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Ultrasonic Cleaner Build Thread

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by alfredo, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. I am thinking about undertaking the creation of an ultrasonic cleaning machine. I have seen a lot of web articles (like this one) that suggest the use of a linear amplifier, some ultrasonic transducers, a computer sound card and some RCA cables.

    I am posting here, because I just don't understand how this could work. I know how to solder and understand very primitive basics of electronics, but nothing near enough to assemble it from the instructions in that link. I am hoping the people of the forum could help out.

    The Goal: I want to build a big tank with multiple transducers to clean anything from camshafts to car engine blocks. Possibly heated if I can find a cheap way to heat the tank (walmart griddles on the bottom?).

    The Tank: I am going to build a fairly large stainless tank 5' x 4' x 3' which I think calculates to about 450 gallons (cubic feet multiplied by 0.00433). Seemed like a lot at first, but then I looked at my local water companies rates and if I am reading that right, it's less that $2.50 to fill it up. Which is less than what I would spend on a spray can of cleaner. It should be big enough to do bike and car blocks and everything in between and since I always dabbling in something, it would appear to be best to build it once and forget it.

    Ultrasonic Transducers: I found this site that lists discs, rings, plates, blocks and cylinders, but I have no clue which is better for what. All I can gather is that I need to ensure they have a good kilohertz range (10khz to at least 60khz) as well as a high top end (150khz). I believe the Ohms need to be high (~10) as well or the amplifier will barf. As to how many to buy, which to buy, how to hook them up or how to attach them to the tank. There are all sorts of sizes and types, but the jargon is beyond my comprehension.

    Some ones I found:


    The Linear Amplifier: no clue here. What to buy? How many will be needed to run the transducers mentioned above? I read somewhere that only one amp will run one transducer . . ? Are these car amps or something entirely different?

    Sound Card: these are cheap and I am pretty sure I will need to hook it to a computer for it to work. I (well, we all are) am fortunate to live in a time when cheap pcs are abundant. Should be able to find a crappy small computer to run this thing pretty cheaply. But still, here, no clue what to buy or how to hook it up or what sound to play to make this all work.

    RCA Cables: self explanatory, but not sure how to hook them up.

    So, with all that said, I am pretty much lost, but think that someone on here or many people will be able to chip in and we can come up with a solution. Any help would be appreciated.

    crappy sketchup model of the tank
  2. xjwmx

    xjwmx XS650 Guru

    Most of the audio amps and sound cards you find aren't going to have any output above about 20kHz. I considered maybe making a little ultrasonic cleaner once using parts from out of a little ultrasonic room humidifier. I think they're called 'cool mist' type humidifiers.
  3. Tim H

    Tim H XS650 Enthusiast

    I didn't read your links so I don't have any advice for your core project. But you can easily heat something with parts stolen from a hot plate, oven or whatever you find lying around.

    If you want something a little better, a PID controller, SSR or contactor, some elements and a thermocoupler will make a very nice and accurate temperature controller.

    This place has fairly cheap components:
  4. angus67

    angus67 Welder's penetrate deeper!!

    At work we make paver screeds, the big ones used for paving new roads. the part that vibrates those is a 1' rod, with a weight off center in the middle it weighs like 10 pounds. Kind of reminds me of the vibrators in a xbox controller. The center weight is off ballance making it vibrate very strong. try one of those hooked upo to a electric motor like a bench grinder.
    As far as the volume of the tank, if its anything other than water, dont you have to register some papers with the epa? I mean, 50 gallons of chem dip would be a huge problem if your tank seams split. (not questioning your welding....just sayin.)
    soundss like a great idea.i loved the cleaned up head i got back from the machine shop. unfortunately it didnt match the rocker box, so i painted it.
  5. I would probably only use a combination of water and pinesol. I am not sure I'd need to tell anyone about that, I hope ;). I hear amazing things about pinesol and ultrasonic cleaners.

