Reduce Water Waste to Avoid Diluting Your Profits

wash solution optionReducing water usage and increasing reuse is an essential part of productivity and profitability for businesses today. Today’s manufacturers and fabricators are realizing that they are major stakeholders in this global water conservation effort and that water conservation lowers costs. Water reuse not only conserves water, but it also improves process uptime and product quality, along with reducing rising disposal and maintenance costs. How does this affect industrial part washers?

Maximizing the Life of the Wash Solution

Companies that use parts washers want to maximize the lifespan of their wash solution because it’s so costly to dispose of hazardous byproducts. As oils and soils accumulate in the water over time, the effectiveness of cleaning may diminish due to loading of contamination.

With enough use, aqueous parts washers will generate sludge. This is a waste that can contain toxic metals and solvents from the cleaned parts. The water bath condition is affected by different types of contaminants, such as dirt, swarf, and grease, as well as how often the parts washer is used and how dirty the parts being washed are. At AEC we utilize a number of components to remove these contaminants and extend the life of the wash solution. These include:

  • Oil skimmers
  • Oil colescers
  • Magnetic filters
  • Magnetic chip drags
  • Sludge drags
  • Baghouse filters

Cleaners do have a limited lifespan, of course. They can become corrosive over time, and this is not good for the parts or the washer. However, incorporating filters, drags, and skimmers into your parts washing set up will decrease the number of times the tank will need to be changed per year.

Need to Reduce Your Water Waste?

If your company needs a parts cleaning system that will minimize waste water and remove byproducts like hazardous sludge in order to maximize the life of its wash solution, contact AEC Systems today.



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5 Things to Look for in Your Parts Washer

We’ve previously talked about the importance of considering what kind of parts washer is best for a specific cleaning need. Since AEC Systems designs each parts washer to fit the application, we already incorporate learning our customers needs as a part of our design process. But often people will search online for “parts washers” or “part washer” looking for a product to buy off the rack. For small businesses whose parts-cleaning needs are not terribly frequent and do not require cleaning to exact specification, it would make sense to purchase a more general product.

These kinds of parts washers still have to do their job right, though – or your money is wasted. Consider the following, then, when you go shopping for a generalized one-size-fits-all parts washer.

  • Environmental impact – Recent studies have shown the chemical solvents once used so often in manufacturing and many other industries are terrible for the environment and bad for human health within both the short and long term. The good news is that other studies have shown that, unlike solvents, surfactants are safe.  Aqueous parts washers – the kind we design at AEC Systems – rely on surfactants to remove dirt, grime, oil, grease and many other things from the parts they clean. They do so in a way that has significantly less risk to both the environment and the people who must handle them.
  • Safety – In addition to choosing an aqueous parts washer over one that uses solvents, you must evaluate the quality of the parts washer you select. Is it well put together? Will it be safe for your workers to use? Have there been any complaints about the model or the manufacturer? Are there any lawsuits pending?
  • Ease of use – How simple will this parts washer be to operate? How much training will it require the average user to have? Will it be easy to clean or fix if it breaks? When you purchase a mass manufactured solution, remember that this machine has been designed to clean a spectrum of products and not one specific part. This means in order for your business to get best performance out of it, you will have to figure out how to make that happen both in terms of employee training and modification of the machine itself or the way it is used.
  • Efficiency – Again, you must calculate if your company will save money over time with a parts washer that is not designed for your need. Often a more automated solution can save money in terms of employee costs, paying for itself over time. A custom parts washer will only use the amount of water or chemicals necessary and will produce less waste to be disposed of.
  • Cost – If any of the above factors prove expensive for your company, a cheaper parts washer will not be cheap in anything but the short run. Still, when choosing from among generalized parts washing solutions, it’s important to pay less attention to tag price and more to per use cost. Don’t forget to factor in the cost to repair it or purchase replacement parts.

Not every problem needs a custom solution, but if your company’s experience using an off-the-rack parts washer has been less than satisfactory, AEC would love to talk to you about what kind of solution we can design to better meet your needs. It may even save you money in the long run!


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Green Chemistry: Designing Safer Chemicals

Previously when we discussed green chemistry, we listed 12 Principles of Green Chemistry the American Chemical Society has developed as guides. They are:

  • green-chemistryPrevention
  • Atom Economy
  • Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
  • Designing Safer Chemicals
  • Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
  • Design for Energy Efficiency
  • Use of Renewable Feedstocks
  • Reduce Derivatives
  • Catalysis
  • Design for Degradation
  • Real-time Analysis for Pollution Prevention
  • Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention


The fourth one, Designing Safer Chemicals, is one that is vitally important for all of us, as any chemicals we use today have both a present and future impact. The ACS explains: “Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.”

People have been creating or refining chemicals to do certain jobs for thousands of years, but prior to the industrial revolution most of those chemicals were made from everyday organic ingredients that were only modified in small ways. Wine can be drunk, but vinegar is useful in dozens, if not hundreds, of daily applications. Both are biodegradable and do minimal damage to the environment.

When businesses began manufacturing items in bulk and from more complex materials like metal alloys or plastics, they started inventing chemicals that would allow them to make products faster and to make ones that had specific applications and would be stronger, brighter, more flexible and more durable. Today we are surrounded by products made from synthetic materials, and many of them are unable to be produced, cleaned, or even destroyed without similarly complex chemicals.

Because companies didn’t fully understand – or sometimes care enough – how those chemicals would affect the people who used them and the environments in which they were used, some of the unintended consequences were disastrous. These include sick and dying workers and Superfund sites. Solvents created both many solutions and many problems. Chemicals solvents were able to do many things other organic solutions couldn’t. They were used to remove dirt, grime, and grease from a variety of parts that needed to be cleaned, and also in paints, degreasers, glues, and adhesives. Unfortunately generations of people who worked with solvents may have sickened, died, or experienced lesser quality of life because of them.

The American Chemical Society acknowledges that designing safer chemicals is one of the largest challenges for green chemistry. The fact is, we still need degreasers, glues, paints, and parts washers, and we need them to work to specification. The parts washers that AEC designs for our clients keep automobile engines running and aircraft flying, and most of us rely on cars, trucks, and planes to get to where we need to go or deliver the products we use every day. We are unwilling to go back to the way people lived in 1900 or even 1950, and chemistry is an important component of the modern lifestyle.

So all of us need researchers to find new chemicals that will clean well and without toxicity. That’s a tall order because it requires a knowledge of toxicology, environmental science, biology, and chemistry. However, if we want our children to live in a safer, healthier, more environmentally friendly world, however, we need to make the investment.

AEC Systems designs and manufactures solvent-free washers. The aqueous parts washers we produce use heat, water, and corrosion-free detergents to clean the parts our customers need cleaned to their specifications. We are proud to be a part of a trend of green chemistry in the 21st century.

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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. 



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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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