Degreasing is one of the most common industrial cleaning operations. From engine parts to handheld tools, practically every company and organization that uses equipment that accumulates grease must perform degreasing to keep the equipment in ideal condition for its application. One way that this can be done is vapor pressure cleaning — a process in which pressurized vapor from a cleaning agent powers away tough accumulations of grease.
How Vapor Degreasing Works
Unlike degreasing operations that are performed in open air with the use of aerosols, spray liquids, and wipes, vapor degreasing is performed inside a machine that’s specially designed to vaporize a solvent and pressurize the vapor to make it remove grease from parts that are arranged inside the machine. Below is the basic, eight-part process in which vapor pressure cleaning is used to remove heavy grease from parts and leave them looking practically new.
- Work pieces are placed inside the vapor degreasing machine.
- Solvent is placed in a basin inside the machine.
- The machine is closed for the cleaning process.
- The solvent basin’s heating coil vaporizes the solvent.
- The machine builds pressure to make the vapor degrease.
- Solvent drips away from degreased parts, leaving them clean.
- Excess solvent is condensed for recycling or enters a waste trap.
- Parts are removed from the machine and re-implemented.
In some cases, the vapor degreasing process also entails rinsing workpieces in a separate chamber inside the machine to ensure no solvent residue remains, spraying workpieces with a solvent before they enter the machine to speed up the cleaning process, and/or using vacuum degreasers when the machine employs a vacuum to vacuum degreasing system.
Benefits of Vapor Degreasing
Regardless of what comprises the vapor pressure cleaning process, performing it properly can offer several important benefits that help the user execute an efficient cleaning operation, ensure that parts are entirely clean, and curb expenditures for industrial degreasing solvent.
- Eliminates the threat of oxidation and water spots on workpieces
- Prepares parts for finishing processes such as painting and welding
- Cleans precision parts faster than manual cleaning operations
- Offers the opportunity to collect and recycle vapor degreaser
Vapor pressure cleaning is a highly effective method for degreasing precision parts and tools, but two things are always necessary for maximum effectiveness: a parts cleaning machine that facilitates vapor degreasing and using the right type of degreaser for the cleaning process. If you need advice on either requirement, the solvent specialists at Ecolink can help.
Contact Ecolink for Assistance
Vapor degreasing is a simple process that relies on complex machinery and carefully formulated cleaning agents. Because purchasing the vapor pressure cleaning machine and buying solvent is where most of the cost comes in, it is economically imperative to choose the right equipment and cleaner from the start. Using our expertise in parts washing and cleaning solvents, we can help you do this. Just call us today at (800) 563-1305, or contact us today. We look forward to helping you realize the benefits of vapor degreasing!
What is Vapor Degreasing?
Vapor degreasing is a method of degreasing raw materials that have accumulated on any type of surface. In the manufacturing world vapor degreasing is critical for any surface finishing process. It involves the use of solvents in vapor form to clean and degrease parts, metals, components, and raw materials in preparation for future finishing operations. The actual process uses a vapor degreaser to cling onto the raw material. Once the vapor degreaser adheres to the raw material, it will work to dissolve the inhibiting particles and contaminants, which will eventually be removed simply by dripping off the raw material. A heating coil is usually used to bring the solvent to a boil, which creates the vapor. As the solvent evaporates, or vaporizes, it will rise (heat rises) into a chamber where the raw material(s) is / are being kept. The air within the chamber must have a lower density than the vaporized solvent, and the chamber itself must be completely closed off, so no air can travel in or out. The solvent will then condense on the cooler temperature raw material, and will then begin dissolving the inhibiting particles and contaminants. As the process continues, the impurities on the raw material will eventually become contained in the liquid beads of the vapor degreaser, which will eventually run, or drip off the raw material while still trapping the impurity. More recent vapor degreasing systems are now designed to capture and reclaim the solvent after dripping off the raw material, making the vapor degreasing process much more economical than other methods of parts cleaning.
Custom Vapor Degreasers
Because custom vapor degreasing now offers a way to essentially recycle and reuse the parts cleaning solvent for future and repeated cleaning processes, your industrial business can save money on degreasing solvents because you will use less. In addition, since your industrial business will need less of the cleaning agent used in the custom vapor degreasing process, this indirectly influences how much waste your business is producing. Obviously, your industrial organization will be producing much less waste, which also means you will be producing less toxins, carcinogens, and other environmental hazards that create a negative impact on both people and the environment. Clean up costs for produced waste that industrial businesses have to pony up can be quite expensive, so that is another reason why industries need to seriously evaluate the use of vapor degreasers. Finding ways to use less chemical cleaning solvents is always a helpful and positive methodology, one that produces positive influences for the environment. Custom vapor degreasers are one of the most eco friendly green alternative processes regarding the cleaning and degreasing of raw materials.
Ecolink can help you learn more about custom vapor degreasers that are available. Consult with Ecolink, and begin using custom degreasing solutions that allow your industrial business to save money.
Today we are providing operating advice for vapor degreasing equipment to help you save solvent and by extension, money!
In order to reduce solvent loss when starting up the operating machine, activate the cooling system, followed by checking the controls. Next, adjust solvent levels and activate heaters.