    I have read about the vibratory methods and I think the census is that only the true high frequency pulse will do best.
  6. hotrdd

    hotrdd XS650 Junkie

    I've done almost all of e same research and in the end just gave up because I couldn't source affordable, good parts for a reasonable price. It might be easier to find a used unit. But please keep us posted if you get something working.
  7. angus67

    angus67 Welder's penetrate deeper!!

    tellin' ya bro, ....xbox vibrator. think about it . cheap, easy.
  8. looking to a hot water heating element for warmth. with the right threaded fitting, you can easily weld in a...quick thought.
    how about using a hot water heater? cut off the top, work out the ultrasonic elements, and you're good to go. the water heater even has a drain plug for cleaning.

    if nothing else, plug the cleaner up to the hot water outlet of the heater and recycle the water back through. continuous water flow, fresh heat. all you need is the ultrasonic pulse.

    just sayin. keep us updated.
  9. just remember not to run the heating element without water. it'll burn out almost instantly without being submerged. good thing, though, is the elements are cheap and readily available at the hardware store.
  10. angus67

    angus67 Welder's penetrate deeper!!

    the inside of a standard water heater is only about 1 and a half feet. they are double walled(usually).
    cant fit a engine block in that. I'm not even sure you could fit the top of a xs case with the long head bolts attached..
    but that is an great idea. water heater elements.....put that on the list.
    but the recycling of new heat would be greta. some sort of pump to circulate.
  11. osteoderm

    osteoderm out of the box

    I've toyed with this idea myself. I hate to sound discouraging, but coming from an industrial electronics background, I have to warn you that these devices don't scale easily. With any size, the power requirements for effective use climb dramatically. Commercial ultrasonic tanks push ~50 watts/gallon. A 25kHz transducer is a starting point, but 40-60kHz is closer to the standard.

    Yes, I see how a PC sound card and software frequency generator could be used for a source signal, and how a linear amp could be used for power generation. If you're experimenting, I suggest trying a 120Vac PA amp. Working along these lines, I can see getting a working small tank together, maybe a couple gallons. When I looked at it for myself, I soon saw that the time and money to build such a thing was almost more than just buying one.

    An effective 450-gallon tank might require upwards of 20,000 watts of power... imagine going to a concert with a 20,000 watt stack of amps and speakers... yeah, that kind of power...

    Larger ones are out there, but I've never personally encountered an ultrasonic tank over 50 gallons, and that one was a serious piece of equipment, 240Vac/30A, 60kHz, and I didn't ask the price...
  12. angus67

    angus67 Welder's penetrate deeper!!

    way to be a debbie-downer, osteoderm
  13. osteoderm

    osteoderm out of the box

    Please don't get me wrong... I think DIY is ultimate-awesomeness and I'd hate to discourage anyone, but I also hate to see good money thrown after bad...

    I've seen a bunch of car batteries strung together for a quick'n'dirty trailside tack-weld. It got us home, but it's no replacement for a welding machine. :doh:
  14. Travis

    Travis Staff Member Staff Member

    I don't think you need a 5'x4'x3' tank for any engine block you'll want to clean. About 34" x 24" x 24" would be plenty big even for a big V8! That's still an 85 gallon tank. I'd carefully research the size of the largest engine block you'd possibly want to clean and base your tank size off of that. You might be able to get it down to 50-60 gallons and make this project reasonable. Even at 60 gallons and 50 watts a gallon, that's 3,000 watts so you'd need to run it on a 220 circuit.

    Check this out .. A 90 gallon industrial unit. 4000 watts and 375 lbs without liquid! http://upcorp.thomasnet.com/item/ultrasonic-cleaning-systems/39-90-gallon-cleaning-systems/90?

    angus67, no offense, but vibrating water using vibrator motors (offset weights) is nothing like ultrasonic cleaning.
  15. lukach4

    lukach4 XS650 Addict

    You dont really need a heating element...I use ultrasonic cleaners every day and as long as you start with warm/hot water the ultrasonic waves in the water naturally heat up... just saying.. one less thing to worry about..
  16. The only worry there would be that I would want to reuse the solution more than once, so draining it and refilling with hot water might be a little much.

    Yeah. I rolled this by my father and he gave me the crazy eyes :yikes:. A smaller form factor will certainly do just as well. Going to redo my original plan and scale it down.
  17. arod_1

    arod_1 XS650 Fan

  18. angus67

    angus67 Welder's penetrate deeper!!

    aw. ...gee, travis, your breakin my heart. is ok.
  19. Thanks man! I am beginning to think that the general census is that generating the required power is going to be the biggest cost of this.
  20. Have done as much research as possible and it basically doesn't make sense for one reason: The linear amplifiers needed for something even close to this scale are co$tly. So much so it is prohibitive for me to move forward on this.

    Thanks for all for pitching in the time to help shape this idea, even if it ended up being a popped balloon.


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