Surfactants Are Safe

surfactants

Studies indicate that surfactants, have long been considered a threat to the environment, are actually benign in terms of their overall effect on water quality and fragile ecosystems.

Surfactants, short for surface active agents and defined as “compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid,” act as detergents, emulsifiers, dispersants, foaming agents, and wetting agents. In practice, most people know surfactants as soaps, shampoos, and detergents, and they use them to clean and remove grease and grime from clothing, dishes, and any number of other items.

Surfactants are able to remove dirt and oils because they are water soluble but can, at the same time, dissolve fats. This is because surfactant molecules have hydrophilic heads and a hydrophobic tails; their hydrophilic heads are polar and are attracted by the molecules of polar solvents such as water.  Their hydrophobic tails are non-polar and are repelled by water molecules. So soap molecules function as a bridge between water molecules and fat molecules, enabling oils, suspended in solution, to be washed away in a stream of water.

Aqueous parts washers rely on surfactants to clean grease, grime, dirt, oil, and swarf from the parts they are designed to clean. The aqueous process was designed to replace the use of solvents, which can have numerous negative and long-term health consequences, with water-based chemicals. The result is an environmentally friendly cleaning process that does not pose a health risk to workers or give off poisonous fumes or other undesirable byproducts.

Surfactants have been maligned by environmentalists for decades as having too much of a negative impact on water and aquatic animal populations, and yet humans use millions of tons of surfactants annually. Now, as the results of more than 250 studies done over decades have been compiled, the conclusion researchers have reached is that, when used correctly in water that is filtered through proper water treatment facilities, surfactants are safe. This is because they degrade so rapidly once they are used.
This is good news for anyone who likes clean clothes, clean dishes, or clean hair, not to mention cleaned auto parts or machined pieces. If surfactants are safe to use, we can care for and properly maintain any number of things while being, at the same time, environmentally responsible. If only all man-made cleaning products were as benign as surfactants are!

By: Ryan Westphal

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Meeting Tight Cleaning Specifications for Your Parts

The world needs parts washers, and AEC Systems designs cleaning systems for every imaginable sort of part. For parts with simple geometries or less strict cleaning specifications, a standard parts washer with an aqueous solution bath and rinse may be enough. However a more sophisticated cleaning process is often needed for parts with complex geometries and blind holes or corners. Whatever your parts and whatever your cleaning specifications, we can design an environmentally friendly washer that will do the job efficiently, effectively, and with a low waste output.

Cleaning specifications

An off-the-rack parts washer is seldom a robust enough system to clean parts with stringent cleaning specifications. For example, parts that are machined are often coated with swarf as well as residue from the cutting fluids used to make them. If the parts have complex geometries or blind holes, it can be a real challenge to remove swarf from those areas, but they need to be cleaned to move on to the next stage in manufacturing or to be shipped to the customer. If the part needs to be plated or coated, it must be completely clean in order for the plating or coating to adhere to the surface of the part. 

Some of the methods we use to clean more complex parts include immersion, heat, and mechanical actions like high-pressure spraying, agitation, or rotating baskets within a cleaning chamber. Here is a rotating fixture washer we designed for a client whose parts had tight cleaning specifications:

tight cleaning specifications

An industrial carousel washer is also a good choice for parts with a high production rate and stringent cleaning specifications. AEC Systems can design and build a washer that will target any specific area or areas of your part. 

tight cleaning specifications

We always take into consideration our customers’ cleaning specifications as well as their needs in terms of energy, staffing, and waste removal costs. It’s our goal to design a system that will use as little water and energy as possible and will not require frequent change outs of the wash solution. Contact us at AEC Systems  to see what kind of parts washer we can design to meet your needs.

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting the Longest Life out of Your Wash Solution

wash solution option By using heat, agitation, and detergent instead of solvents, aqueous cleaners offer an effective and safer cleaning option. The cleaning products aqueous parts washers use do have to be changed out periodically, though, and the aqueous cleaning waste byproducts must be disposed of safely as well. Because it’s costly to dispose of hazardous byproducts, companies that use parts washers want to maximize the lifespan of their wash solution. There are a number of methods we at AEC Systems successfully use to do this. 

Dirt, Grease, and Swarf

The various contaminants that parts washers remove affect the condition of the water bath. The water bath condition is also affected by how much dirt, debris, or grease must be removed, how many parts must be cleaned, and the length of time it’s been used. Cleaners do have a limited lifespan. They can become corrosive over time which is not good for the parts or the washer.

