Cleanliness is next to… going fast. Ultrasonic cleaners.
Cleanliness is next to… going fast. Ultrasonic cleaners.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 Paul Cavanaugh
When building a motor most engine builders will tell you that dirt is your worst enemy. It can scar bearings, cylinder walls, damage valve seats, the list goes on. Keeping everything clean is one sure way to ensure your hard work does not go to waste.
In order to achieve this goal there is a very cool device to help.
Cleaning the parts
Working with my engine the last few years, I cleaned all of the parts in your typical parts washing tank. This whole process took me approximately 4 hours for a complete Hayabusa engine.
A faster and better way to clean parts
This year the cleaning process was much easier as Livengood Motorsports just bought a brand new Ultrasonic part cleaner manufactured by Eastern Precision. For any shop who wants to find extra time this machine is an absolute necessity. What took me 4 hours in the past took an hour and a half with this piece of equipment and during that time I was available to work on other things while the parts were in the tank.
How it works
The principle in which an Ultrasonic cleaner works is quite simple, it works off a combination of water temperature, detergent and sound waves. After doing a little research I found that not every ultrasonic cleaner is the same. There is wattage to consider, size of the tank, the ability for it to filter its own cleaning solution and the temperature ranges it is capable of reaching.
Cleaning Solution and Temperature
The cleaning solution is nothing more than water that you add a cleaning agent to which also has a rust inhibitor in it. The tank in the Eastern Precision 1635 which Livengood Motorsports uses is capable of heating the water from 60 degrees to 250 degrees.
This particular unit is able to clean both halves of a Hayabusa case at the same time being the tank depth is 14”, the width 16” and length of the opening is 35”. The models range in size from the EP 1220 (12×20) to the EP 4723 (47X23) and they range in price from $7,590.00 to $20,617.00.
Keep in mind; this is an item that actually starts to show a return on investment as soon as you start using it. You no longer have to be standing over the cleaning tank. With this you just let the parts sit and get cleaned while you assemble a motor or work with a customer. It is a time multiplier.
As for wattage, this is where the men of ultrasonic cleaners are separated from the boys. They range from 400 watts or in the case of this one, to 2,000 watts. You have to be careful in this category because some are sold as 2,000 watt cleaners but only peak at 2,000 watts, they actually run somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 watts. The Eastern Precision models have their wattage measured in RMF not Peak (If they did measure in peak levels they could claim their 2,000 watt model actually peaks at 4,000 watts.). The easiest way to tell whether or not they are capable of high wattage is by the incoming power they take. The bigger ones (2,000 watt) will take a 220 volt connection the others will plug into a 110 volt outlet.
The wattage dictates the speed and frequency of the untrasonic waves. It creates cavitation bubbles which have been reported to move at the rate of 10,000 psi. These bubbles are what clean the parts.
Another item to take into consideration is whether or not the tank has a built in filtration system. You would not want the dirt you just sonically blasted off your parts to find its way back into an oil passage. Not all ultrasonic cleaners have this option. Most parts take 20 minutes to clean and they come out looking brand new. My cylinder head took 40 minutes to get the exhaust ports clean, everything else was done in 20 minutes or less.
The parts flash dry themselves in about 5 minutes due to the 150 degree temperature of the water.
Having everything clean makes the assembly process much more professional. When you are done the engine looks practically new. Not to mention it is easier to see any flaws that may be in the castings or parts themselves as they are completely free of dirt or oil staining.
Needless to say I am spoiled rotten now. I was disappointed when I ran out of things to clean so I started putting my tools in the tank.
Who uses them?
Dave Weaver with Eastern Precision told me his products are being used in our industry by none other than the Barber Motorsports Museum in Alabama to keep up their display bikes. Carpenter Racing uses one of the EP 3526 Stainless Steel versions and Larry McBride has been using one for years in his shop. (BTW Dave says, “Hello” Larry…)
Outside of our industry other customers include Bill Elliot and Warren Johnson who has been using a huge one to put whole engine blocks in since 1999.
What are you waiting for?
If you are tired of washing parts by hand in a traditional parts washer and want to get one of these, the best way to find out if you can afford it is by figuring out how much time per month your spend bent over the parts washer. Times that by what you could have been charging if you were assembling a motor or tuning a bike. If you are a busy shop you will see it will pay for itself quicker than you think.
Also keep in mind you will not have to pay a chemical removal company to come change out your solvent each month. (Because I know none of you are dumping it in the parking lot drain or woods behind the shop.) This solvent is environmentally safe. The detergent is bio-degradable and the filtration system takes out the bad stuff so there is no need for special removal.
See ya at the track!