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Enviro Tech discusses the challenges faced by manufacturers involved in critical cleaning applications.

Manufacturers, particularly those involved in critical cleaning applications, have faced many challenges in recent times.

While economic issues have forced a closer look at process costs, obligations to replace harmful vapour-degreasing products have increased awareness of the alternatives.

Trichloroethylene (Tri), in particular, has been under pressure from regulators, as under EU Regulations if more than one tonne per year is used it needs to be substituted for a safer solvent.

As the supply and use of Tri is diminishing its costs is increasing, a trend which will continue.

As legislation becomes more prescriptive and regulators increasingly diligent, the days of cheap commodity cleaning solvents is ending.

It is clear that companies must seek greater clarity before making new product choices.

This is a sensible approach, since it produces a balanced view before engaging with decision making.

That balanced view relies heavily on considering ‘hidden issues’.

A product that offered high performance, a good safety profile, presented no changeover difficulties to adopt and was economically viable would be very welcome.

HFE and HFC solvents are increasingly promoted as alternatives, but does the use of fluorinated solvents meet any of these criteria? A great deal is known about chlorinated and brominated solvents, as these have been the popular choices for vapour degreasing for many years.

It is much more difficult for industry to assess fluorinated solvents.

It would help then, to use some experience as a guide for assessment.

As a base material, fluorinated solvents are known for being poor cleaners with very low solvency values.

To rectify this deficiency, manufacturers have to make modifications or additions to the fluorinated solvent, or rely on additional engineering solutions, or a combination of the two.

To illustrate this fairly we must consider first how the base solvents are modified.

A common fluorinated solvent cleaner might only contain 30 per cent of its base chemistry.

In some cases, the other 70 per cent will be the addition of a more powerful solvent such as trans-1, 2 dichloroethylene.

This is because this is the only way to produce an acceptable level of degreasing performance from the fluorocarbon.

In fact, the fluorinated solvent is only there to suppress the flammability of the trans- 1, 2 dichloroethylene, which is structurally related to trichloroethylene, classified as a carcinogen.

With such ratios one might ask why this mixture is not referred to as a chlorinated solvent.

A comparative study of commonly used vapour-degreasing solvents using Human Cell Bioassay testing, encouraged by the EU, revealed similar results for trans-1,2 dichloroethylene as trichloroethylene.

Adverse effects were recorded at the first test level of 25ppm using a DNA Strand Break test, compared to a no-effect level with Enviro Tech’s own product, Ensolv.

Because of the addition of trans 1, 2, dichloroethylene, this places some fluorinated solvent formulations in an area of deep concern.

Another difficulty is that existing machinery is unlikely to be suitable for use with fluorinated alternatives, as much more complicated and expensive technology is needed to retain the solvents, which requires investment in high-cost cleaning equipment.

Lower-cost fluorinated products are arriving on the market that may appear to reduce costs but are likely to be hybrids or based on recovered solvents that put the integrity and sustainability of the process at risk.

Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a huge issue with fluorinated chemistries, presenting another potential regulatory issue.

These products are often found to have GWP ratings in excess of 150, so always have potential ongoing issues in mind.

Often the argument for low-boiling-temperature solvents will be made referring to energy savings, but one must not forget that the reduced temperature reduces the cycle of contact of the solvent vapour with parts being cleaned.

For medium and heavier soiled parts, this is unlikely to produce the cleaning users seek and it will be necessary to use immersion cleaning with ultrasonics and sprays, which complicates the process and increases cycle time compared to the use of vapour degreasing alone.

2010 is a critical year for users of solvent cleaning as, while it is not and will not be banned, decisions on future use are impossible to avoid.

Vapour degreasing continues to be the trusted system of cleaning in the UK.

Gone are the days of looking at chemicals and equipment separately – manufacturers need specialist help from people who understand and can deliver a fully efficient process.

Customers can contact Enviro Tech to make an appointment for a free visit by one of its distributors, who will be able to assess individual needs, validate the best option and support long-term needs.

Envirotech Europe

EnviroTech Surface Technologies supply a complete range of metal cleaning, surface treatment and protection systems which are cost effective, energy efficient and safe for users and the environment. Products are supplied through a qualified network of distributors throughout the UK and Europe.

The Best In Surface Treatment

EnviroTech Surface Technologies supply a complete range of metal cleaning, surface treatment and protection systems which are cost effective, energy efficient and safe for users and the environment. Products are supplied through a qualified network of distributors throughout the UK and Europe

Products and Services
Ensolv – Vapour Degreasing Solvents For Precision Cleaning
Environmentally friendly precision vapour degreasing and cleaning solvents for the aerospace, precision engineering, medical, optical and electronic industries.

EnSolv vapour degreasing solvents are the most effective alternative to trichloroethylene which is due to be phased out of use in Europe during 2016. Fast economical cleaning and degreasing in one tank using minimal floor area.

Aquus – Water Based Metal Cleaning And Pretreatment Processes
A range of innovative and sustainable water based metal cleaning and surface treatment products which prepare parts and fabrications for painting, powder coating or electroplating.

Phosphating systems are available to meet the needs of all manufacturers from office furniture to household appliances and for other more demanding applications in transport, aerospace, construction, oil and marine industries.

CORR-EX – Corrosion Protection Solutions
Specialist barrier film corrosion protection products, based on synthetic materials to provide safe, effective, environmentally friendly solutions to lubrication and corrosion problems.

Our solutions help to lubricate and control corrosion, and are unexcelled in preventing deterioration and contamination. Solutions for derusting, passivation, sealing and anti-corrosion packaging are also included in our product range.

Clarea – Industrial Degreasing Solvents
Environmentally safe wipe, brush, dip and immersion cleaning solvents for removing dirt, oil, grease and other contaminants from surfaces without causing harm or leaving residue.

A growing concern regarding environmental issues and health hazards of the most commonly used chlorinated solvents as degreasing agents has led to the formulation of this range of safer industrial cleaning solvents.

  • Our products and treatments offer a combination of benefits:
  • Cost effective solutions for all your metal cleaning and surface treatments needs
  • Processes are safe, environmentally friendly and energy efficient
  • Excellent customer service, technical support and training from qualified distributors throughout Europe

ProSolv – lower cost high performance fluorocarbon cleaning solvent

ProSolv – enables high performance cleaning at lower cost than other fluorinated solvent cleaners.A proprietary tertiary azeotropic formulation based on a fluorinated solvent which can be a direct replacement for chlorinated solvents ProSolv is extremely stable and simple to use meeting all the increasingly stringent legislative demands for safer, non flammable solvents with low environmental impact for the precision engineering and electronics industries

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