by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor
In a world of ever advancing technology it seems that even something as routine as a trip to the dentist yields the discovery of new and improved instrumentation. Bi-annual check-ups for teeth seem also to mean bi-annual updates on dentistry. In recent years one of the most exciting new pieces of equipment has been the ultrasonic cleaner used to clean, protect and inspect teeth. Though relatively simple in design, these devices not only promote the health and safety of patients, but that of the dentists and hygienists that use them as they allow for the fast and efficient cleaning of both teeth and instruments. Far from a dental phenomenon, however, this technology has actually been around since the early 1950’s and has proven useful in a number of different industrial, commercial and even residential applications.
Ultrasonic cleaners image courtesy of ESMA, Inc.
As the name would suggest, ultrasonic washers use inaudible sound waves to gently but efficiently clean even small and hard to reach components where bacteria, debris and other sources of contamination are easily hidden even after manual scrubbing. These waves are created by the high frequency expansion and contraction of electronically powered ultrasonic transducers. Some units reach sounds up to 120 kHz, while other applications require forces as low as 18 kHz. The resulting ultrasonic oscillations reverberate throughout a reservoir or tank filled with a conductive fluid in which parts and components to be cleaned are immersed. While hot water may be used on its own, more often specially designed cleaning solvents and solutions with improved conductive qualities are used. No matter the material, the tremendous force creates millions if not billions of microscopic bubbles that implode creating a powerful hydraulic shock which loosens and removes debris for a thorough cleaning of even the smallest crevices or cracks.
With the capacity to remove up to 99.9% of contaminants, ultrasonic cleaning has become the standard in both dental and medical applications. As mentioned before, however, this beneficial technology is not limited to healthcare as it is easily adapted to a number of situations and in fact began as a method for cleaning complex aircraft components. These ultrasonic parts cleaners can be large enough to accommodate engine components and turbine blades. Other models are significantly smaller than these industrial ultrasonic cleaners and have even been made into novelty items such as ultrasonic jewelry cleaners and golf club cleaners. Although once relegated to industrial plants and facilities, ultrasonic cleaning systems have quickly found purpose in a number of applications such as automotive and marine industries, as well as businesses including hair salons, pharmacies and sporting good retailers.
The growing popularity of ultrasonic cleaners is evident in the ever expanding number of applications for which they are preferred. Speed and efficiency obviously play a role as these devices offer complete and thorough cleaning of even heavily greased industrial parts in ten minutes or less. Additionally, ultrasonic cleaning equipment is a non-destructive, energy efficient and often environmentally friendly alternative to the use of harsh chemical cleaning agents or burdensome manual scrubbing. From teeth to tools, ultrasonic cleaners offer industry a better and more consistent clean.
Photo courtesy of Ultrasonic Power Corporation.