Aluminum Cleaning & Machining Brandon MS
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Aluminum Cleaning & Machining
Cleaning aluminum creates special challenges for engine builders because of its corrosiveness and soft metal properties.
By Doug Kaufman
Steel may still be the big dog when it comes to the content of the world's motor vehicles, but aluminum usage in cars and trucks continues to increase. Fueled by the desire to save weight, time and energy, aluminum is gaining ground with manufacturers of parts and components.
How does the use of aluminum in today's engine components impact today's engine builder/rebuilder? It's certainly not a foreign material but understanding its properties makes good business sense.
Cleaning aluminum creates special challenges for engine builders because of its corrosiveness and soft metal properties. There are several effective ways to clean this non-ferrous metal but there is no magic solution. You will more than likely have to combine several processes to get the kind of clean that you demand. The methods that will work best will depend on the volume of aluminum you're cleaning.
Jet Spray Washers
Today's jet washers have evolved from little more than a dishwasher to a complete cleaning solution. Manufacturers have improved turntables, nozzle systems, pumps and heating systems, and jet spray washers are often the starting point for cleaning aluminum in many shops. The chemical makers have stepped up, too, offering aluminum-safe alkaline soaps.
Some of the keys to remember when cleaning aluminum or any other metal in a jet spray washer is the importance of good heat. Too low a temperature may mean incomplete washing - and wasted electricity. For this reason many manufacturers have incorporated digital thermal controllers to monitor the washer's temperature.
In addition, some new machines have improved spray nozzles to deliver uniform high pressure along the entire nozzle profile.
The manufacturers of jet spray and other aqueous equipment agree that the physical properties of cleaning are the same whether it is aluminum or cast iron. The biggest difference with cleaning aluminum is in the type of chemical you use.
Cleaning aluminum with aqueous requires using a compatible chemical that won't etch or discolor the metal. Aluminum builds an oxide on it and that oxide has to be torn down, chemically with a caustic agent. Most manufacturers offer a variety of chemicals for cleaning aluminum and other metals, so you should always consult your chemical supplier to decide what is best for your shop. The type of chemical you use depends on various factors like how many parts you clean, what equipment you have (and how many units), what type of metals are cleaned primarily and how dirty are the parts.
While aluminum often turns black when exposed to caustic chemicals, this coloration is just oxidation, which can be removed by a de-oxidizer, returning the metal to its attractive uniform aluminum surface.
Some chemical suppliers say a moderate to high pH (around 12 pH) is safe for aluminum and when co...
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