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The 5Cs of choosing between solvent and aqueous processes

When evaluating which process best meets the needs of a particular situation, the following five factors – the ‘5Cs’ – are a useful starting point:

1 Cleaning effectiveness

Aqueous processes are often ineffective for cleaning intricate components, such as those with fine or blind bores. Because of their low surface tension characteristics, new generation solvents can penetrate into the hard-to-reach areas of these components for superior cleaning.

2 Cost effectiveness

To understand cost of ownership of cleaning processes and chemistries, a range of factors need to be considered. These include the cost of storage and monitoring of more hazardous agents such as nPB and Trike, the higher energy consumption and footprint of aqueous processes and the contribution of cleaning process speed to overall productivity.

3 Compliance

Care needs to be taken with a number of restricted solvents. Perchloroethylene (PERC) and Methylene Chloride (MECL) are classed as CMRs (carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxins) by the Solvent Emissions Directive 1999-13-EC. This requires substitution in the shortest possible time. Both require vapour extraction and consume high volumes of solvent.

Now a candidate for Annex XIV of REACH as a ‘Substance of Very High Concern’ (SVHC), n-Propyl Bromide (nPB) also requires the earliest possible substitution. US hygienists’ body, the ACGIH, has lowered its recommended threshold limit value for nPB from 10 ppm to just 0.1 ppm, amid concerns over health risks.

4 Consumption

Aqueous–based processes involve longer wash times, increased mechanical energy, and often a drying phase. These factors can more than double their energy consumption when compared with new-generation solvent-based cleaning processes.

Unlike solvent-based cleaning processes, aqueous processes use large amounts of water, which needs to be deionised before use. In addition, contaminated waste water needs to be disposed of, adding to costs and indirect environmental impacts.

5 Compatibility

Compatibility of cleaning agents with the components to be cleaned, whether metals, elastomers or plastics, is vital to prevent damage to component surfaces.

Some component materials are susceptible to water damage or flash rusting, which may render aqueous cleaning processes unsuitable.

We will be happy to advise you on which component cleaning systems or chemistries, whether solvent or aqueous, are best suited to your requirements. For more information please call us on 01506 443058.

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Cleaning solvent issues solved for Prima Dental

Millions of its dental burs help dentists improve smiles globally every year. Prima Dental itself had cause to smile after component cleaning specialist Fraser Technologies helped the manufacturer solve some component cleaning solvent issues.

With a 150-year dental manufacturing heritage, Gloucester-based Prima Dental produces around 30 million dental burs – or drill bits – per year. In June 2015, Prima’s Production Engineer, Nigel Frampton, contacted Fraser with a view to replacing the Methylene Chloride cleaning solvent used to clean the burs with an agent offering an improved health and safety profile.

Prima has two Crest AVD 500 semi-automated solvent cleaning systems, one used for gross-cleaning and the second for final cleaning before packing and dispatch. The burs are made typically in batches of 1000 and stacked in baskets which are then hung on an auto-loader ready for cleaning.

After initial discussions, we recommended comparing the technical performance of the existing Methylene Chloride agent with Opteon™ Sion™, a new-generation fluorinated solvent combing high 100 KB cleaning power with an improved safety profile.


We held initial trials at our Livingston in-house trial unit, and the cleaning performance results with Sion were superior. We also considered aqueous cleaning but decided against this as it would have meant installing a new cleaning system and would have been less efficient given Prima’s high-volume cleaning requirements.

A further issue of concern to Prima was high solvent losses in its existing process. It was agreed to run on-site trials, in which Fraser would be involved in the changeover of chemistry, tank clean-out and system set-up. Ahead of the changeover, Fraser conducted a full system audit, which revealed a number of issues with the equipment. These were corrected by repairs and cleaning process optimisation, significantly reducing solvent usage.

“Fraser Technologies demonstrated that they go beyond supplying equipment and chemistries. Their pre-sale audit of our cleaning process, product trials and innovative thinking helped deliver a component cleaning solution that yields better performance, an improved health and safety profile, and excellent solvent recovery.”

On-site trials were very successful, although the high levels of oil introduced to the process resulted in frequent tank clean-outs and solvent disposal. Unlike Methylene Chloride, Opteon Sion is very stable and readily recoverable, allowing recovery levels of stable product of 90 – 95 per cent of the solvent content from the waste stream.

Trials were therefore run using off-line distillation equipment to recover solvent for re-use. Encouragingly, these demonstrated that 74 per cent (in this case Sion) of the overall waste stream that would normally be disposed of could be recovered for re-use. The remaining 26 per cent was mainly waste oil. Despite its higher cost per litre than Methylene Chloride, Sion’s high recoverability, combined with process optimisation, meant that running costs would be comparable to previous ones.

Furthermore, Prima would avoid costly cleaning equipment replacement, while benefiting from Sion’s improved performance and a superior health and safety and environmental profile. On this basis, Prima adopted the Sion process, and performance to date has met original expectations.

A clean performance

Performance levels were so good that Prima wanted to use the process elsewhere. Fraser installed a new-generation Crest F100-1010 cleaning system together with Sion fluid on site to allow Prima to assess the performance and solvent usage. Following the successful trial, Prima purchased the system, as well as an off-line still which had a 6-month payback period.

Fraser also helped Prima improve the removal of carbide deposits from the necks of dental burs, by specifying and supplying NGL’s Rodastel cleaning agent for a separate existing aqueous cleaning process used before the final clean with Sion.

Nigel Frampton commented: “Fraser Technologies demonstrated that they go beyond supplying equipment and chemistries. Their pre-sale audit of our cleaning process, product trials and innovative thinking helped deliver a component cleaning solution that yields better performance, an improved health and safety profile, and excellent solvent recovery.”

We continue to support and optimise Prima’s cleaning systems and processes, keeping them at the cutting edge in more ways than one.

For more details on Opteon™ Sion™ and other cleaning solvents, please visit our solvent cleaning page.

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