High speed solvent cleaning solves cleaning challenges for presswork company

Established 70 years ago, Clamason Industries is a highly service-orientated, independent UK manufacturer and assembler of precision pressings serving a broad spectrum of global customers from its manufacturing bases at Kingswinford (West Midlands) and Nitra (Slovakia). Current turnover is spread over half-a-dozen key market sectors – automotive engineering and medical together comprising two-thirds, with the remaining third consisting of home entertainments, building products, electrical accessories and disparate niche markets.

Clamason has a core competence of making technically complex metal parts in medium to high volumes on presses of 5 tonnes up to 250 tonnes. 90% of Clamason pressings are intricate and less than 2mm thick. Annual order quantities per part can range from 25,000 up to 200 million, although an average call-off would lie between 50,000 and 250,000 per year.

The surfaces of all these stampings require cleaning to remove lubricants deposited during the process.

“Historically, we’ve used an open-top trichloroethylene tank,” explains Clamason’s Operations Director Paul Edwards. “However, the recently tightened Solvent Emissions Directive (SED) regulations set us thinking about sourcing a different cleaning method.”

The company examined aqueous and hydrocarbon alternatives, but assessments of performance put solvent cleaning systems top of the list.

“We are well aware of the features and benefits of solvent cleaning and so were not surprised when other processes failed to match its performance,” says Mr Edwards. “What is more, we discovered that closed-loop, low-emission solvent cleaning systems can be more environmentally friendly than aqueous units, which require high amounts of energy to heat the wash solution.”

The Pero V2 solvent vapour degreasing system from UK distributor Kumi Solutions provided the answer to the company’s dilemma. V-Series machines work with the entire system under negative pressure, “V” denoting vacuum.

“Its emissions were the lowest we could find without any compromise to cycle time. The V2 was as quick as anything on the market,” states Mr Edwards. “Furthermore we immediately struck up a good relationship with the UK agent, Kumi Solutions, while the machine also provided the ideal basket size, 660 x 480 x 300mm.”

Clamason can fit 15 large parts into a single V2 basket or as many as 50,000 smaller components. Typical parts include airbag inflator housings, ladder platforms, set-top boxes for digital TV, central heating boiler parts, vehicle engine control units, car radio housings, window hardware, tiny medical pressings and electrical contacts.

Having also purchased Pero’s extended conveyor track, Clamason simply loads parts into a basket and lets the system do the rest. The conveyor feeds the machine, which cycles automatically: there is no need to press a single button. Clean parts emerge at the other end after a cycle of 5-6 minutes. Today, 90% of components manufactured by Clamason are cleaned using the V2, with just a small minority of customers requesting aqueous washing.

“Not only does the V2 ensure that we meet the SED legislation, but also the cleaning results are far superior and more consistent compared with our old open-top trichloroethylene tank,” says Mr Edwards. “We would previously find dirty parts in the middle of baskets that would require reprocessing. This simply doesn’t happen any more.”

Working with the chemical service and solutions provider SAFECHEM, Clamason was advised to use perchloroethylene as the cleaning solvent in its new Pero V2. The solvent was delivered in specially designed safety containers, the SAFE-TAINER™ system. SAFECHEM was then able to train Clamason on the necessary tests for their DOWPER™ MC solvent that would need to undertaken and to provide advice on safe handling and maintenance of the solvent.

An added advantage is that solvent loss has also been cut significantly. Using its open-top trichloroethylene tank, Clamason would lose approximately 14 tonnes of solvent every year. Using the V2, the solvent loss is estimated at less than 2/3 barrel per year, representing a considerable financial saving.

“We operate in a very competitive market with the highest quality requirements,” concludes Mr Edwards. “Our customers expect clean parts, but unfortunately without incurring any price rise. Hence we have to clean our components through a non-value-added process in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible without compromising quality. The Pero V2 has provided this capability.”