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

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a non-flammable liquid clorinated hydrocarbon used as an industrial solvent for its degreasing properties. It is also commonly used in the dry cleaning of fabrics. In the past it was topically used on humans as a disinfectant and anesthetic and incorporated into coffee as a spice. The FDA banned these uses in 1977 after the toxicity to humans and wildlife of TCE was determined. Trichloroethylene continued to be used widely as a solvent and it is found 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. TCE is commonly found at Superfund sites around 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 such as TCE. 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.

By: Ryan Westphal

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Customizing a Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

pass thru parts washer


AEC Systems USA was presented with a cleaning problem that didn’t fall into 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 2.5 minutes and the parts were washed, rinsed and dried. After this point in the customer’s current 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 to one person. 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.

pass thru washer


AEC Systems USA presented the customer with a three-station, auto-feed, guillotine-door pass-through washer. The first chamber washed the liner on a turntable with retracting center nozzle in order to fully clean both the inside and outside of the liner. The second stage, also 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, and we were able to design the parts washer to fit within the limited work envelope the customer’s space required.

pass through parts washer


Our customer has had this washer in continuous operation for three years with minimal downtime. This washer has become the workhorse of their operation with its reliable error-free process and has saved them in labor savings 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.)

By: Ryan Westphal

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Waste Generation in Industrial Parts Washing

AEC places a high value on zero waste generation in industrial parts washing. We strive to incorporate recent advances in technology that allow for more efficient and environmentally respectful cleaning processes. As such, this article about newly developed HydRegen technology was very interesting to us:

“With the constant drive to make chemical synthesis ever cleaner, more energy-efficient and generate less waste – both in research and industrial processes – more and more chemists are looking to harness enzyme catalysis. But many enzymes don’t work in isolation. They are aided by small molecule cofactors, such as the redox couple of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, NAD+/NADH.

“HydRegen is a technology developed in Kylie Vincent’s research group at the University of Oxford, UK, which provides a clean and efficient way to recycle the NADH cofactor in an effort to make it more accessible to synthetic chemists. ‘NADH is often more expensive than the chemical you’re trying to produce,’ says Vincent, ‘so if you’re going to use these enzymes in synthesis, you need cheap ways of recycling the cofactor.’”

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What kind of parts washer would be best for my company’s needs?

This is the kind of question that AEC Systems, LLC is designed to answer most comprehensively for our customers. Essentially, there are four commonly used cleaning methods for parts washers:

Manual cleaning
Automated cleaning
Immersion/agitation cleaning
Ultrasonic cleaning

Each of the above has its pros and cons. Manual systems are used when cleanliness specifications are less rigorous and when parts cleaning is only required for a fraction of the 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 well 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, used 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. But as with any other tool, 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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The Importance of VDA 19’s Impact on European Manufacturing

parts washer

VDA19 Parts Washer from

We found this article regarding cleaning standards and best practices as advocated by our friends in Europe interesting.

The German Association of the Automotive Industry’s VDA Volume 19 is the first comprehensive standardization document for characterizing the cleanliness of products within the automotive industry’s quality chain.

Defined standards for residual particulate contamination of functionally relevant components in the automotive industry are self-evident today. This is especially true in Europe, where the German Association of the Automotive Industry’s VDA Volume 19 is the first comprehensive standardization document to deal with the approaches and procedures for characterizing the cleanliness of products within the automotive industry’s quality chain.

As more manufacturers and finishers in the U.S. look to see if VDA 19 standards may come to the North American supply chain, attention should be paid not only to the cleaning process, but to the entire process chain. Even the tiniest particles left behind in the wrong place can cause damage and system failures. “Technical cleanliness” is therefore a quality criterion, particularly when it comes to parts for the automotive industry, precision engineering and hydraulics.

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Wet Blasting Process in Industrial Parts Cleaning Described

Aqueous Industrial Parts Cleaning Process

industrial parts washer effect

Photo from:

The concept of the wet blasting process in parts cleaning and surface finishing is straightforward enough: combine abrasive media with water to form a special slurry, then add regulated compressed air to control the pressure as it is discharged over a surface.

It is a dust-free and static-free process that removes burrs, scale, oxidation and rust, marks, paint, and coatings. It can also remove oils and grease while performing other functions such as preparing the surface for other coatings or processes.

