MecWash component washing system goes through the wall to maximise pneumatic component cleanliness

High levels of component cleaning performance and an innovative location on site have combined to maximise the benefit of a MecWash Midi component cleaning system for one of the UK's leading manufacturers of pneumatic components. The aqueous-based installation in the Clean Pneumatronic Systems Division of KV Automation in Milton Keynes has replaced the previous cleaning system that saw very complex parts cleaned and dried through the use of potentially harmful solvents. Significantly, a dividing wall also separates the manufacturing area from a large scale clean room allowing the cleaning process to play the optimum role during manufacturing.

The full range of pneumatic components - the majority of which are bespoke systems destined for microelectronic, precision measurement and instrumentation applications - are machined off-site before undergoing sub-assembly work within the main factory. From here, components are moved to a dedicated area between the manufacturing floor and the clean room within which the MecWash system is located. Significantly, the machine itself remains external to this area to ensure that servicing and maintenance procedures do not impact directly on the clean area.

Roger Day, Senior Production Engineer for the Advanced Product Division at the company details the procedure that is used -

"Depending upon their size, products are located in baskets or trays often as kits and then loaded from the clean side into the rotational drum which is at the heart of the MecWash system," he says. "Indexed through 180º during loading to maximise capacity, the cleaning process then produces components which can be transferred directly into the adjacent Class 1000 clean room for final assembly. This loading area is itself held in positive pressure of 10 pascals above the factory environment to create the optimum buffer zone between manufacturing and final clean room operations. The ability to separate the operation for the maintenance of the MecWash unit through the partition wall has been an important consideration and one that has helped us to make the most of the cleaning capability of the MecWash unit."

With blind holes and deep, small bore drillings typical of the increasingly complex components, cleaning performance is clearly critical and Roger Day notes significant performance gains - in terms of reduced failure rate - compared with the previous ultrasonic, solvent-based installation. The MecWash cleaning process includes spray/flood immersion wash and rinse stages with very high standards of filtration to 1 micron level. The targets set by the CPS Division - some 1 to 1.5 microns on final rinse - are thus readily achieved.

"The range of components sees aluminium, plastic, stainless steel and nickel-plated brass all pass through our installation with some 400 parts per day commonplace," comments MecWash Director Paul Young, who points out that the company also supplies the cleaning chemicals.

"In every case the wash process is a performance critical operation - particularly in an industry where cleanliness levels are paramount," concludes Paul Young. "We are delighted to have been able to provide the optimum and enviro-friendly solution to one of the most successful and highly respected names in the industry. Importantly, we believe the development is providing KV Automation with a 'future proof', high performance, aqueous cleaning method which helps to overcome both the current and potential future regulatory controls relating to solvent cleaning systems."