly to ensure that all traces of common contaminants like dirt, grease, oil, cleaning fluids, water and swarf are removed. If you’ve been using an older machine or one that’s not suited to your application, you might think repeat cycles are necessary to get parts clean. This isn’t true.

Clean efficiently – Older or one-size-fits-all parts cleaners often take longer to clean and use more energy to operate. Time and energy cost your business money every single time a parts washer is run. Efficient cleaning is possible with the right parts cleaner.

Dry to specificationDrying is usually the most complex part of cleaning a component, and it needs to be done exactly right and not expend any more energy than necessary.

Minimize costs – Time and energy are not the only costs associated with parts washers. Cleaners cost money,  and so does machine maintenance. There is also waste disposal to consider – waste heat, waste water, sludge. A correctly engineered machine will require less cleaner and produce less waste for a company to dispose of.

Operate safely – No parts washer should be a health threat to an operator. The washer should be designed to foil any anticipated operator error. Parts washers can be built to size in order to accommodate space requirements or constraints. They can also be designed to need less operator input in order to increase safety and lower operational costs.

parts washer performance

There are so many parts washing options available that your parts washer should be able to accomplish all of the above. A new parts washer is an investment, but old parts washers are expensive to run. If you are interested in having a high performance parts washer built with the cleaning needs of your parts in mind, call us today at AEC Systems. We have over 30 years experience with these systems, and we can design one to clean any part efficiently and to specification.


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Replace Trichloroethylene (TCE) with Aqueous Cleaning for a Safe and Clean Solution


Chemical structure of trichloroethylene (TCE) pollutant and obsolete anesthetic

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a non-flammable liquid clorinated hydrocarbon used as an industrial solvent for its degreasing properties. It’s commonly used in dry cleaning as well. Surprisingly enough, given what we now know, it was used topically on humans as a disinfectant and anesthetic and even incorporated into coffee as a spice. The FDA banned these uses in 1977 after the toxicity to humans and wildlife of TCE was determined. Businesses quite commonly continued to use trichloroethylene as a solvent, though. For this reason it’s found in in the environment in indoor and outdoor air and drinking and surface water.

In May of 2013, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study showing possible links between trichloroethylene and liver cancer and called for more research. Previous studies have shown a link between TCE and cancers of the kidney, cervix, liver and biliary passages as well as other types of cancer including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Unfortunately, buried waste from industrial uses has leaked into the ground water, placing the general population at risk for higher exposure to TCE. It’s found at Superfund sites throughout the country.

These kinds of complications from chemical solvent use underline the need for more environmentally friendly cleaning processes, either using safer chemicals or other cleaning methods such as aqueous cleaning technology. Water-based or more environmentally friendly solvents reduce the risks of employee and environmental exposure to toxins without compromising the benefits of solvents. Many companies have found that replacing TCE with aqueous parts cleaning technology can be safer and less expensive.

AEC Systems is committed to providing companies with environmentally safe parts cleaning technology and working towards ever more stringent goals of zero waste production. Clean should also mean safe – for parts and for people.

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Why Is Aqueous Cleaning Better than Using Solvents?

aqueous cleaningParts washers are unseen heroes of the everyday world, doing the task of keeping parts we never even consider clean. Most people don’t stop to think about how those parts washers do their jobs. How do grease, oil, grime, and otherwise hard-to-clean contaminants get removed? Is that process safe?

During the mid-20th century the chemical revolution that produced wall-to-wall carpet, pharmaceuticals, and plastics also developed ways to clean parts. For most businesses that had to clean parts regularly in order to operate, this meant using solvents. Chemicals such as benzene and trichloroethylene worked very efficiently and effectively to remove grease and baked-on contaminants. The problem was that these solvents caused real damage to the people who worked with them and to the geographical areas in which they were used. Many of the Superfund sites that cost the public, the government, and the environment so much money and time to clean were (and are) toxically polluted from solvent exposure. As a society, we became aware of the damage these chemicals caused only well after the fact.

