5 Things to Look for in Your Parts Washer

cabinetWasher5We’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, however, or the money you’ve invested will have been 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. Additionally 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 selecting from among generalized parts washing solutions, it’s important to pay less attention to tag price and more to per use cost. And do not 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 and save you money in the long run.

 

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Filling the Skills Gap in Michigan’s Manufacturing Sector

The second week in May is Michigan Manufacturing Week. Manufacturing in the state has been in recovery for a number of years now, adding necessary jobs for Michigan residents and contributing to an overall more robust economy.

7853147006_a3e6f0ddf4_mWhile this is great news there is significant concern about what some researchers are calling the skills gap. Today’s manufacturing climate is very different from the one our parents and grandparents worked in. A high percentage of unskilled line work exited the country in the past twenty years and will not return as long as the global economy allows for simultaneous cheaper wages and affordable transportation options for finished goods.

Researchers at Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute announced in February that there will be nearly 3.5 million manufacturing job openings – skilled and highly necessary positions – over the next decade, and, if nothing changes, 2 million of those will not be filled because suitable candidates will not be found to fill them. The types of positions needed will not only be in engineering. The country needs technicians who can fix machines when they break down, computer programmers, scientists, and skilled production workers. Essentially, students who major in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will not have a problem finding work over the next decade. What’s more, companies that desperately need these workers will have to be generous with both salaries and benefits.

In many ways, a healthy skilled manufacturing sector creates a virtuous cycle. Skilled jobs are much more likely to state stateside, and the additional research and development they generate only result in more advances, more jobs, and more revenue. Unfortunately, of the manufacturing executives surveyed, 8 out of 10 of them said that the expected skilled labor shortage would affect the ability of their companies to meet current demand, improve productivity, and implement better technology.

Some states are taking measures to address this deficit, and Michigan is one of them. The Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) began last year as a pilot program to help Michigan companies train their workers and stem the flow of skilled young people leaving the state for better opportunities. While companies may have initially focused on the training of production workers, they are beginning to consider training for a broader base of employees. Companies can apply for retraining grants of up to $1500 per employee under the current program.

While policy making and grant program are important, it’s vital for manufacturers to begin thinking out of the box as well, not simply to avoid problems down the line, but because the stakes and the potential benefits from being proactive now in terms of seeking, hiring, and training skilled workers are so great.

AEC Systems is proud to be a part of the Michigan small business community at this interesting  time in its history.

 

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How Parts Washers Save Businesses Money

CameraThe high cost associated with the disposal of empty containers has made it advantageous to clean the containers and reuse them. Recycling pails and drums pays by reducing waste material, eliminating the need to purchase new containers, and saving on transportation costs.

AEC Systems, LLC recently has added a new line of industrial cabinet spray washers that will accommodate 5-gallon pails, 30- and 55- gallon drums, and even special-size totes. Each washing system can be designed specifically to meet the customer’s needs and is not “one size fits all.” These washers are designed with longevity and customer ease of operation in mind. Whether cleaning just a few containers a day or hundreds, AEC Systems now has the ability to work with customers in developing a system that fits their requirements.

CameraSome container-stored products leave residue that can be easily removed with hot water and then reused. Others require special cleaning chemicals and hot water to remove the remains, followed by a rinsing stage. However, there are times when a neutralizing agent might allow disposal of the waste stream through a normal sanitary sewer discharge. This could be done periodically when the washer’s solution tank needs to be cleaned and recharged with clean water and cleaning solution.

Customers are familiar with their own chemical products and know what needs to be done to comply with local, state and federal laws. All waste by-products need to be handled properly and hauled away by an authorized waste hauler.

AEC Systems parts washers are available in carbon steel or stainless steel, depending on the work environment and types of cleaning chemicals. Heating of solution tanks can be electric (encased heating elements are available if sludge buildup is a problem), steam, or natural gas. Units are designed for either manual or automatic sequence cycling. Loading and unloading can be done by hand or by using AEC System’s line of material-handling devices.

For more details on which cleaning system and accessories are best for you, please call an AEC Systems customer service representative at 1-888-211-6006 or visit the AEC System’s website for a look at many of our previous projects and their designs.  We would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss how best to solve any container cleaning challenges your business faces.

 

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Why the World Needs Parts Washers

Effective parts washing makes the industrial and service worlds run. So much of the world is now mechanized; most people do not even realize the extent they rely on moving parts. The closest they come to that epiphany is when they have a car break down and they are stuck somewhere they don’t wish to be.

passThruLargeBut if all machines failed to function or ceased functioning well, our society would greatly suffer. Farming, fuel production, manufacturing, transportation, and construction all rely on a multitude of small parts that must be maintained regularly. Without these sectors, society as we know it would collapse. From this point of view, the value of the industrial parts washer becomes more clear.

What do parts washers do exactly? They are designed to remove grease, grime, oil, swarf, or any other dirt or residue from parts so that they can be inspected. Damaged parts can then be discarded and good parts refitted into a mechanical system. If this is not done, engines and other machines can suffer a serious failure, damaging other parts as well. Therefore, an investment in clean parts is an investment glitch-free systems.

