Between 70-80 % of hydraulic system outages are due to increased contamination levels (according to Hydac analysis ) so there has never been a better time for manufacturers of components in the sector to consider whether their existing cleaning regimes are delivering the right results for customers.
Exacting levels of cleanliness are vital in the sector because even the smallest levels of contamination can have significant and costly long-term effects. Contamination management begins with the manufacture of the individual components and extends throughout the entire process chain up to and including the final assembly. Ideally, the design and development departments are also integrated in this process so that component design facilitates the washing in a cost effective manner.
MecWash already works closely with many companies in the sector, including IMI Precision (formerly IMI Norgren), Concentric AB, HUSCO International, Hydraforce and Related Fluid Power, whose manufacturing processes all benefit from the Tewkesbury-based company’s aqueous cleaning systems.
John Pattison, Managing Director at MecWash, says: “While it is widely recognised that aqueous cleaning is far kinder to the environment and employee health than solvents, historically some manufacturers have been deterred from converting to aqueous by concerns about potential corrosion or the ability to clean fine components.
“However, advances in the technology of water based washing systems and developments in the chemistry of wash solutions, mean aqueous cleaning for hydraulics and pneumatics component manufacturers is now recognised as the preferred approach, as our work with these key companies servicing the sector shows.
One customer, Concentric AB, a world leading manufacturer of niche hydraulic systems, has five MecWash systems installed at its main Birmingham plant, including a Midi that was commissioned to clean pumps produced for a major automotive manufacturer. As a MecWash customer since 1997, Concentric knew it could trust the company’s expertise to deliver the highest standards of cleanliness possible.
Mark McFall, Concentric Manufacturing Engineering Manager, said: “Our Birmingham plant focuses on producing the more complex, high-end products in our range and our customers demand the absolute highest levels of quality in all aspects of our operation.
“Having trialled a number of cleaning methods, the MecWash Midi was the only one that exceeded the cleanliness levels demanded by our customer, inside the required Takt time.
“The Midi was commissioned specifically to clean pumps for one particular customer that sells its precision engineered systems to leading automotive manufacturers all over the world. We provide an extensive prototyping and testing period for each of our customers to ensure their pump works perfectly, and we use the same ethos when selecting our suppliers,” he added.
A second company to benefit from MecWash’s aqueous component cleaning is HUSCO International, a global leader in the development and manufacture of hydraulic and electro-hydraulic controls, which has now invested in twelve MecWash systems for use in the UK, US and China.
These include Midi aqueous wash machines used to clean hydraulic control valves manufactured for off-highway applications, including agricultural machinery, materials handling and construction, to the exacting standards demanded by HUSCO’s customers around the world.
HUSCO’s Senior Manufacturing Engineer, Eric Pollard, comments: “Our customers trust us to deliver precision engineered parts manufactured to the very highest specifications. HUSCO’s global reputation is recognition of our unwavering commitment to quality and this applies to all aspects of our supply chain.
“Solid particle contamination can interfere with the lubrication process in hydraulic fluid systems – causing wear to the components which can result in additional maintenance and repair costs, and a substantial decrease in the system’s service life. Worn components can lead to parts seizing, higher fluid temperatures, leaks and reduced control. Contamination can also damage the system’s fluid by accelerating oxidation – again resulting in inefficient operation.
“It is therefore vital that all of our parts are free from contamination before they reach the assembly line. This is the main reason why we continue to invest in MecWash machines as they are renowned for achieving high cleanliness standards and providing 24/7 reliability.”
MecWash managing director, John Pattison, says: “The Midi, and the latest updated version the MWX400 system, is the ideal choice for cleaning components used in hydraulic and pneumatic systems. It has been specifically designed to process complex and intricate machined parts that require very high standards of cleanliness and dryness.
“The systems can handle large volumes of delicate small spools or valves, or a heavyweight version can handle large blocks weighing 2-300kg. The systems can incorporate a range of functionality including ultrasonics at various frequencies, high flow washing, our unique dedicated jetting system that targets critical features with jets that rotate with the component and vacuum drying. All features can be custom programmed to optimise cleanliness and efficiency, and ensure consistency in the cleaning and drying processes,” he added.
