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Stainless-steel seal components are being cleaned more quickly, efficiently and economically at John Crane UK’s plant in Slough, following the installation of an aqueous cleaning line from Turbex.

The equipment replaced two separate industrial washing systems and extends the size of component that can be processed to 500mm in diameter.

Programmable ultrasonics, together with jet turbulation in the latest equipment, are proving to be effective at helping to clean newly manufactured seal components, particularly the blind holes that tend to harbour swarf and cutting oil.

Combining the two methods of agitation is said to be efficient at removing heavy hydrocarbon soil from the rotating faces of seals that are returned periodically for refurbishment.

The previous cleaning plant at Slough included a rotary aqueous jet washer to clean batches of new seal parts before assembly.

However, the parts had to be dried manually afterwards.

The other pre-existing cleaning system at the Slough facility was a manual washer that utilised a paraffin derivative delivered through a brush to remove heavy oils from used seals, many of which are returned from arduous applications in the petrochemical and mining sectors.

Between one and two hours of work was needed to clean a batch of such components by hand to the required standard.

Cleaning both new and used seal components is now carried out in the Turbex line.

Called Crystal CRX, it is a modular washing machine built by Finnish manufacturer Finnsonic, for which Turbex is the UK agent.

Extensive trials were carried out at its Alton technical centre, together with John Crane engineers, to identify the correct number of tanks and the best cleaning agents and to fine-tune the programmes for optimum results across the two applications.

The line, which started operation at the Slough factory in February 2009, comprises four stages.

The first contains an alkaline detergent.

Full immersion of the parts in a basket with programmed ultrasonics at a frequency, intensity and duration to suit the component type, plus jet turbulation, results in rapid processing to a high level of cleanliness.

The basket is transferred via an overhead beam to subsequent tanks for primary rinsing, secondary deionised water rinsing and the drying of the parts.

When the basket has completed the cycle and reaches the start of the output conveyor, fans automatically cool the components so that they can be handled more quickly.

Mike Perrett, projects manager at John Crane, said: ‘The beauty of the Turbex system is that the operator loads parts into a basket and places it on the input conveyor, after which he is free to do other jobs while cleaning is in progress, such as preparing the next basket of parts or bench work or attending a lathe.

‘A mix of new components and refurb parts can be processed in successive loads to a maximum weight of 60kg per basket and cycle time is between 15 and 30 minutes – much faster than either of the previous processes,’ he added.

According to Perrett, productivity improvements have resulted in two areas: avoiding the need to dry new seal components by hand after they come out of the rotary jet washer and eliminating time-consuming manual cleaning when refurbishing used seals.

John Huntingdon, managing director of Turbex, said that the modular build and commonality of parts allows a CRX system to be configured for typically 20 per cent less than similar purpose-built systems on the market.

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