Q. We manufacture drive and driven gears ranging in size from 3/4–4-inch diameters. We are shopping for an in-line parts washer to wash, rust inhibit, and dry before packing and shipping. Prior to the wash operation, the gears have been machined, honed, and/or vibratory deburred. We have to remove any residual oils or media dust before packing and shipping. A new manufacturing engineer with our firm suggested that we look into a vibratory/washing operation, perhaps even replacing the deburring machine.
Can you comment on this? P.W.
A. Your new employee made an excellent suggestion. A parts washer depends on three things to clean the parts: chemicals, pressure or extreme turbulence, and temperature. The demand on the chemicals is great, often calling for strong caustics or solvents that present hazards to personnel and environment. A lesser-known method is to use steel media in a vibratory finisher. The scrubbing action can often replace strong chemicals and high temperatures while effectively removing the contaminants. Biodegradable and safe compounds are available that will both clean and rust inhibit. As an added bonus, the parts will have a very clean, burnished surface.
The suggestion that this may even replace vibratory deburring is worth considering. Steel media does not cut, and it is not generally considered a deburring media. It does, however, remove loose burrs and blunt sharp edges. Some companies consider that to be effective deburring. An advantage over the more conventional ceramic or plastic media is that the life of steel media is measured in years, losing about 10% a year due more to losses than to wear. Also, lodging problems are more easily avoided with steel media. Working with a vibratory equipment manufacturer you may be able to spec out a system that will wash, rust inhibit, and dry the parts all in a single pass.
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Vibratory washing machines can be used with flow-through or recirculating compound systems, just as with their deburring counterparts. Which system you use will depend on many factors beyond the scope of this brief answer to your question.