A third company also benefiting from MecWash systems is Related Fluid Power, a leading designer and manufacturer of hydraulic manifold control valves and power units. Related Fluid Power has installed a MecWash Midi at its production plant in Fife to ensure its manifolds and component parts meet the highest levels of cleanliness demanded by today’s hydraulic systems.
Established in 1974, Related Fluid Power provides standard and customised solutions to OEMs worldwide and the MecWash Midi will ensure it continues to meet and surpass the stringent cleanliness and ‘wash down’ standards set by many global OEMs.
Related Fluid Power’s Production Director, Bob Lennie, says: “Related Fluid Power is committed to keeping its production facility equipped with the very latest technologies to ensure all of our customers receive the best service possible. We work closely with our OEM clients to understand and meet their exact requirements - we invested in the MecWash Midi because of its comprehensive cleaning capabilities which benefits all of our clients and meets the high level cleanliness standards required.”
An extremely high level of component cleanliness - which exceeds a target that calls for just one particle of 100 microns in size per 100 ml of wash down fluid – was achieved by Hydraforce Hydraulics, one of the country's leading manufacturers of hydraulic components which already has six MecWash Midi machines in the UK and in China. The company installed a MecWash Midi with ultrasonics to meet these highly stringent cleanliness specifications.
Manufacturers of a wide range of hydraulic valves, primarily for customers in the off-road and agricultural vehicle sector, Hydraforce uses the installation for cleaning six separate component designs, including a new transmission manifold for a leading manufacturer of construction equipment.
IMI Precision (formerly known as IMI Norgren) are an established MecWash customer with a number of MecWash aqueous cleaning systems installed since 1997, including a bespoke system which proved central to the cleaning processes of this world-leading pneumatic component manufacturer.
The machine is located ahead of assembly and storage areas and handles parts from around 60 machines, 30 of which are high volume. As well as achieving unprecedented levels of cleanliness (beyond the capabilities of small individual washing units attached to some of the machine tools), it is helping to reduce the risk of mechanical handling damage while increasing operational cost efficiency and environmental protection.
The company’s Fittings Division produces mainly brass components which are destined for the commercial vehicle sector for safety critical braking and auxiliary applications which calls for the highest levels of component cleanliness.
Chris Jones, Manufacturing Engineer at IMI Precision, explains: “Components are collected at the machining stations directly into the wash baskets submerged in machining oil, which provides an important degree of protection for the parts as they exit down the chute into the basket. From each location, they are transported on special pallets to the central wash area and hand loaded onto a roller conveyor that feeds into the MecWash machine.”
“From all points of view – efficiency, economy, environmental concerns and, ultimately, quality,” concludes Chris, “the investment in the MecWash wash system has been highly successful and its versatility allows it to play a key role for many years to come. As an organisation, we are committed to improving our performance and quality standards on an on-going basis and this installation is clearly an important step in this direction.”
John Pattison adds: “Technological advances mean that leading global aqueous cleaning specialists such as MecWash can ensure hydraulic fluid systems are built using components manufactured to exacting standards with none of the harmful environmental side-effects of solvent cleaning methods.
“Even particles as minute as 100μm can be removed by using a combination of bespoke detergents and wash features such as ultrasonics, high flow flood and spray washing, direct jetting and rinsing. This guarantees that contamination such as swarf and the machining coolant used in the component manufacturing process will not be present in the final hydraulic system.
“The drying method is equally important in the production of hydraulic components - even microscopic residual water droplets can interfere with the smooth running of hydraulic systems. The introduction of vacuum drying ensures all moisture is removed from the parts following the wash cycle.
“This means that commissioning an aqueous washing machine can lead to considerable benefits for hydraulic and pneumatic component manufacturers such as increased competitiveness and productivity, superior levels of cleanliness and better use of machine operatives’ time,” he added.
If you would like to know more about MecWash’s aqueous cleaning component systems please visit the website at www.mecwash.co.uk.
 Hydac analysis can be found at https://www.scribd.com/document/272484484/E7604-1-05-09-Practical-Contamination-Management-En