The long-term effects of solvent exposure on people has been linked to reproductive damage, liver and kidney disease, respiratory issues, cancer, and even brain health and memory.

In 1970 Congress passed the Clean Air Act. The EPA began regulating solvent use in the early 1970s, requiring businesses to follow much more stringent emissions and disposal requirements. Much progress has been made restoring polluted land and water and in designing safer chemicals since then. Still, solvents are widely used today in many industries and manufacturing sectors. You’re familiar with the smell of some of them, including that new car smell. Yes, that’s the smell a toxic mixture of solvents and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produces.

Volatile organic compounds aren’t just bad for indoor environments. They evaporate and react with other pollutants in outdoor air to produce ozone, and increased ozone is bad for health too. It causes headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation, exacerbates respiratory problems like asthma, and has even been linked to cancer. Because of this, many state governments continue to pass legislation further limiting the use of VOCs.

Companies still need clean parts, however, regulations or not. As a result, aqueous washers have proliferated as the safer and more economical alternative to using traditional solvents. Aqueous washers use water instead of chemical solvents in tandem with other mechanical or chemical methods in order to clean parts to specification. This can be challenging, but the results are safer and even more economical in the long term. It’s important to remember that, while aqueous cleaning is a more environmentally safe way to clean, proper disposal of all cleaning solutions should always be done.

AEC Systems designs our industrial parts washers to utilize water and heat, pressure, agitation, and other engineering solutions to remove dirt, grease, oil, and swarf effectively and safely, minimizing expensive waste removal costs. We can design a parts washer to clean any part, no matter how large, small, or complex. If you have a unique cleaning challenge, call us today. We would love to discuss how we can solve your problem together.







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Customizing a Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

The Problem:

A customer came to AEC Systems with a cleaning problem that could not be satisfactorily resolved by the traditional washer solutions. Our customer had used standard cabinet style washers to clean the inside and outside of canister engine liners with only varying degrees of success.

In the discovery portion of the process we determined that the client’s current washer cleaned these liners at a rate of one liner every 2 and a half minutes. The parts were washed, rinsed and dried. After this point in the customer’s process, the parts were transported to a separate rust preventative dip tank. Between the wash process and rust-prevention process, every eighth part needed to be examined and gauged for tolerances.

All of these processes were very labor intensive and our customer was looking to reduce labor from three workers to one. The customer also had space constraints – a very limited work envelope that they were trying to stay within. Finally, the canister engine liners had unique features that made them difficult to get completely dry. This client needed a parts washer specifically designed to solve these time, space, and financial complications.

Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

Our Solution:

AEC Systems presented the customer with a three-station, auto-feed, guillotine-door pass-through washer. The first chamber washed the liner on a turntable with a retracting center nozzle in order to fully clean both the inside and outside of the liner.

The second stage, which also featured a turntable with retractable center nozzle, was both a rinse and blow-off stage to provide a polishing rinse and dry. Once the part was washed, rinsed and dried, the liner moved out of the turntable chamber and was automatically lowered into a rust-prevention dip solution. Every eighth part was held, allowing the operator to remove it to check for machined tolerances.

This solution modified the honing/washing operation from a three-person operation to a one-person operation. We were also able to design the parts washer to fit within the limited work envelope the customer’s space required.

Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

Our Customer’s Feedback:

Our customer has had this three chamber pass through washer with dip tank in continuous operation for three years with minimal downtime. This washer has become the workhorse of their operation with its reliable error-free process. It has saved them in labor costs year over year. Our customer has become a reliable reference for the durability and successful implementation of a custom, non-traditional solution.

AEC Systems would be honored to be involved in your parts cleaning solution. Businesses often feel they must settle for off-the-rack solutions to complex operational realities. Could the parts washer you are currently using be modified into a space saving, labor reducing solution? Call us. We would love to work with you to find out. (To read an interview with the designers with more specifics about this parts washer, click here.)