When a stable vapor blanket has been established, activate spray pumps and introduce work into the unit.
To shut down the unit, use the following procedure:
- Stop work processing and clear the machine of all work.
- Deactivate the heaters.
- Activate sump cooling coils, if available, and allow vapor blanket to collapse completely.
- Keep the condenser cooling system ON and close cover on open-top units.
FluoSolv Operatory Guidelines
In order for the vapor degreaser to be used effectively with our Fluosolv products, good work practices must be implemented.
Airflow across the vapor degreaser is the most common cause of extraordinary solvent losses. In no way, shape, or form should the vapor degreaser be ventilated, including the solvent product. When the system is not in use, the lid should always be kept on the degreaser.
There are two common effects that can expel solvent vapors from a cleaning system if the processing of workloads exceeds the capabilities of the vapor degreaser:
The piston effect is when a basket too large in physical size on the degreaser displaces vapor from the cleaning unit. Solvent will in turn be ejected from the machine as the mass of cleaning materials descends into the cleaning vapors. To avoid losses by this process, the area of the workload should not be greater than 75% of the horizontal cross-sectional area of the sump into which it is being introduced.
The second effect, work shock, occurs when the load of the degreaser becomes too heavy and the vapor blanket collapses. Until the vapor blanket is re-established, infiltration of air into the cleaning unit will increase solvent losses.
Drag-out losses occur when baskets are not positioned correctly, causing excess parts to be removed during cleaning. Cleanout procedures must be followed for the vapor degreaser in order to prevent this scenario. Drag-out prevention is extremely essential to the effectiveness of the operating device. A good vendor should be able to document incremental operating costs and drag-out losses on a feature-by-feature basis. Additionally, they should be able to highlight specific environments (e.g., types of contamination, cycle times) which will reduce solvent losses.
Vapor Linger Time
The workload should remain in the vapor zone after the final cleaning step until its temperature equals that of the vapor zone and vapor condensation on the part stops. Work withdrawn earlier will emerge wet with solvent condensate. Insufficient dwell times are encountered most commonly in open-top units where work is manually moved into and out of the unit. Use of a programmed work transporter, like an automated hoist, can help eliminate excessive drag-out due to insufficient dwell time.
The expulsion of air from a vapor degreaser during start-up always results in carryout solvent vapor. Emissions caused by frequent activation and deactivation of the cleaning system can be minimized by deferring cleaning until all of a day’s production is compiled for processing with only one start-up of the cleaning equipment.
Changing the Cleaning Fluids in the System
Fluorinated cleaning fluid blends are extremely stable can function for extended periods of time in the vapor degreaser. Since the solvent is constantly being distilled and recycled, it remains clean and pure for an indefinite time period. While the BromothaneTM products have a requirement to perform acid acceptance tests on a weekly basis, overall the maintenance is reasonably minimal.
The real issue is the compilation of debris at the bottom of the sump. After a while the debris accumulates and the machine becomes too dirty to operate effectively. This is when a system clean-out becomes necessary. In a busy machine, this might occur twice to four times a year.
In a standard degreaser, the contamination accumulates in the boil sump. This is the first chamber in the cleaning cycle and is the location into which the dirty parts are placed when they first go into the machine. It is here where the worst contamination will aggregate. In general, make sure the rinse sump fluid will always be clear and colorless. It will be time to change the solvent in the boil sump when it accumulates a high concentration of dissolved contamination, to the point of tinting the solvent yellow or beige. Additionally, at the bottom of the boil sump will be a large collection waste. This junk will need to be removed. It’s time to clean the machine.
Cleaning a degreaser normally involves a process called a boil-down. This process simply involves distilling, or boiling, all the solvent out of the system, rather than returning it to the rinse sump and recapturing it in a pail or a drum for re-use. The heat must be turned off when the last few liters of solvent remain at the bottom of the boil sump. Any residual waste solvent and the solid contamination is cleaned out by hand and disposed of as a hazardous waste. The entire cleaning process may take a day on a large and especially dirty operating machine.
In more sophisticated machines, a recirculating pump is installed on the boil sump to refresh the solvent and to remove particulate. This will extend the periods between boil-downs. Once the machine is ready to be returned into service, the old, cleaned solvent that was recaptured during the boil-down process is dumped back into the machine.
The recovery procedure described here should be conducted on a regularly scheduled basis, typically quarterly or semi-annually.
For even more accurate thoughts and recommendations, check with the machine manufacturer.
Detailed Solvent Boil-Down Process:
The recovery procedure described here should be conducted on a regularly scheduled basis, typically quarterly or semi-annually. Be advised that the machine must be taken out of production during the boil-down process; cleaning cannot be performed while the reclamation process is underway.
Here are the steps to follow:
- When the solvent in the boil sump is too dirty for normal operations to continue, turn the ultrasonics off. Empty the condensate (and the “rinse” sump in a multi-chamber system) into a clean, solvent-safe container.
- Continue to operate the boil sump. As the dirty solvent boils in the boil sump the solvent vapors will be captured and distilled by the cooling coils. The clean, nearly-pure distillate should be reclaimed into the solvent-safe container.
