When it comes to selecting a new, long-term critical cleaning process, the challenge is to sort through all the conflicting claims made by the manufacturers of the cleaning products being considered. Many companies only look at the cost of a machine or a drum of solvent, believing the lowest priced machine or the cheapest cost per gallon as the best choice; this is completely wrong as there are many other factors to consider. You should have your desired outcomes in mind while choosing. Cycle time and total throughput are important to know up front. The labor required to operate, inspect, test, clean and maintain the equipment is important too. Not to mention other costs like electricity and water consumption, any consumables, like filters, needed and any costs associated with the safe and complaint disposal of spent fluids. To measure the economies of cleaning, a good method is to start a cleaning scorecard checklist based on total cost-per-part cleaned. Its focus is to ensure a product is cleaned efficiently at the lowest total cost, not just cost per gallon of cleaning fluid.
Nearly all efforts at cleaning disposable medical devices require several steps during manufacturing. Each cleaning process is designed to remove contamination created during manufacturing processes, such as particulate, oils or inorganics. But achieving high quality cleaning results is a challenge in the world of medical devices because of the complex assemblies, intricate shapes, sensitive substrates and delicate parts. Many device manufacturers use water-based cleaning systems and simply tolerate the problems those machines bring. But today, many new solvent options are available. These new chemistries are highly effective, safe, environmentally friendly and affordable. In response, medical device manufacturers are once again realizing that vapor degreasing is highly effective method for critical cleaning.
For decades, vapor degreasing was the “go to” precision cleaning technology. This came to an end in the 1990s when the ozone issue forced the phase-out of the most popular vapor degreasing solvents. Water-based cleaning systems filled some of the void. But today users of aqueous cleaners know those systems guzzle electricity, have large footprints, require significant capital investment, are maintenance intensive, and usually require extensive wastewater treatment systems. It’s time to revisit vapor degreasing.
Critical cleaning processes are found in many industries and they all have different definitions of ‘clean’. The author suggests the definition of critical cleaning is simple: if the cost of a cleaning failure is high, then it’s mission-critical. The author then explains the deployment of low-boiling solvents in vapor degreasers offer a better, faster and less expensive option for many critical cleaning applications. In the conclusion, the author also suggests specific cleaning fluids for specific applications.