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What Kind of Parts Washer Is Best for My Company’s Needs?

parts washer is best top load washer“What parts washer is best for my company’s needs?”

This is the kind of question that AEC Systems can answer most authoritatively and comprehensively for our customers. If you are unfamilar with the range of parts washers, essentially there are four commonly used cleaning methods:

  1. Manual cleaning
  2. Automated cleaning
  3. Immersion/agitation cleaning
  4. Ultrasonic cleaning

Each of the above types of cleaning has its pros and cons. Manual systems are used when cleanliness specifications are less rigorous and when the company only needs parts cleaning capabilities for a fraction of the work day.

Automated cleaning systems are used when parts need to be cleaned more frequently, must meet more stringent cleanliness specs, and cannot be cleaned well or easily by hand. The most frequently used automated processes are immersion-agitation cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning. These two methods differ in a number of ways, including price, and a business must consider what their cleaning needs entail specifically.

Cabinet washers operate much like dishwashers, and conveyor belt systems, and additional rinse or drying cycles may be easily added on to them to address specific problems. Vat-style washers, however, use high energy bubbles to vibrate parts clean and are better for small parts and items with crevices or harder-to-reach places.

Many businesses assume that a standard parts washing system will work best and be most affordable for their needs. As with any other tool, however, you must examine the purpose. What will your parts washer be used to clean, and how often will it be used? Daily? All day? Are the parts it will be used on difficult to clean, dry, or dip? What is the chemical composition of the dirt or grime needed removed? How many workers will be required to run it? Will they have to be taken away from other work? What are the requirements for waste disposal or emissions?

An off-the-rack solution is perfectly acceptable for many parts-washing needs, but many of our customers have found that properly designed parts washing systems save their businesses money over time and make complying with environmental regulations an easier task.

If you have any questions about which kind of system would be best for your business, AEC Systems would be happy to advise you.

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Waste Prevention and Management

zero wasteIn another blog we discussed one of the principles of green chemistry – designing safer chemicals. This time we’ll talk about another principle that AEC Systems considers paramount every time we design a parts washer for a client: prevention. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.

In the natural world, organic matter  decays and becomes part of its environment when it dies. It nourishes the soil and provides nutrients for future life. Ideally, we could design cleaning systems that accomplished the same: recycling everything for another use and producing zero waste.

Zero waste management is an important goal companies strive for a number of reasons. First, environmental awareness is more prevalent everywhere as the limitations of our planet become more obvious. Anything that can be reused costs less money and requires the mining or production of fewer resources. Second, the government is becoming more strict in its regulation of waste as a way of stopping the kinds of environmental disasters of the twentieth century from occurring. No company wants to deal with either lawsuits or cleanup of that kind of damage. Finally, disposal of true waste – material that cannot be reused in any way and/or is toxic – is becoming much more expensive. Striving towards zero waste in cleaning processes makes sense in all of these ways.

Roger Sheldon,  Professor Emeritus of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, described the measure of waste as the E-factor: the mass ratio of waste to desire product and the atom efficiency. This idea and terminology is now used by companies globally for assessing the efficiency and environmental impact of chemical processes.

When we interviewed Ray Graffia of Arbortech Corporation, he discussed the usefulness of the washer washer. Utilizing a filtration system, companies can reuse the same wash water over and over, saving money and limiting waste. But what about producing less waste in the first place? Can a system be designed that will produce no waste byproducts, heat, or exhaust?

That is the question that engineers worldwide seek to answer in the affirmative. Recycling or reusing oil, grease, dirt, swarf, and other residues that are removed from parts during the cleaning process might seem an impossible goal. However, we’ve seen other unimaginable goals achieved over and over in the last fifty years, including putting men on the moon and designing complex computing systems that can be carried around in anyone’s back pocket. With time, effort, research, and dedication very little is impossible.

AEC Systems is committed to building the best, most efficient, and most environmentally friendly parts washing systems for our customers. A core component of that is pursuing zero waste as a goal.

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