Ultrasonic cleaning even more thorough at TE Connectivity - Case Study

TE Connectivity in Oostkamp has long been a global player in the technological parts of the automotive industry. In order to stay that way, it is therefore necessary to invest in automation. That is why the company ordered an automated ultrasonic cleaning machine from Kemet Europe. “Because everything is automatic, we save time and the employees can take on other, more valuable tasks,” says Bart Vanneste, Process Technology Engineer Molding at TE Connectivity.

Today, contact elements, connectors, modules and sensors for the automotive sector are designed and produced in Oostkamp. The automotive industry is constantly evolving in terms of safety, ecology and connectivity. In order to keep up with these evolutions, TE Connectivity must also continue to innovate.

Via direct customers, so-called Tier 1 suppliers, the products ultimately end up in applications that are supplied to almost all car manufacturers. Well-known names such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, VW, PSA, Renault, Ford, Jaguar, Porsche ... Given the automotive market has very high standards for quality and because the company attaches great importance to 'first time right', TE Connectivity decided on the FinnSonic Versa Genius, a new ultrasonic cleaning system, to be purchased from Kemet Europe.

“With the new machine we can now clean everything automatically”, says Bart Vanneste. Cleaning process “We use the new machine to clean molds. Before we can start on that, we have to dismantle it completely manually ”, Vanneste explains. “The cores are then placed in baskets that are transported to an ultrasonic bath on a conveyor belt. A robot then places the baskets in that bath. After ultrasonic cleaning, the cores are rinsed twice more in two different rinsing baths. ”

And there is a good reason for this: “In the past, one rinse was provided and that was not always sufficient to get the soap residue off. The second sink is continuously supplied with fresh water, so that the last soap residues are also removed. ”

After the rinsing process, the baskets go to the drying installation. There, the cores are dried for about fifteen minutes at a temperature of just above 100°C . That is enough for 90% of our cores. When the cores are dry and slightly cooled, they can be removed from the baskets and rebuilt in the mold.

The drying installation is one of the reasons why we chose this system. As a result, we no longer have to blow dry the cores manually and we save time. Now that all happens with a robotic system.

Alkaline liquid

The agent used to clean the workpieces is not just any soap or water. The ultrasonic cleaning machine uses 'Nanoclean Super'. This is a strong alkaline cleaning fluid with good degreasing properties. After all, fats are the most important contamination that occurs on the workpieces. Tests have shown that this liquid is the best solution for this.

Filter cleaning fluid

The cleaning fluid becomes more and more contaminated with every use, but this has been taken into account. The alkaline liquid is indeed gradually contaminated with oil and particles - the two main sources of pollution - and so has to be filtered every so often, adds Vanneste. The machine then applies an oil separator to separate the oil that floats on the liquid surface.

In addition, filtration systems are also possible to collect the particles that have been released. The contaminated liquids are also not just thrown away. The waste automatically goes to a buffer tank. When it is full, the content is pumped into a barrel that is processed as chemical waste.

ultrasonic cleaning for the automotive industry

Automatic dosing

In addition to filtering the cleaning agent, the FinnSonic Versa Genius also knows when the dosage of the liquid is no longer optimal. Theunis explains how: The concentration of the agent decreases continuously when using the machine. When it is noticed that the conductivity deviates, it will dose soap at regular intervals when limits are exceeded.

The machine has a conductivity sensor in the tank. During the start-up process, the dosing unit of the machine is taught what conductivity that liquid has at certain concentrations. As a function of this, it will itself initiate a logarithm that ensures that the correct concentration is maintained.

Rinse tanks

The FinnSonic Versa Genius has some protections such as the double puncture protection.

You have the standard drip tray under the tanks. It is equipped with a liquid sensor. If liquid is detected in the tank, the water supply will be shut off. There is also such a system in the first receptacle for waste liquids. When the waste-holding tank is full, the pumps that supply the liquids are also shut off. This means there is no chance of flooding. The cleaning machine has three 50 litre tanks; a cleaning tank and two rinsing tanks. “We have strived to limit water consumption as much as possible,” says Vanneste.

Fresh water is added to the last rinse tank. There, the water must be as pure as possible to obtain a good end product. That water is reused in the previous rinsing tank, which in turn is also reused in the cleaning tank. Every liquid is reused in three process steps, so that it can achieve the longest possible use time for the liquid, limiting consumption and volume as much as possible.

It is of course the case that this liquid will be contaminated over time and that it will indeed have to be changed, how long that will take is difficult to estimate in advance. Depending on the intensity of use and the amount of pollution that ends up in it, this is usually a period of several weeks or months.

Ergonomics and time savings

Bart Vanneste is already satisfied with the purchase. “The big advantage of this machine is its ergonomics. In the past there was one person continuously who had to clean everything manually. Thanks to the robotic system, this now happens automatically. This way we save time and the person who had to clean can now be deployed elsewhere. The only thing we have to do manually now is put the pieces in the baskets. This time saving is very important to us ”, concludes Vanneste.

Are you also looking for an efficient cleaning process? A single tank or a multi-step cleaning process? Automated or not? Don't hesitate to get in touch. We are happy to support you in making the best choice.

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