Clean Green Approach as Aircraft Manufacturer Lands Wheelabrator Machine

2 min read

A new washing system from Wheelabrator Group is helping one of the UK’s leading aircraft manufacturers remove contamination and increase the life of its innovative reusable packaging system.

The Clean-Tek C600 wash, rinse and dry machine is being used by the customer to achieve its zero-tolerance standard that drives the application of its reusable packaging system. In this process, parts are placed in plastic containers with high-density foam liners to prevent metal-to-metal contact, as they are moved through a variety of manufacturing stages.

Its impressive performance has resulted in the machine being awarded one of the customer’s coveted awards for excellence.

Clive Ward, general manager of the Clean-Tek product range, said: “As the 10,000 containers travel around the site they pick up a variety of contaminants such as cutting and lubricating oils, metallic swarf and paint particles, from the different processes. Oil and fine particle contaminants in particular, can build up on liners and transfer to parts causing rejection and rework where surface condition is an important feature.

“Prior to installing the new machine, our customer discarded a high percentage of their liners due to oil contamination. In many cases, the new washing capability has extended their life from one to three years and they are, understandably, pleased with the result.”

Before implementation of the reusable packaging system, parts protection was based on the application of consumable packaging, such as bubble wrap, which required operators to wrap and unwrap parts at every stage. As a consequence, labour cost was high for a non-value adding operation and the volume of waste disposal impacted greatly on the local environment.

The gradual change to reusable packaging has accelerated workflow through better presentation of parts and reduced handling, and given a significant year on year reduction in waste disposal. 

Mr Ward said: “Our engineers worked with the customer to modify a standard Clean-Tek C600 conveyor machine to include two one metre buffer zones, fitted with powerful air knives, to ensure minimal fluid carryover and contamination between the process stages. Other refinements include steam extraction and condensing, fine particle filtration, energy metering, softened water and oil water separation.

“Washing and rinsing the contours of the boxes and foam would inevitably result in a degree of splash back, but the integral buffer zones mean this is now nullified.

“The liners also presented a challenge, due to the need for a quick dry capability, so extra attention was given to a sophisticated drying section, which incorporates double fan driers.

“At Wheelabrator we’re seeing increasing numbers of companies buying equipment to clean components at different stages of manufacture and prior to delivery to customers. Many, though, forget their products also get dirty whilst moving around their facilities in dirty containers or boxes. In fact, we believe a staggering 40 per cent are experiencing contamination problems as a result of dirty component packaging. This could be easily avoided without the need for considerable capital investment.”       

Wheelabrator Group owns designs, manufactures and provides wheelblast, airblast and vibratory mass finishing equipment for surface preparation and cleaning, and services a variety of sectors, including the aerospace and automotive industries.

For product enquiries or to arrange a visit to Wheelabrator Group’s Surface Technology Centre, please contact: Brian Rodgers, sales manager, Wheelabrator Group, on 0161 928 6388 or


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