Mercedes Seraphim :
Ultrasonic Cleaning: Green system that leaves Engine parts looking as good as new, without using harsh chemicals, nor intense labor...
Mercedes Seraphim :
Ultrasonic Bath Makes Engine Parts Look Good as New Without Toxic Chemicals and Tedious Labor
Power sport, Automotive, and Marine dealers replace laborious, time-consuming and toxic parts cleaning with “set it and forget it” ultrasonic tanks
By Ed Sullivan
Several years ago, when I was writing technical literature for an aftermarket engine parts company, I first saw ultrasonic cleaning used in the rebuilding of intricate fuel injector components. It was a sophisticated, high-volume operation that did such a thorough and efficient job that many OEM suppliers purchased many of these restored precision products for their own rebuilt injector assemblies.
Not only did these parts look like new, they performed just as well, and even carried a liberal warranty. Equally remarkable, the ultrasonic bathing system eliminated the need for time-consuming and tedious hand cleaning of complex components using caustic chemicals that exposed workers to toxins and often required hazardous waste treatment.
At the time, smaller remanufacturing and service shops simply could not afford the luxury of owning a suitable ultrasonic cleaning system, which required high volume throughput in order to be cost effective. As a result, smaller businesses remained mired in problems that should have been history.
Today, the cost of owning an ultrasonic cleaning system is not only affordable, but given the cost of labor, cycle time, safety and environmental issues, the term “luxury” now applies more fittingly to cleaning auto parts via manual methods.
Ultrasonic cleaners are devices that use ultrasound to cleanse or sanitize items that are sometimes intricate or even delicate, such as jewelry or surgical instruments. However, the technology is also highly effective in cleaning components used in automotive, power sports, marine, aerospace, and industrial applications. The objects to be cleaned are placed in a chamber or tank containing a water-based cleaning soap specific for the application. Ultrasound, generated by an energy-converting transducer, is electronically activated to produce ultrasonic waves in the fluid. The main mechanism of the cleaning action is energy released from the creation and collapse of microscopic cavitation bubbles, which break up and lift off dirt and contaminants from the surfaces to be cleaned.
Goodbye wearisome hand cleaning
Cleaning auto parts by hand with caustic solvents is often tedious and usually wearisome. Moreover, some parts, such as carburetors contain irregular surfaces and internal passages that are virtually impossible to clean thoroughly – which can adversely affect performance.
Chuck Aughinbaugh, proprietor of Ephrata Cycle and Sports, Inc. (Ephrata, PA) has been in the business for over 30 years, selling and fixing racing bikes, cruisers and ATVs. A lot of this time was spent tearing down carburetors and other components for cleaning.
Big cruisers like GoldWings have four-stack carburetors that burn "green" when coated with residue of today´s fuels. To perform well, the four stacks need to be stripped clean. Hours of hand labor and gallons of toxic solvents used to be the only way to get those cruisers back on the highway.
At a trade show Aughinbaugh discovered an ultrasonic cleaning system that promised to free his shop of most of the drudgery of cleaning critical components, not only automatically, but also more thoroughly. The system he chose was the OmegasonicsÒ Pro Plus, which has virtually eliminated the tough job of cleaning parts with surfaces that are difficult to get at.
"When I´m cleaning a four-stack, I leave them on the plate” he explains. “The only things I don´t put into the machine (ultrasonic bath) are floats and the occasional vacuum diaphragm."
Adios toxic solvents
Eric Peterson, owner of Specialty Marine in Oxnard. CA, shared similar problems in servicing marine engines with carburetors that became gummed from sitting idle. During the off-season fuel, sometimes mixed with water, thickens into a varnish that clogs carburetor jets and passages. Approximately 40% of the engines Specialty Marine services required tedious scouring of dirty carbs.
At first, Peterson and his staff used aerosol solvents to clean carburetors, spraying them into passages and then blasting them with compressed air to push out the residue. The process was conducted over open trash barrels to catch the dirty, oily mist discharged from the carburetors.
“I didn’t need 14 years in air quality management to know that aerosol solvents were an environmental mess,” says Peterson, a former air quality engineer. Not only did those solvents affect breathing and skin, they also represented an eye hazard if the spray shot backward due to any carburetor misalignments when injecting the solvent.
Eric found a better way to clean carburetors and other engine parts when he was introduced to ultrasonic cleaning at a dealer trade show. At one booth he saw the OmegasonicsÒ 4775, a tabletop unit with a 7.75-gallon capacity. “I knew it was the answer right there,” Eric confirmed.
For his cleaning solution he chose OmegaClean, a product that removes oil, grease, carbon and other contaminants from a variety of metals. The cleaner’s buffers protect aluminum finishes and its silicates guard against flash rusting.
Turning a problem into a profit center
With all due regard for worker safety and thorough cleaning of parts, is the ultrasonic cleaning system worth it financially? Time is money and Eric Peterson immediately found multiple timesaving benefits to using his ultrasonic cleaning system.
“When you´re cleaning a carburetor manually, there´s always the chance you’ll miss something,” he said. “Our Omegasonics 4775 doesn´t miss a thing." The system’s thoroughness has virtually eliminated the need to re-clean carburetors due to something missed the first time. Moreover, doing a better job now takes less time. “We can put a number of dirty carburetors into the ultrasonic cleaner at the same time. That way we can complete repairs for most customers in less time,” Peterson explains. He estimates a 50% reduction in cleaning time when he has several carburetors to clean during one shift.
At Ephrata Cycle and Sports the manual labor component of a four-stack´s cleaning process has dropped from four hours to 20 minutes. "When parts are cleaning in the Omegasonics, that´s hands-off time that I can use to do other jobs," says Chuck Aughinbaugh.
Today, Ephrata Cycle and Sports charges a $25 flat fee for cleaning a carburetor. "It has become a profit center," says Aughinbaugh. He says the new system has “ . . . paid us back substantially . . . We can do plenty of carburetors without tying up manpower, and the results are excellent." Customers save money as well, versus the previous hourly rate to tear down a carburetor and clean it by hand.
Increased customer satisfaction
Aughinbaugh finds that ultrasonic cleaning enhances the value of his service. "When we do an engine teardown on a racing bike, we always clean the engine case in the OmegasonicsÒ Pro Plus. When the customer gets the bike back with that shiny cover, he feels that much better about the money he´s spent with us . . . It makes a difference that our customers can actually see."
Paterson agrees: “Now. when a customer pays for a carburetor cleaning, he gets back a unit that looks brand new. Customers are impressed with the finished product and know they got their money’s worth. That ensures repeat business.”
Ultrasonic parts washing has become the next evolutionary step in industrial manufacturing for power sports, automotive and marine repair, greatly reducing time and labor, performing a better job of cleaning, and improving not only the vital bottom line, but the all-important result of customer satisfaction as well.
For more information call Frank Pedeflous at Omegasonics at (805) 583-0875 or write at 330 E East St #A Simi Valley, CA 93065-7523, or email: email@example.com or visit the web site; http://www.omegasonics.com
Ed Sullivan is a technology writer based in Hermosa Beach, California