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How to Sonic Clean Tubing and Blind Holes

Sonic cleaning small diameter glass and metal tubing, and parts with machined blind holes can be accomplished much more efficiently and with less chance of product damage compared to using brushes and wires in solvent cleaning tanks.

The secret is in setting up the parts in the ultrasonic cleaning solution and providing some assistance to ensure all surfaces are exposed to cavitation action in the solution. Processes differ when cleaning tubing and cleaning parts with blind holes or holes extending through the parts.

Cleaning Thin-Wall Tubing

Cleaning small diameter thin-wall glass or metal tubing is easier than cleaning machined parts, so we’ll start here. A reason for this is that sonic energy penetrates the tubing walls and causes cavitation action on interior surfaces. The important point to remember is that the products being cleaned must be positioned to allow solution to enter and contaminants to drop out of the tubes. That’s why they should be positioned at a slant – the steeper the better – in cleaning baskets by using a support mechanism.

Select an ultrasonic cleaner with basket dimensions long enough to accommodate the tubes fully immersed. A helpful practice is to raise and lower the basket to promote solution draining and refilling during the cleaning cycle.

Ultrasonic Cleaning Blind Holes

Machined holes, blind or extending through parts, are somewhat more difficult to clean with difficulty increasing as diameters decrease.; Metallic and coolant residues can adhere to interior surfaces and must be contacted by the implosion of cavitation bubbles in order to be removed.; Blind holes are particularly challenging because loosened contaminants may drop further into the orifice. Air bubbles trapped in these holes and liquid surface tension contribute to cleaning challenges.

Sonic cleaning gets contaminants out of small diameter machined holes

Parts with holes extending through them should be positioned so the holes are vertical; parts with blind holes should be position so the holes are horizontal, thereby allowing the cleaning solution to flow into the opening and displace air. Parts with both blind and through holes should be repositioned during the cleaning cycle to help ensure sonic energy accesses all interior surfaces. Complex parts may require rotation in the liquid to fill all openings before cleaning.

Note that there may be instances where ultrasonic cleaning cannot remove contaminants. As one example hole depth and diameter may be so confining that it may be impossible to completely fill with liquid. If you can’t fill it you can’t clean it. As a second example tubing and holes blocked with contaminants require special attention to remove those contaminants to allow cavitation to do its work.

Selecting an Ultrasonic Cleaner and Cleaning Chemistry

Ultrasonic frequency is an important consideration depending on what you are cleaning.Lower frequencies such as 25 kHz are suitable for primary cleaning heavy parts while higher frequencies such as 45 kHz produce smaller cavitation bubbles better able to penetrate small diameter tubing, small diameter machined holes and blind holes.

A good candidate is the Elmasonic TI-H series such as the 5-gallon capacity TIH500MF2, also available in three other sizes. This series operates at a user selected 25 or 45 kHz for primary and finer cleaning.

When cleaning large parts or a large number of parts on a regular basis consider the 25/45 kHz Elmasonic X-tra Basic series available in 6 capacities from 5.8 to 57 gallons.

Ask us about the Elmasonic X-tra Flex series of cleaners that provide a precise ±2cm vertical oscillation to aid the removal of contaminants in tubing, machined through and blind holes. This line, available in five solution capacities, offers a choice of 25/45 or 35/130 kHz ultrasonic frequencies. These units can operate singularly (Flex 1) or paired with an ultrasonic oscillating rinsing station (Flex 2).

Cleaning solutions contain surfactants that help overcome surface tension mentioned above. Chemistry selection depends on what you are cleaning. A good candidate for cleaning glass tubing is elma tec clean A1 diluted to 3 to 10% with water. A popular all-purpose formulation for metal parts is elma tec clean A4 diluted to 1 to 5% with water.

Contact our ultrasonic cleaning professionals at 973-440-2191 for help in solving your tough cleaning challenges.


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