- Gradually the solvent and contamination remaining in the boil sump will concentrate and become viscous and syrupy.
- Before the residues become too thick, the high-temperature safety controls in the boil sump will detect the rising temperature and shut off the heaters. At this point, about 50% of the material in the sump will be solvent.
- Manually raise the boil sump temperature by another ten degrees and continue to boil the system until the safety controls shut off the system again.
- The “bottoms” are collected for disposal by draining the boil sump. The boil sump should then be cleaned with wipes and elbow grease. Wear gloves and take precautions to avoid exposures to high concentrations of the vapors.
- Once the boil sump is clean and dry, close all the drain valves and add fresh solvent to the clean solvent collected during the boil-down. Add enough solvent that the normal operational levels are re-established.
- Return the temperature controls on the boil sump back to their original and correct settings. If the facility has collected contaminated cleaning fluids over a period of time and would like to reclaim it all at once, this procedure can be extended simply by adding more of the dirty solvent to the boiling chamber during the boil down process.
Crucial tips for minimizing solvent loss during normal operation of the machine:
- Ideally, the solvent should be pumped into the degreaser through a liquid-submerged fill connection.
- Make-up solvent (topping off the machine to replace lost solvent) should be added to the rinse sump.
- Cold solvent should not be added to operating degreaser, for it can collapse the vapor blanket.
- The addition of solvent to an open-top degreaser by pouring from drums or buckets should be avoided. The turbulence of such pouring destabilizes the vapor/air interface.
- Drums should be stored with the bung end up to eliminate the possibility of a major spillage of solvent through a leaky bung. Drums filled with solvent and not in current usage should have tightly sealed lids. Take great care when moving drums of solvent. Do not pressurize the drums of solvent in an attempt to expedite unloading.
The cooling coil defrost setting should be set to periodically de-ice the coils. The vapor-degreaser’s boiling temperature setting should be increased by 10 to 15 °C when separate distillation for reclaiming spent solvent, due to the elevated boiling point of the contaminated solvent. The refrigeration/chiller should be set to its lowest temperature possible for best distillation efficiency. This is caused by an elevated boiling point of the contaminated solvent.
End of Lesson!
We hope these tips will help you reduce your solvent losses and save you money. If you have further questions about vapor degreasing or would like to know about the solvent products we sell for use with vapor degreasing, give us a call at 800-563-1305 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Industrial cleaning solvents are applied in different forms. Some are wiped on as liquid, others are sprayed from an aerosol container, and still others are heated until they vaporize, with the vapor serving as a cleaning agent for removing soils from a variety of parts. This last type of solvent is commonly referred to as a vapor pressure solvent for two reasons: It is used in the form of vapor, and the vapor is pressurized to provide the desired cleaning action.
Using a Vapor Cleaning Machine
Investing in vapor pressure solvent before vapor cleaning equipment is in place is putting the cart before the horse. The reason why is simple: On its own, a vapor pressure solvent doesn’t vaporize quickly enough or have enough vapor pressure to deliver maximum cleaning power. Essentially, the machine is needed to release the cleaning action of the solvent in the proper fashion. At its simplest, the vapor cleaning process involves the following essential steps.
- Soiled parts are placed on a rack in the machine.
- Solvent is placed in a special basin.
- The basin is heated to vaporize the solvent.
- The vapor is pressurized to clean parts.
- The vapor condenses into liquid and can be reused.
- Clean parts are removed from the machine.
Many companies and organizations prefer vapor cleaning over other methods of removing soils from precision parts. In most cases, there at least three reasons why: The machine carries a small electrical load, making it energy efficient; solvent can be collected and reused, making vapor degreasing economical in terms of solvent cost; and equal amounts of vapor and pressure are applied to each part to create a thorough, uniform cleaning process.
There are also several additional benefits associated with using vapor pressure solvent, particularly: reduced solvent waste disposal cost, minimal chemical exposure due to the vapor cleaning machine’s airtight seal while cleaning is performed, ability to automate the vapor cleaning process to improve productivity, ability to clean parts that have complex configurations, and the ease of operating and maintaining vapor cleaning equipment.
Should You Use Vapor Cleaning?
At the outset, implementing an industrial grade parts cleaning system that relies on vapor cleaning solvent can require a considerable amount of time and money. The workflow of the parts cleaning system must be established to ensure that parts are cleaned and ready to use on schedule; and, of course, the vapor cleaning machine must be purchased and installed.
However, for companies and organizations that clean a high volume of parts, implementing a vapor cleaning system can deliver an excellent return on investment (ROI) due to the financial benefits listed above. If you need help determining whether vapor cleaning is a good solution for your parts cleaning requirements, the solvent specialists at Ecolink are here to help.
In addition to helping you decide whether vapor cleaning would be a profitable operation for your company or organization, we can also supply environmentally preferred vapor pressure solvent in the form of a stock cleaner or a custom formulated cleaner that’s tailored to your needs. For more information, please call us today at (800) 563-1305, or refer to the contact page on our website. We look forward to supporting your industrial cleaning needs!