How To Maximize the Life of Your Wash Solution

There are various options that can be added to a washer to help extend the life of the wash solution. These include baghouse filters, magnetic filters, oil skimmers, oil coalescers, and magnetic chip drags or sludge drags. 

wash solution option

Aqueous parts washers will, with enough use, generate sludge, a waste that can contain toxic metals and solvents from the cleaned parts. Adding components like filters and skimmers to the parts washer can be effective at removing sludge and other wastes from the water bath. 

wash solution option

AEC Systems can build and design any of these components into your washer to increase the life of your wash solution. This will decrease the number of times the tank will need to be changed per year. It’s not always easy to predict how long a wash solution will last since this depends on how dirty the parts being cleaned are and how often the washer is used.  

wash solution option

If your company needs a parts cleaning system that will minimize waste byproducts like hazardous sludge, heat, or other wastes, and maximize the life of its wash solution, contact us at AEC Systems. We would be happy to discuss your needs and design a system specific to them. Call us today to get the process started. 

 

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Communicating Expectations of Washer Quality, Production, and Cost

washer quality

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. 

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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What Are Your Parts Washer Requirements?

parts washer requirementsAny business in the market for a customized parts washer must consider what the parts washer requirements will be before the design process can begin. Specifically, the company’s management  needs to determine what and how the washer will need to clean and how they will integrate that washer into the workflow and floor space of the plant. Below are six areas of inquiry that must be asked and answered in order to fully optimize the design of the washer to meet parts washing specifications. 

What parts will the washer clean? Are the parts all of one size and shape or do they vary? Are the parts simple or are there complex geometries that will be more challenging to clean, rinse, and dry? Obviously a washer that has to clean batches of uniform parts with no nooks or crannies will be simpler to design and less expensive build than one that has more complex requirements. 

To what specifications do the parts need to be cleaned? Does any area of the part need more focus in terms of cleaning or drying? Are there legal or governmental compliance requirements to be met?  How will this compliance be measured? 

How fast do these parts need to be cleaned? How many parts does the washer need to clean per hour? Does the production rate of the machine need to be constant or variable? The facility’s production rate may vary considerably depending on how parts will be loaded and removed from the washer. 

How will the washer be loaded and unloaded? If the company ordering the washer wants to limit the necessity for worker involvement to ensure safety or save money on staffing that should be decided before the design process begins. We can design automated systems that require very little direct worker input, but this is, of course, more complex.

What contaminants will the parts washer remove? Are there any safety considerations with these contaminants? Do the parts need to be treated with additional chemistry after they are washed?

What budget does the business have for the parts washer? 

AEC Systems works with companies within a wide spectrum of industries. We have manufactured parts washers for many diverse needs. We do need input from our customers on the above questions, however, in order to determine how to design and build a parts washer that will best meet their needs based on the budgets they have to spend. We are open and transparent about what we can provide, how much it will cost, how long it will take to build, and how much maintenance the washer will need once it is in use. 

We recommend to the companies we work with that they should involve a plant manager, a purchasing agent, and company executive in this design and decision making process because each of these people will have a different perspective and valuable input into what the parts washer requirements are. We welcome our clients to visit our facilities, talk with our design staff, and learn more about our manufacturing process. 

If your company needs a custom parts washer, we would be glad to discuss your parts washer requirements with you. Contact us today to begin this process.

 

 

 

 

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What Does Immersion Do?

immersionThe 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. Let’s go through 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.

To recap, 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 wasteAqueous 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 realize cost savings in the long run and do not expose their workers to unsafe working conditions. 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 must businesses consider when disposing of the wastewater from an aqueous parts washer?

Laws Regarding Aqueous Cleaning Waste

Every business will have to do some research about wastewater disposal because the local laws vary considerably. 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 utilize 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. Aqueous cleaners are less toxic than petroleum solvents, which makes their disposal less expensive. 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 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 system specific to your needs.

 

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Hard Water, The Parts Washer’s Nemesis

hard waterWater is the universal solvent in the sense that it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. Not all water is the same, however, and the quality of your water may affect how well your parts washer will work and how clean it will get your parts. Hard water is a nemesis to any parts washer.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. Specifically, hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium carbonates in solution. The more calcium and magnesium carbonate the water contains, the harder it is. Hard water isn’t just well water. Water from treatment plants can also be hard. This water may be safe to drink, but it may leave behind residue when you clean with it.

