As the industrial workplace returns to full-staff capacity in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, a plethora of roles and business divisions are faced with the added task of ensuring that equipment is constantly disinfected.
Removing superficial contaminants, debris, and stains alone won’t cut it anymore. For the sake of everyone’s safety, parts, components, and finished goods have to pass through cleaning systems designed to disinfect and sterilize as much as clean.
Ultrasonic cleaning is a great way to clean a wide array of materials of all shapes and most sizes. Its effectiveness also extends to a microscopic level. UVC sterilization, for its part, is the gold standard for most people when it comes to disinfecting objects.
Both of these offer a unique set of advantages when it comes to microscopic cleaning. If you’re a business owner, this piece will show you which one is best for your unique set of use cases. Hopefully, that knowledge will allow you to invest in the right system for you.
Ultrasonic Cleaning: How it Works
Ultrasonic cleaning, at its most basic level, implies the utilization of high-frequency soundwaves – and the kinetic energy produced from them – to dislodge and remove contaminants. It can be used on materials like plastics, rubber, ceramic, metals, and precious stones.
There are three main parts to an ultrasonic cleaning solution: the power generator, transducer, and tank. The material to be cleaned is placed in the tank, which itself, contains a pre-selected cleaning solvent.
When the power supply is activated, the transducer generates soundwaves around the 20-40 kilohertz spectrum. As the soundwaves travel through the cleaning solvent, they form millions of cavitation bubbles. These bubbles make their way to the object being cleaned and explode at its surface, dislodging any foreign contaminant.
The dislodged particles are carried away from the tank’s interior via a filtration system, leaving the work material clean and disinfected.
While ultrasonic cleaning relies on sound to be effective, ultraviolet-C (UVC) sanitization relies on light. UVC radiation has been proven effective for disinfecting air, water, and nonporous surfaces. For decades, it has been used to kill bacteria such as tuberculosis.
While UVC radiation doesn’t clean objects per se, it’s great at disinfecting them and removing contaminants that aren’t immediately apparent to the human eye. It has been proven immensely effective against several viruses including the SARS-Coronavirus.
Importantly, the effectiveness of UVC lamps and other related devices at inactivating bacteria and virus particles is dependent on direct exposure. The light rays will not nullify these organisms if there isn’t a direct line of contact.
Some of the most commonly-used form factors in UVC sterilization include low-pressure mercury lamps, excimer lamps, pulsed xenon lamps, and UVC light-emitting diodes (or LEDs).
Ultrasonic Cleaning vs. UVC Sterilization
In order to examine the overall effectiveness of both these techniques, we will look at how they fare across a set of parameters.
As we touched on earlier, UVC radiation doesn’t actually clean an object superficially. While it disinfects fairly well, the vital sanitization process of removing visible contaminants is left out entirely. Furthermore, UVC devices are available in varying shapes and sizes, and their antimicrobial abilities can vary – thus proving a tad unreliable for business owners.
Ultrasonic cleaning on the other hand is a solution that has gained considerable use in delicate fields such as medicine. An ultrasonic bath results in a deep clean, with the cavitation bubbles penetrating every nook and cranny of the workpiece.
These bubbles act like tiny scrubbing brushes and remove all kinds of contaminants, whether superficial or microbial.
Ease of Use
Ultrasonic cleaning systems can be operated by almost anyone with minimal training and sparse protection. With most modern setups, all one has to do is set the workpiece inside the bath and set the controls to start cleaning.
In fact, most modern systems have multiple compartments that can wash, rinse, and dry out the object being cleaned. With ultrasonic cleaning, you’re guaranteed consistent results and expedient functioning every time.
UVC sterilization technology, on the other hand, isn’t the easiest to use. While it is incredibly sophisticated, its nature as a line-of-sight technology means that objects have to be positioned properly for any degree of sanitization to occur.
If any area on the object is shadowed or blocked from direct contact with the rays, it won’t receive any form of antimicrobial action.
Radiation is one of the most dangerous naturally occurring materials known to man. While we’ve understood how to manage it and apply it to use technologies, it can still pose occasional harm.
UVC is a known carcinogen for human skin – meaning it can cause conditions like cancer and tumors. Furthermore, mild exposure can also cause extensive sunburn – the likes of which are 10 times stronger than UVB rays. The need to always take safety measures makes UVC sterilization all the more expensive and inefficient.
Ultrasonic cleaning, on the other hand, doesn’t expose the operator to the kind of risk present in UVC sterilization. There usually aren’t any toxic or hazardous materials used as part of the process. Ultrasonic cleaning machines can also be operated with minimal precautionary measures taken.
While UVC sterilization might be great for personal use cases, ultrasonic cleaning is the way to go on an industrial scale. The plethora of advantages offered by the latter over the former make it the wiser choice for cleaning and sanitizing most materials.
Ultrasonic cleaning is safer, easier to use, and delivers a higher-end product quality than UVC. It also has other advantages like expedience, versatility, minimal experience or technical requirement, and durability.
If you’re a business owner, you can limit the use of UVC sanitization to the smaller, frequently-used objects – since it helps nullify dangerous microbes like viruses and bacteria. For larger mission-critical parts, machinery, and components, ultrasonic cleaning is the way to go.