Precision Cleaning Chemistries
Current chemistry trends call for the use of parts cleaning solvents and vapor degreasers for precision cleaning applications.
The main reason to use a parts cleaning solvent is that “like dissolves like.” This means that a non-polar solvent best dissolves a non-polar soil such as oils, greases and RMA fluxes. While it is true that in some cases you can make water work with a detergent or emulsifier, it is important to remember that the procedure has a very narrow process window.
Parts cleaning solvents typically have a much wider process window than aqueous when cleaning non-polar oils, fluxes, waxes and precision medical, printed circuit board (PCB) or aerospace components with complex geometries. Solvents have very low surface tension that will “wet” and dissolve soils and oils in very complex areas such as blind holes or under surface mounted components. More importantly, they can be recycled or “re-cleaned” by simple distillation in a vapor degreaser.
Vapor degreasers wash, rinse and dry your precision parts in minutes. They utilize a small footprint, minimum amounts of energy, and leave trace amounts of solvent or waste.
Also, vapor degreasers can boil a non-flammable solvent at approximately 130° F and re-distill and re-clean the solvent back to virtually 99.9% purity. As a result, you can clean more parts with the same solvent. In addition, the resulting heated vapor zone provides an excellent means for drying freshly cleaned parts after removing them from the rinse sump.
Why did the industry move away from vapor degreasers for a short time?
Early-stage non-flammable solvents were found to have toxic effects on employees (trichloroethylene, perc -perchloroethylene, or methylene chloride), or found to be harmful to the environment (1,1,1 trichloroethane, TCE, trichlor or “Freons” causing ozone depletion).
Technological evolution and refinement of non-flammable solvents over the past 20 years and reduced-emission vapor degreasing equipment have resulted in processes that are safe for employees and the environment, and have made it possible to once again leverage the power of the vapor degreasing process. We offer both “batch type” vapor degreasers as well as in-line vapor degreasers.
Many of today’s parts cleaning solvents are commonly made with 3M Novec HFE (hydrofluoroether) blends. The 3M Novec engineered fluids are designed to replace replace CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbon ) and flammable solvents due to Novec HFE’s superior exposure limits and reduced ozone depletion properties.