Today, matte finishes are a popular choice for parts—often for both practical and cosmetic reasons. Automated slurry-blasting machines are a great choice for achieving fine, non-directional matte finishes in a single operation. Depending on the application, profiles of less than 4 Ra are possible, and users can choose from various media, including glass beads, ceramic or plastics.

The slurry-blast process virtually eliminates embedded media issues commonly found in dry blasting systems. The water and slurry are recirculated, requiring no drain hookup. The process does not create dust, and chemicals are not required, adding to its appeal for manufacturers committed to limiting their environmental impact.

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The Evolution of Aqueous Cleaning Technology

We at AEC thought that this was an interesting article (if a little dated). Let us know what you think.

Aqueous cleaning technology is changing more rapidly than ever. Since this industry was launched by the adoption of the Montreal Accords on VOC reduction in 1992, the technology in aqueous industrial parts washers has gone through several distinct phases. This cleaning method has become a vital part of manufacturing for almost every type of product, and close attention is given to ways to improve this process in order to keep up with ever-increasing customer and regulatory demands.

Phase 1—Working Like a Solvent

The initial expectation was that water-based cleaners would work much like solvents. Chemical formulations were developed to make water mimic the solvent properties of the most popular degreasers that were being phased out as ozone depleters or exposure risks. These solutions, or water-based cleaners, were seen as inherently cheaper, because the hydrocarbon portion of the solutions was greatly reduced relative to original solvent degreasing materials. Plus, water was essentially free!

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Kimberly Clark Workplace Safety Survey Reveals High Noncompliance

The AEC team values workplace safety very highly. We are disturbed at the survey results below regarding lack of regard for safety equipment and precautions.

A survey by Kimberly-Clark Professional found that 89 percent of safety professionals had observed workers not wearing safety equipment when they should have been and that 29 percent said this had happened on numerous occasions.

All of the 119 survey respondents said they were responsible for purchasing, selecting or influencing the purchase or selection of PPE or industrial wiping solutions.

According to company, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective. Yet, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that, of the workers who sustained a variety of on-the-job injuries, the vast majority were not wearing PPE.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said workplace accidents and injuries were their highest concerns. Worker compliance with safety protocols also was cited as the top workplace safety issue. Twenty-eight percent of respondents chose this, while 21 percent selected “fewer workers.” “Insufficient management support for health and safety functions” and “meeting the safety needs of an aging workforce” tied at 18 percent. Lack of funds to implement safety programs was last at 8 percent.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Saving on Filtration Expense by Employing Particle Retention

We thought this article from Process Cleaning was informative.

Cleaner Solutions

Save on filtration expense by employing “step-down” particle retention

Filtration is the process of separating solids from liquids or solids from gases. Some instances of filtration, like maintaining clarity in a swimming pool, are common and familiar, while industrial filtration systems are less familiar to many. In process cleaning, filtration systems are generally employed to filter undesired particulates, reduce waste, or sometimes even improve a product by preventing rejects. But no matter what the application, there are downsides to filtration processes. Recovery and handling of solids or liquids, and what to do with a solid when it ends up as part of the filter media, can plague the filtration system. To reduce the amount of filter media, solution loss, down time and waste, another approach should be considered—step-down particle filtration.

Covering the Basics

Remember the example of the swimming pool? When installed and maintained properly, a pool filter can provide excellent clarity as it recirculates the water in the pool. However, sand-type media, strainers or even depth-type filter cartridges all suffer from the same problem—as solids accumulate on the surface of the filter, they create an ever-denser mass that the water has to push through. Finer and finer particles are retained on the filter media until the retention exceeds the pump pressure capabilities and the water can no longer push through the solids. Th us, filters left unattended on a swimming pool will pull fewer and fewer particles out of the water, until finally failing altogether. But step-down filtration offers a solution to that challenge.

Read the rest of the article here.

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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…

Today, parts production is laid out to take best possible advantage of available floor space for economic reasons. Various process steps such as parts machining (e.g. turning, grinding and milling), cleaning, transport, storage and assembly are thus executed in close proximity to each other. Resulting contamination — for example, grinding dust, chips, particulates stirred up by people or factory trucks — can thus be easily carried over from one process step to the next. Contamination of this sort can only be avoided or reduced if factors such as clean production sequences and a clean manufacturing environment are taken into consideration when the production facility is laid out. A further important aspect is increasing employee awareness for cleanliness at the workplace.

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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