In your home, you may notice the signs of hard water when it stains your porcelain sinks or bathtubs or leaves white, chalky residue or spots on the dishes and glasses in your dishwater. The heat from your dishwater will evaporate the water molecules and leave behind the dissolved minerals. Hard water also creates other problems. Because soap may not lather or rinse as easily with hard water, your hair may be limp and your skin dry. Your pipes slowly clog with scale buildup. You may notice poorer water pressure coming from your shower head and your water taps as a result.

Hard water causes the same problems for industrial parts washers. Eighty-five percent of the United States has hard water, and approximately 95% of the solution in your parts washer is water, not aqueous cleaning product. The harder the water in your water supply, the more problems you may notice. The parts you clean may have water spots on them, and you may have calcium build up in your pipes. In your parts washer calcium will deposit on the heating system components. This reduces the efficiency of the machine and will eventually cause these heating components to overheat and require repair or replacement.

When using hard water, parts washers have to work harder and use more energy to do the same work. They require more cleaning detergents too. This is because, instead of increasing alkalinity, the detergents form soap scum. This scum falls out of solution and creates increased maintenance costs.

As you can see, hard water causes a number of issues for parts washers. If you want to have better cleaning results from your parts washers, the water you use for washing and rinsing, as well as makeup water, should have less than 50 ppm hardness. We will discuss various options for treating your hard water to make it more suitable for parts washers in future blog pieces.

 

 

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The Zero-Waste Manufacturing Goal

zero-waste manufacturingThis April the U.S. celebrated the 48th annual Earth Day, and news outlets all over the world focused on the work people are doing to conserve and preserve the environment. In the manufacturing world, many companies are making strides towards becoming zero waste manufacturing facilities. Since minimizing waste is one of AEC Systems’ largest priorities in designing our parts washers, we wanted to examine this concept of zero-waste manufacturing further.

What Is Zero-Waste Manufacturing?

Zero waste manufacturing is an initiative that aims to completely eliminate waste by reducing or reusing all products and byproducts of the manufacturing process. While in practical terms it is impossible for a manufacturing facility (or any business) to produce zero waste, many companies have been able to achieve Zero Landfill status. To do this, companies:

General Motors currently has 142 zero waste facilities. Another company dedicated to zero waste is Volkswagen. Volkswagen donates all of their used pallets to local community projects which use the wood for recycled or upcycled projects. Redirecting pallet waste from landfills is a net good in terms of the environment. It saves money on disposal costs. The community also benefits, making this a win-win strategy for Volkswagen in terms of both costs and public relations.

How Does the Zero-Waste Philosophy Affect Parts Washers?

As we’ve noted before, parts washers make both the service and industrial sectors run. Parts washers are everywhere – in farming, fuel production, manufacturing, transportation, and construction. Parts washers are input/output machines, however. They require chemicals, water, and/or heat to operate, and they do produce wastes.

Parts washers that operate using solvents will have toxic chemicals that must be disposed of. Parts washers that use water, surfactants, and agitation to clean parts will also produce wastes in the form of heat, sludge, and water based cleaners. Fortunately, these wastes are not as expensive to dispose of or as damaging to the environment.

Using the criteria listed above, it’s obvious that it will be much easier for manufacturers wanting to become zero waste to use aqueous parts washers simply because it is easier to separate many of the metals and oils and recycle them, preventing them from entering the environment.

The less waste a business produces, the more efficiently it is operating. Highly efficient companies realize greater energy savings and increased profitability. This is a virtuous cycle, and it’s why so many large corporations are pursuing zero waste as a goal. Companies interested in transforming their process to zero-waste manufacturing should shift from using parts washers that require solvents to using aqueous parts washers as one more strategy toward achieving that goal.

 

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How To Achieve Parts Cleaning Beyond the Machines

While an industrial parts washer can go a long way, it’s only part of a comprehensive clean parts process

conveyor washer mini

An Effective Cleaning Concept

The great influence of parts cleanliness on subsequent product quality makes parts cleaning a value creation step within the manufacturing sequence. An effective cleaning strategy is essential in order to manage this step economically. Some of the most important considerations include which machining processes need to be followed up by a cleaning step, and which results need to be attained. Strict requirements for parts cleanliness can be fulfilled with up-to-date cleaning systems, for example with a cabinet parts washer — assuming the cleaning process has been well matched to the work pieces to be cleaned and existing contamination, as well as the required results, with regard to process technology, cleaning agent, temperature and duration.

