In industrial settings, properly cleaning and drying components is non-negotiable.
With that in mind, industrial producers, labs, and processing facilities need to know the right cleaning and component drying methods. In sectors like aerospace, biotechnology, and chip manufacturers in particular, the cleaning standards are especially strict.
That’s where precision cleaning and component drying comes in! If you’ve been considering if you need precision cleaning services (or you’re new to it and you’re wondering what’s what), we’ll talk you through each step of the process and why it’s important.
Table of Contents
- Proper component drying is important for both cleanliness and preventing corrosion. The methods and targets are tailored to the hardware and intended function.
- Common drying methods include air drying, purge drying, oven drying (conventional or vacuum), and vacuum drying. The method used depends on the hardware, cleanliness requirements, allowable temperatures, etc.
- Purge drying uses a flow of dry gas, typically gaseous nitrogen (GN2), to displace and evaporate residual moisture and solvents.
- Vacuum drying uses reduced pressure to lower the boiling point of liquids and speed up evaporation.
- Systems are often dried to specific moisture levels, measured by dewpoint temperature. Common targets are -65°F or -40°F.
- Residual solvent levels are checked using devices like photoionization detectors. Common targets are 100 ppm maximum for both moisture and hydrocarbons.
- Safety precautions are necessary when working with high pressure gases like GN2 or under vacuum. Displacing oxygen with inert gases can cause asphyxiation.
What is System/Component Drying?
System/component drying refers to the process of removing residual moisture, solvents, or other fluids from hardware after cleaning or rinsing. This is done to achieve a desired level of dryness for proper functioning or to prevent corrosion.
By the end of the drying process, there should be no moisture or measurable concentrations of organic solvents present (more on how we test that later).
Do I Need Component Drying?
If you’re in the aerospace, defense, power generation, instrumentation manufacturing, oil, gas, or semiconductor industries, you’ll likely benefit from component drying.
Not only can it make your components more compliant, but it also ensures that operations run well and aren’t negatively impacted by pollutants or water vapor. When moisture gets into the components, decay, corrosion, or even mold and fungus can appear.
Even moisture being present on the exterior of the component can make it slippery and difficult to handle.
Plus, when components are professionally dried and prepared for the next procedure, you prevent any delays and bottlenecks from occurring during the production process.
The Different Types of Component Drying
There’s no one size fits all approach to system/component drying. Different processes are used depending on the material and situation in question, but here are the most common.
- Air drying. Air drying involves leaving a component in an open area environment where any moisture from the object can evaporate. In most cases, air drying is only used as a drying method when there’s no cleanliness or dryness requirement as it’s not the most efficient way of drying components.
- Purge drying. Purge drying involves using gaseous nitrogen for drying and testing items conforming to MIL-PRF-27401. The combination of gaseous nitrogen and a dehumidification drying chamber pulls moisture out of the test spaces and makes the chamber less humid.
- Conventional oven drying. This commonly used method involves placing items to be dried in an industrial drying oven and is a typical alternative to purge drying.
- Vacuum oven drying. Similarly, vacuum oven drying involves using an oven, but this time a vacuum oven. The process is slightly longer, taking around 2.5 hours.
- Vacuum drying. A vacuum can be applied to lower the solvent's boiling point to expedite the cooling process. This method is used in solvent and water-based cleaning machines because it allows metal parts with complicated shapes to dry quickly and thoroughly.
What’s the Best Gauge and Transducer Component Drying Method?
The best method is to purge the flow through the gauges with gaseous nitrogen until it’s dry. Dead-end gauges should be placed in a vacuum chamber, which is evacuated and vented a minimum of ten times. Once complete, remove the dead-end gauge and purge the inlet with GN2 until it’s visibly dry.
How Dry Is Gaseous Nitrogen?
Gaseous nitrogen, or GN2, is used for purge drying and gauge and transducer drying. It’s usually dryer than 2ppm (parts per million), equivalent to a dew point of -94°F or -70°C. As a rule of thumb, the gas used must be at least 10°C lower than the required purge dryness.
Is Gaseous Nitrogen Safe for Use in Purge Drying?
When used by professionals with experience in purge drying and when all safety precautions are followed, gaseous nitrogen is safe.
