Ultrasonic parts cleaning is a critical process for many American manufacturers. It is especially useful for removing dirt and debris from the surface of a manufactured part. However, to get the best results from ultrasonic parts cleaning processes, manufacturers need to have a well-designed ultrasonic parts cleaning basket.
Unfortunately, not all ultrasonic cleaning baskets are well-designed. In fact, there are far too many manufacturers who end up buying a parts cleaning basket on the cheap, only to find out that the basket has fatal flaws that interfere with their ultrasonic cleaning processes.
To help you avoid buying bad baskets that impede productivity, here’s a list of things to avoid in an ultrasonic parts cleaning basket:
Ultrasonic Cleaning Baskets with Little or No Open Space
For an ultrasonic parts cleaning process to be effective, the ultrasonic waves generated in the cleaning tank need to be able to reach the parts being cleaned. This is one reason why the vast majority of ultrasonic cleaning baskets are made from stainless steel wire mesh instead of sheet metal.
The open space between the wires of an ultrasonic parts cleaning basket allow the ultrasonic waves from the cleaning machine’s ultrasound generator to reach the interior of the basket—and thus the parts inside. Solid basket walls would block the ultrasonic waves—reducing the effectiveness of the cleaning process to a simple soak in mild chemicals instead of blasting debris from parts.
Another problem caused by a lack of open space is that it prevents the runoff from the ultrasonic cleaning process from leaving the basket easily. This poses a risk of contaminants landing back on parts—negating the effectiveness of the parts cleaning process.
Open Basket Designs That Allow Part-to-Part Contact
Another common error in ultrasonic parts cleaning basket designs is the use of open designs with no dividers on parts that have ultra-delicate “no scratch” surface requirements. When parts are allowed to touch one another during the ultrasonic cavitation process, there’s an extreme risk of one part damaging the other—usually in the form of small surface scratches.
This is because during the ultrasonic cavitation process, parts are being shaken incredibly fast. Repeated impacts with a material with the same hardness, even when each individual impact has little to no pressure behind it, can cause damage to a part.
So, when dealing with ultrasonic cleaning baskets, it’s important for the design to minimize the risk of direct part-to-part contact. This is usually done by adding dividers to the basket.
Additionally, especially delicate parts may need to be protected from contact with the basket itself. This can often be done with a soft polymer coating.
Ultrasonic Cleaning Baskets Made from Corrosion-Prone Materials
Ultrasonic parts cleaning typically involves totally submerging a parts cleaning basket in a fluid bath. While the specific chemicals found in the bath will vary from one ultrasonic parts cleaning process to the next, even the mildest solutions can be potentially damaging to parts cleaning baskets.
This is why ultrasonic cleaning baskets should almost never be made from plain steel or iron that is susceptible to corrosion from contact with water. Any ultrasonic cleaning basket intended for long-term commercial use needs to be made from materials that will resist corrosion when immersed in the ultrasonic cleaning fluid your process uses. Or, that basket should have a protective coating that resists the chemical and prevents it from attacking the metal being coated.
This will help to prevent rust from forming and destroying the basket (and from being transferred to your parts by a rusted basket).
Parts Cleaning Baskets with Weak Welds and Wires
In trying to maximize open space between wires in an ultrasonic cleaning basket, some manufacturers use extremely thin wires that are spaced wide apart. While not always a bad idea, if the welds holding these wires in place are too weak, they could break under the strain of the ultrasonic cavitation process. This can, in turn, cause the basket to fail spectacularly during the wash process.
So, when checking ultrasonic parts cleaning basket designs, it’s important to check that the basket’s wires are sufficiently thick and are welded securely enough to withstand repeated prolonged exposure to ultrasonic vibrations.
Marlin Steel does this by using virtual physics simulation software to test how well the basket’s design will hold up to a client’s parts cleaning process. In seconds, the software can simulate weeks, months, or years of use in minutes and show Marlin’s engineers what would happen to the basket. If the basket would change shape by so much as a hair’s width, it fails the test and the design team modifies it before testing again.
When checking a custom (or stock) ultrasonic cleaning basket design, be sure to ask what welding processes and tools the manufacturer uses to ensure consistent and strong welds.
Of course, the above items are just a few things to avoid in an ultrasonic parts cleaning basket design. If you have any more questions about ultrasonic parts cleaning, or custom steel wire baskets in general, reach out to the Marlin Steel team for answers.