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How to Get the Most from your Ultrasonic Cleaner

Here’s another post on getting the most from your ultrasonic cleaner.  We’ve already discussed the importance of selecting the proper ultrasonic frequency and why a degassing step helps improve the performance of fresh cleaning solutions.

Here we’ll cover sweep and pulse functions, cleaning solution temperature, and how to extend the life of the cleaning solution before replacement is necessary.

What is meant by Sweep?

When an ultrasonic generator operates at a fixed frequency this creates areas of high and low sonic energy in the tank. This uneven distribution of power results from the standing waves created by the ultrasonic vibration and can cause three problems:

  1. Hot spots. These are areas with a high concentration of sonic energy, which is a stronger ultrasonic effect. If the ultrasonic cleaning is too intense it can etch delicate parts with fine features, polished surfaces, soft metals, or thin metal layers.
  2. Dead zones are areas where there is no cavitation, i.e. no cleaning.
  3. Harmonic vibration can develop when the fixed ultrasonic frequency causes parts to resonate. This can damage sensitive components such as fine wires or crystals. The effect is highly undesirable when cleaning electronics and printed circuit boards.

Ultrasonic cleaners equipped with a sweep mode counteract this by producing a small continuous variation of the ultrasonic frequency around a central value, such as 40 kHz ±3 kHz.  The potential for harmonic vibration is eliminated, and the cleaning power is uniformly distributed throughout the tank. Ultrasonic cleaners available with a sweep function on this website will have a Sweep icon as part of their features. Those that operate at a fixed frequency display a Normal icon. Equipment such as the Elmasonic SH series displays both the Sweep and Normal icons because the Sweep function can be turned on or off.

What is the Pulse Function?

The pulse function produces, as the name suggests, intermittent pulses of high intensity sonic power. This function is engaged when you clean parts having tenacious or difficult to remove contaminants. Pulse can also be activated to speed the degassing function. The Elmasonic PH series has a user activated pulse switch on the control panel.

What Cleaning Solution Temperature is Best?

The tried and true answer is that “it depends,” which is not very helpful. Generally but not always ultrasonic cleaning works more effectively at higher temperatures, especially when you are removing grease, oils and similar contaminants. BUT high temperatures are not recommended when you are cleaning medical and surgical instruments because they can cause blood and other protein-containing contaminants to solidify and strongly adhere to surfaces. Keep in mind that cavitation produces heat in the cleaning solution and operate your cleaner accordingly. Note too that

  1. Cleaning solution formulations usually provide recommended cleaning temperatures.
  2. Higher is not always better because at above 80°C cleaning efficiency in aqueous media rapidly diminishes.

Keeping Cleaning Solutions Clean

Simple bath maintenance steps helps to prolong the life of the cleaning solution. Otherwise contaminants removed during sonic cleaning will build up in the bath and slowly degrade cleaning efficiency. Simple steps include skimming off and setting aside contaminants that rise to the surface. This step, incidentally, helps avoid floating contaminants adhering to surfaces of parts being removed from the bath.

When it is time to replace the solution drain the tank and dispose of spent solutions and skimmed contaminants in an approved matter. Rinse the tank with clean water to flush away solid deposits that have settled to the bottom. If not removed these can damage the tank and eventually result in leaks. Do not wipe the internal surfaces with toweling. Let the tank air dry or you can immediately fill it with a fresh cleaning solution.

For more information on these considerations call the iUltrasonic cleaning experts at 973-440-2191.


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