Looking at the cleaning system as a “problem solver” at the end of the production process which provides the required cleanliness at a single stroke is certainly unrealistic—and uneconomical. Furthermore, expectations such as these would necessitate highly complex cleaning systems, resulting in high investment and operating costs. The following applies in general: the less contamination is carried over from manufacturing, the faster and more economically the desired results can be achieved.

Cleaning and transport containers also influence parts cleanliness. Due to corrosion, a damaged coating layer or the carryover of contaminated cleaning agents, cleaning racks and bulk goods containers can themselves be transformed into sources of contamination. It’s wrong to assume that containers which are only used to transport cleaned parts always remain clean. Transport containers must also be subjected to regular cleaning, in order to prevent recontamination of cleaned parts through contact with the container.

Temporary Corrosion Protection—Part of the Overall Process

During production—for example, after degreasing, as well as during and after machining processes—very clean surfaces are exposed to the air, which are highly susceptible to corrosion. Aqueous machining media are also frequently used which, as a rule, promote corrosion. Effective drying and/or cleaning is thus advisable, without delay, after processing with aqueous or corrosive media. Chips and metallic rubbings must also be removed as quickly as possible, because this type of contamination may lead to corrosion, even underneath protective coatings. Storage times between the individual machining steps should also be kept as short as possible. However, due to the fact that this cannot always be assured, temporary preservation is an imperative part of the manufacturing process for many workpieces.

Preservation during the Cleaning Process

Workpieces are protected from corrosion during the cleaning process by means of additives contained in the used cleaning agent. In order to provide parts with protection during subsequent storage and transport as well, temporary preservation is required. It makes good sense to apply the preservative while the parts are in the cleaning system. Oily, aqueous and wax-like substances are available to this end. Processes such as phosphate coating can also be carried out within the cleaning system.

Corrosion protection oils, emulsions and greases are used for corrosion protection purposes. Corrosion protection oils are mineral oil raffinates with various viscosities. The viscosity determines the thickness of the oil film, and thus the degree of protection. Corrosion protection emulsions consist of aqueous emulsions containing mineral oils and waxes, to which biocides and corrosion inhibitors have been added. These additives prevent the aqueous phases from causing corrosion before they evaporate. As opposed to corrosion protection oils, corrosion protection greases can be applied in greater thicknesses— they consist of Vaseline to which inhibitors have been added in order to increase the degree of protection. Fatty acid and amine adducts are normally used for temporary, aqueous corrosion protection. These substances are added to the final rinsing bath in the cleaning system, and may also be added to aqueous machining media such as coolant water. They create a dense film on the surface of the treated material which only seldom disrupts subsequent processes and thus, as a rule, need not be removed. Volatility and the hydrophobic effect can be adjusted by selecting the appropriate substance.

Hydrophobing agents create a water-repellent coating which facilitates drying, and which is washed away only slowly by condensate. However, these film layers can only be removed with alkalines. Corrosion protection waxes are complex, fluid systems made of waxes or wax-like substances, mineral spirits and corrosion inhibiting additives. They form workable, hard layers which are resistant to touch.

Criteria for the Selection of Temporary Corrosion Protection

Depending upon the selected corrosion protection medium and how thickly it’s applied, temporary preservation usually protects the workpiece for a duration of a few hours to two years. Which processes the parts will be subjected to after preservation is a critical factor in selecting the right medium. Being able to easily remove the corrosion protection medium prior to further process steps is an additional criterion, because it may impair surface finishing results.

If the part will be sent immediately to the next process or to assembly, a thin, perhaps even volatile protective layer is usually adequate. In this case, it must be kept in mind that even a fingerprint could be enough to trigger the corrosion process. If a lengthy period of storage or transport is required, longer term protection must be applied. Solutions of this sort include, for example, the so-called VCI materials (volatile corrosion inhibitors). They consist of powders and liquids, as well as impregnated films and paper. Due to the fact that the corrosion inhibitors contained in these materials are volatilized into the ambient air, the parts—if they’re not packaged in VCI film—must be stored and transported in containers which are airtight to the greatest possible extent.

Adapted from Process Cleaning Magazine.

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