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What is an Ultrasonic Degreaser?

By David Larson
Updated May 17, 2024
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An ultrasonic degreaser uses energy emitted from a transducer to break up grease and other contaminants on a part. The transducers in ultrasonic degreasers emit an electromagnetic radio frequency (RF) signal of approximately 30 kilohertz (kHz), which results in a mechanical vibration called cavitation in the contaminants. In industrial degreasing, an ultrasonic degreaser is often incorporated into vapor degreasers.

Because an ultrasonic degreaser is effective in cleaning parts difficult to degrease using other methods, it is now used widely for certain applications ranging from cleaning a glass lens to degreasing automobile parts. Porous materials such as brass are especially difficult to clean using conventional metal degreasers. Vapor degreasing solvent alone tends to leave contaminants in pores and crevices that an ultrasonic degreaser can effectively clean.

An ultrasonic degreaser consists of a few basic parts, which include a signal generator, transducer, and tank. As many ultrasonic degreasers are integrated into a solvent cleaning process, components such as filters, rinsers, dryers, and other design-specific features are included in the ultrasonic degreaser. Components will vary depending upon the use requirements of the degreaser. Industrial models may be quite large and have multiple chambers, while tabletop models for personal use are easily portable.

Industrial ultrasonic degreasers are used for large parts as well as large quantities of smaller parts. These might include automotive parts, dental tools, and printed circuit boards (PCB), among the many applications for an industrial cleaner. Light duty or personal degreasers may be used for a variety of objects such as eyeglasses, golf clubs, and jewelry.

When used as part of a solvent cleaning system such as a vapor degreaser, ultrasonic degreasing is one step in a multistage degreasing process. Parts are immersed in a vapor chamber above boiling solvent and are subjected to the vapors rising from the hot solvent as well as the RF energy from the ultrasonic transducer. The combination of mechanical cleaning through cavitation and chemical cleaning from the vaporized solvent generally results in a highly satisfactory degreasing.

For many parts degreased using combined vapor and ultrasound degreasing technology, a rinse bath followed by a drying by heat and forced air completes the cleaning cycle. For parts potentially harmed by immersion in water, ultrasound may be used alone. Since the recognition of harmful impact on the environment of solvents classified as ozone depleting solvents (ODS), industrial degreasing machines have been designed to work with a solvent type that is more environmentally friendly.

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