Of course, not all parts washers are designed to clean small parts. AEC Systems can design a parts washer for any need, great or small, intricate or not. We’ve created systems to clean whole items such as pallets and totes, enormously heavy parts of up to 60,000 pounds each with significant soil load, and multi-stage parts washers that allow for cleaning and chemical dipping.

How do parts washers effectively clean? There are a number of methods that can be used alone or in tandem including soaking either in water or solvents, agitating, spraying, brushing, rinsing, and drying. AEC Systems engineers consult with their clients to determine their needs. Often they have parts that are difficult to clean either because of crevices and holes or significant grimy build up. They may also have other boundaries or constraints they need to work within,  such as limited space within a physical plant or a small workforce. While the needs of our clients may be complex, we can always find solutions if we work together and communicate clearly.

One of the most exciting achievements of parts washing technology is the development of environmentally friendly cleaning solutions over the past several decades. While mid-century manufacturers and businesses relied heavily on solvents, we can now employ techniques that do not rely on poisonous chemicals and are, therefore, much safer and healthier for workers to use. We also continuously make advances in creating waste-free systems so that our clients do not have large amounts of toxic chemicals to dispose of on a regular basis.

Parts washing technology is an evolving science, but the more mechanized and environmentally aware society gets, the more necessary it becomes. At AEC Systems we are excited to see where the next decade takes us in parts cleanliness.

 

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A Look at AEC’s Design Process

smallAugerDrum1AEC Systems designs all of its parts washers according to specific client needs. As each part is different, each project is different. We took a look at our design process, in terms of how we explore various problems and solutions, in this post: Customizing a three chamber pass through washer with dip tank, but the variables involved with cleaning a vast array of parts, whether an injector, cylinder block, turbine, or electronic component – are considerable.

At the center of every project is the part that must be cleaned. To design the proper parts cleaning solution, we must consider what material or combination of materials the part is comprised of, what impurity must be removed, how the part is shaped, the required cleanliness specifications, and what the client requires in terms of both work envelope and manpower needs.

As society has shifted away from using chemical solvents for a number of reasons, aqueous cleaning methods have been developed including immersion cleaning, ultrasonic cleaning and spray process cleaning. AEC uses the right combination of these processes in order to accomplish cleaning to specification no matter how small or large, oily, dirty, or complex the part.

Additionally, as the regulatory environment is becoming more complex daily, so do our clients’ needs. The costs for waste disposal have also risen considerably over time. Therefore we at AEC Systems factor in waste minimization at the beginning of every project with the ideal goal being zero waste production for every cleaning process. Every success we achieve, in terms of lowered disposal costs and heat and chemical recovery, can be applied to future projects as we hone our ability to produce cleaning solutions with a small physical and environmental footprint that are simple to use and can be operated with limited staff.

We’ve highlighted on this blog over the past year a number of changes in technology that may affect our ability in the future to create better, more efficient, more environmentally low-impact cleaning systems. Other breakthroughs, such as in bioremediation and UV light technology, may not have a direct effect on AEC Systems’ clients but represent a rapidly evolving understanding of our world and how it works. Obviously it is exciting time to work in science and technology and all the fields that harness both in order to better interact within our environments and achieve our individual and collective goals.

Here’s to more fascinating discoveries and private achievements in 2015!

 

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UV Light Technology – A Cleantech Breakthrough

uv-light-technologyIn the summer of 1854, London experienced an especially virulent outbreak of cholera, a water-borne disease that even today kills over a hundred thousand people every year. However, in 1854, the population was unaware that cholera was caused by bacteria, and assumed that the suffering was the result of exposure to bad air or was a punishment for sin. It was only through the painstaking detective work of physician John Snow that the cause of the outbreak was determined and the source of contamination was pinpointed. Eventually the authorities were persuaded to remove the pump handle atop the well that contained cholera bacteria, and illness in the population quickly diminished.

As a result of Snow’s work and diligence, the City of London designed and built a new water and sewer system to ensure a clean water supply. Worldwide, the discovery of disease-causing bacteria in water led to scientific advancements in water treatment including filtration and chlorination. Currently in places with advanced water treatment facilities, water-borne cholera is largely unknown. In most underdeveloped nations, however, it still strikes regularly, affecting three to five million people a year. It also reappears as a result of disaster, either man-made or naturally occurring. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, cholera hospitalized or killed tens of thousands of people, and it’s estimated that more than 6 percent of Haitians have the disease even now. If you think cholera is a danger of the past, it isn’t.

Anyone aware of the ever-present need for clean sources of water worldwide will be encouraged by the cleantech breakthroughs involving ultraviolet light as a method for cleaning water.  Researchers and engineers who work with UV light have discovered that this is a simple and inexpensive way to disinfect water and can easily be used in places where both water and advanced technology are scarce. Essentially UV light alters bacterial DNA, making it unable to function or reproduce.