The gas itself, however, is not harmless, and although it makes up more than 78% of the atmosphere, it can cause suffocation if it replaces oxygen in a confined area. Plus, you can’t always detect it’s there because it's odorless and colorless.
For these reasons, the use of gaseous nitrogen is best left to a professional component drying service.
What’s The Best Method of System/Component Drying?
The best component drying technique to use depends on the component in question as well as how quickly and thoroughly the item needs to be dried.
Lower-importance items with no strict time frame are more likely to be air-dried, for example, while components that have to meet specific requirements will be dried using one of the other methods.
By working with a professional precision cleaning company, you can ensure that the right component drying method is always used.
Solvent Dryness (Hydrocarbon) Determination: How Do You Test For Residual Solvent?
You may wonder how you actually tell when something’s entirely dry or whether or not it has residual solvent. You can do so using solvent dryness determination, which requires specialized equipment.
The verification process happens after all cleaning and sampling have been completed, and there’s no plan for further cleaning. The purge process is repeated until the stipulated hydrocarbon content value has been reached.
If you work with the right precision clearing service, they’ll have all the equipment needed to test for solvent dryness and residual solvent. That way, you can rest assured that your components are as dry as the requirements stipulate.
Why Is Residual Solvent Testing Important?
All industries should be committed to ensuring product quality and safety. Companies should test for the presence of solvents to ensure that products are safe for human use. Solvent testing can even identify potential issues with plastic packaging for food products, such as contamination.
What is Dew Point Testing?
If you’ve looked into precision cleaning, you’ll probably have heard of dew point testing and might be wondering what it is and exactly why it’s so crucial to the dryness of your machinery. Let us explain.
The dew point is the temperature at which water vapor condenses into liquid. Dew point testing offers an accurate way to precisely read the air's humidity level.
By finding the dew point - the temperature at which vapor turns into liquid - you can determine at what temperature condensation will occur and how much of it there will be.
As you’ll know, preventing moisture damage to key part or components is a must, so knowing when moisture in the air can transform into damaging condensation is helpful. Plus, dew point testing keeps your pressurized air at a temperature where water vapor stays as vapor and doesn’t condense.
Dew point testing is the key to preventing pipe freezing, pipe obstructions, equipment failure due to damp and pollutant contamination - so it’s pretty important!
A Precision Cleaning Company - The Secret Weapon You Need
Precision cleaning service providers are experts in cleaning and drying components without causing damage. And if you’ve ever needed to replace an expensive piece of machinery, you’ll know just how costly it is to your operation if something doesn’t work as it should!
The Benefits of Working With a Precision Cleaning and Drying Service
With the right, reputable company, you can rest assured that any broken parts will be refunded and replaced. Plus, you’ll enjoy peace of mind that you’re meeting strict industry regulations and extending the lifespan of your key components.
Having clean, dry, and properly-functioning components also saves you time. When components don’t work as they should, bottlenecks and delays can occur in the manufacturing process. Drying can reduce the chance of this happening.
What Should I Look For From a Precision Cleaning Company?
Now you understand why hiring a component drying provider is so important. But the question then becomes, how do I find the right one? To make your decision easier, here are a few things you should look out for in your provider of choice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request a portfolio of previous work to help make decisions.
One of the most important things to look out for is that the precision cleaning company offers various component drying services. That maximizes the probability of finding a service that solves your problem.
Look for a company that specializes in your industry, too. Industries like aviation or defense must keep their components to a certain standard of cleanliness and dryness, and finding a provider that can meet those is non-negotiable.
Prioritize providers that offer a tailored approach. Every workplace is different, and your needs might differ from those of a workplace in a similar industry. The right provider will shape its cleaning and component drying process to your needs.
If in doubt about the expertise of your precision cleaning provider, ask for proof of previous experience or reviews from other clients. Ideally, the right company should have experience under its belt of working with industries and businesses just like yours.
If you’re ready to boost the performance of your machinery, save money, and tick an item off your to-do list for good, get in touch with PFC. We’re one of the leading providers of precision and cleaning services.
Don’t just take our word for our success - we won ULA’s ‘Most Innovative Supplier of the Year’ award in 2022! Take a look at the services we offer or call our friendly team for more information.