Ultrasonic parts cleaning processes have become a popular choice for removing dirt and debris from all kinds of manufactured parts. For example, some automotive manufacturers use the process on gears and other assemblies to remove oil and other contaminants from small, hard-to-clean gaps and ridges.
However, this parts cleaning process can be tough on the containers that hold parts through it. This is because the process of ultrasonic cavitation involves the use of very strong vibrations and potentially caustic liquids to shake dirt and debris loose and strip it from the surface of an object. Ultrasonic cleaning baskets are repeatedly exposed to these stresses as they carry new loads of parts through the process.
Additionally, if an ultrasonic cleaning basket isn’t properly designed, it can end up damaging the parts it holds. To help you pick the right container for ultrasonic parts cleaning, here’s a quick beginner’s guide to ultrasonic cleaning baskets.
The Critical Characteristics of an Ultrasonic Cleaning Basket
In general, the goals of an ultrasonic cleaning process are to remove dirt/debris from the surface of an object, and to ensure that such contaminants are not allowed to come into contact with the part again. This is accomplished by using a cleaning fluid and high-frequency vibrations to dislodge contaminants. When finished, the basket is lifted out of the ultrasonic parts cleaning machine so the parts can dry.
To make this process as safe and effective as possible—and to ensure the long-term viability of the basket—ultrasonic cleaning baskets need to possess the following characteristics:
- Corrosion Resistance. The basket has to be able to resist corrosion from being submersed in the cleaning solution used by the ultrasonic parts cleaning machine. Otherwise, it could develop rust that may rub off on the parts being held. In a worst-case scenario, rusting could weaken the basket enough for it to break during use.
- Resistance to Vibrations. The basket needs to be solid enough that exposure to high-intensity vibrations from the cleaning process won’t shake it apart. This often means using thicker steel wires with lots of welds.
- Open Space. During the ultrasonic cleaning process, the ultrasonic waves need to be able to reach parts unhindered. Otherwise, the performance of the cleaning process may suffer. Also, once the basket is removed, runoff from the process needs to drain away easily so contaminants can’t land on the parts again. To achieve this, ultrasonic cleaning baskets need plenty of open space.
- Protection for Held Parts. Depending on how delicate the parts being washed are, there may be a need to prevent part-to-part contact so they don’t get scratched or dented. In some cases, it may be necessary to prevent any part-to-metal contact as well (this is when soft polymer coatings may be necessary).
While every basket for ultrasonic cleaning needs to take the above into account, these aren’t the only considerations that need to be made.
What Your Custom Wire Basket Maker Needs to Know about Your Cleaning Process
If your company contracts a custom wire basket manufacturer (like Marlin) to make an ultrasonic cleaning basket, there are several things that they will need to know, including:
- The Dimensions of Your Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine’s Wash Tank. To ensure that the basket will actually fit in the washing equipment being used, the manufacturer needs to know the dimensions of that equipment first. Additionally, if the basket is to be used with other processes, the manufacturer will need to know the dimensions of that equipment as well (plus how you plan to move the basket from Process A to Process B).
- The Chemicals Used in Your Cleaning Process. To optimize a custom wire basket design to better resist corrosion and rusting, the manufacturer needs to know what chemicals will be used in the wash tank. Knowing the chemicals used in your cleaning process helps the manufacturer choose the best basket materials and coatings to prevent corrosion and premature basket failure.
- Whether Lateral or Rotational Motion Will Occur. Some ultrasonic cleaning processes involve moving the basket up-and-down, side-to-side, or even flipping the basket upside down mid-cleaning. To account for this, the custom basket maker needs to know whether such motion will occur. If so, they may need to add lids or other securing mechanisms to hold parts in place.
- Whether the Basket Will Be Used for Other Processes. If the parts going through the ultrasonic wash process will be subjected to other processes (before or after the wash), it may be possible to design the basket to work with those other processes as well. Doing so helps to minimize the need to manually handle the parts, since they won’t have to be moved from one container to another for each process. This, in turn, helps reduce the risk of damage from mishandling parts.
- How Strong the Ultrasound Generator (or Generators) Will Be. Different ultrasonic cleaning machines will have different levels of intensity for their ultrasound generators. The stronger the generator (or generators), the sturdier the basket will need to be. This plays a role in how thick the wires of the basket are and how thoroughly they’re welded together.
Without this information, it’s hard for a custom wire basket maker to create the best ultrasonic cleaning basket for the job.
To Weave or to Weld Steel Wires, Which is Best?
When making a custom wire basket for ultrasonic cleaning, the wire mesh of the basket can be woven or welded together. Which is better for your parts cleaning basket? Well, that depends on a few factors—such as the weight of the held parts, the thickness of the wires in the mesh, and the intensity of the ultrasonic vibrations. There are pros and cons to either approach.
- Welding Wire Mesh. This tends to create a more rigid and sturdy wire basket, which is optimal for holding heavier parts. Welded wires are permanently joined together, and will distribute the weight of held parts along connected wires more evenly.
- Weaving Wire Mesh. This process tends to be less expensive and time-consuming than welding each wire mesh joint together. Often preferred for lighter baskets that hold smaller parts, since they don’t have to deal with as much physical stress.
Should You Use a Coating for Your Ultrasonic Cleaning Basket?
Adding a protective coating to an ultrasonic cleaning basket can be a good option for protecting ultra-delicate parts that have a “no scratch” surface requirement. However, adding a coating isn’t always necessary and, in some situations, it can interfere with the cleaning process.
For example, adding a soft, thick coating of PVC or similar materials can cushion the impact when parts hit the inside of the basket (preventing scratches). But, thicker coatings of material can adversely impact the open space between wires, which may block ultrasonic vibrations from reaching the parts the basket holds (impairing the cleaning process).
Additionally, a soft and porous coating may retain contaminants that can be transferred onto held parts, which may reduce the effectiveness of the cleaning process.
So, when considering a coating for ultrasonic cleaning baskets, it’s important to account for the coating in the initial design. It’s also important to use a coating that can be applied in predictable thicknesses without suffering issues such as webbing.
These are just a few of the basic considerations for ultrasonic cleaning baskets. Need help building the best basket for your ultrasonic cleaning process? Reach out to the Marlin team to get started!