Obviously UV light is not a one stop solution for all water contamination. Water treatment systems must meet stringent water quality criteria and filter for chemicals and heavy metals. Other diseases, like Ebola, are viral, not bacterial, and will require different kinds of disinfecting. But the growing evidence of more possibilities for solving cleanliness problems via the use of naturally occurring phenomena, whether light or biological organisms, is very promising.

We at AEC Systems look forward to seeing what researchers will discover in 2015 that will eventually affect all of our lives for the better, and we wish a very happy new year to all of our customers and readers! Best wishes to you all!

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Understanding Green Chemistry

green-chemistryWhat is green chemistry? By one definition it’s “finding creative and innovative ways to reduce waste, conserve energy, and discover replacements for hazardous substances.”

The 20th Century saw staggering advances in chemistry and chemical engineering. The ways that new chemicals were put to use changed human history and society in drastic ways that most people living now can’t fully comprehend. Just two examples of pioneering chemistry – the creation of antibiotics and chemical fertilizers – radically shifted the way people today think about surviving, thriving in, and changing their world.

Unfortunately, many of these chemical breakthroughs have unforeseen consequences and highly negative consequences for environmental and human health. Some of those consequences were immediately evident: animal populations experienced rapid die off, fetuses exposed to certain drugs did not develop normally, crops failed. Other problems, like long-term mental impairment from solvent exposure, researchers are still studying and trying to understand. Green chemistry is the contemporary attempt to understand the results of last century’s great chemistry experiment and then altering the chemistry involved to derive more benign or even beneficial ways to solve problems and create solutions in our everyday lives.

AEC Systems is always looking for these types of solutions. We strive continuously toward a zero waste goal in our parts washers – zero waste meaning no impact on the environment, nothing to dispose of, no emissions, not even heat results from our parts cleaning systems. We are very interested in possible and potential uses for green solvents, which are solvents made of vegetable processing extracts that can be used to clean or degrease. The green chemistry at work in finding methods of bioremediation for chemical or oil spills is something we anticipate being able to use in other ways in the future to solve problems that are perhaps not as tragic, but are still sticky and troublesome.

If scientists can produce chemical solutions that will prevent pollution or other negative environmental impact in the first place, there will be nothing to monitor, regulate, or clean up. Over time these innovations can only lead to safer products that can be manufactured at lesser expense. The American Chemical Society has developed 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. They are:

  • Prevention
  • 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

These principles are critical to the development of a better, healthier future for everyone, and, frankly, it’s an exciting time to be involved in chemical innovation and problem solving.

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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 become, necessarily, more advanced and complex.

Dip Tank Technology

Back 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.

Now in Poland another paint shop will be under construction using the same methods. Durr Building Paint Shop From Ground Up will be built in Wrzesnia in 2016 in order to assemble the successor to the Volkswagon Crafter van.

Although Volkswagon is 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, again 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. We are always excited to learn of new research and development in this field.

By: Ryan Westphal

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CDC Cleanliness Specs for Dealing with Ebola Virus

Cleaning SpecsAEC Systems regularly tackles projects for clients whose needs require complicated cleaning strategies and cleanliness specs, but the healthcare industry relies entirely on stringent cleaning and disinfection specifications. For them, clean is quite literally life or death.

Recent reports regarding the Ebola outbreak in the countries of West Africa are very concerning. Not only does this strain of Ebola seem to be more virulent than all previous strains, large numbers of medical personnel are perishing fighting it. Thus far more than 240 health care workers have contracted the Ebola virus and more than 120 of them have died from it. Without trained medical personnel, the average patient with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Nigeria will have even less of a chance to survive this deadly disease and will be more likely to pass it along to his family members and neighbors.

Fortunately, Ebola is not an airborne virus. Like HIV, it’s transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. This means that casual contact with a patient with Ebola will not be at risk. However, the disease itself often produces diarrhea, vomiting, and hemorrhaging all of which introduce the virus to anyone treating the patient or dealing with waste removal.

Hospitals in America are beginning to examine their strategies for fighting Ebola if it should emerge in the population here. Typically, these would include quarantine and palliative measures to fight symptoms such as dehydration and fever as Ebola has no cure and no real treatments at this time. The most important way to deal with Ebola is to limit the outbreak as carefully as possible. During an epidemic, medical personnel run up against two difficulties: a shortage of medicines and medical supplies and finding ways to dispose of waste and clean medical equipment.

Guidelines like the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Cleaning, Sterilization, High-Level Disinfection and Storage of Patient Care Devices and Other Items offer detailed instructions for accomplishing and maintaining sterile equipment and facilities to enable medical personnel to be able to attend to patients. However, having guidelines such as these in place will not be sufficient if staff are not adequately trained in them and well designed cleaning and sterilization equipment has not already been installed and implemented. In a true epidemic, transportation quickly becomes problematic, and much of the cleaning and sterilization of garments and tools can not be outsourced. It must be done onsite.

We can all hope that this Ebola outbreak will not spread further and officials and doctors will be able to aid the people of West Africa, but this situation demonstrates the need to prepare people and cleaning systems well in advance of medical risks in order to deal with them effectively.

By: Ryan Westphal

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

SwarfA 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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