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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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Industry body ACGIH tightens nPB limit to 0.1ppm

Leading US industry body the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has changed its recommended threshold limit value for n-Propyl Bromide (nPB) from 10 ppm to just 0.1 ppm, amid concerns over health risks to workers.

In addition, nPB has also been added to the candidate list for inclusion in Annex XIV of European REACH regulations as a ‘Substance of Very High Concern’ (SVHC).

This means nPB faces the prospect that, like Trichloroethylene (Trike), it will become subject to continued use as a cleaning solvent only subject to authorisation and specific risk management measures – but with a different sunset date.

‘Current users of Trichloroethylene and nPB are recommended to discuss the implications of REACH with their chemical and equipment suppliers as a matter of priority.’

Meanwhile, the UK Health and Safety Executive states in its information sheet EIS47, ‘If solvent degreasing is necessary and you are using a known or suspected carcinogen and/or mutagen, such as … nPB, you should substitute it with a less hazardous solvent if possible.’

It goes on to say, ‘Current users of Trichloroethylene and nPB are recommended to discuss the implications of REACH with their chemical and equipment suppliers as a matter of priority.’ We are ready to guide you through the maze of REACH compliance and support you with finding a substitute cleaning agent, by offering free expert advice and chemistry trials.

Sion solves the solvent problem

New Opteon™ Sion™ by Chemours™ cleaning agent, which we supply exclusively in the UK, helps overcome the health and safety and environmental risks associated with nPB. It is also fully compliant with current and anticipated legislation.

With comparable cleaning performance to nPB and chlorinated solvents, Sion has an occupational exposure limit of 200 parts per million (ppm), some 2000 times better than the ACGIH recommended level for nPB.

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

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One stop Trike replacement solutions

As premier UK component cleaning experts, Fraser technologies offers:

  • Expert advice on Trike replacement
  • Complete replacement cleaning systems
  • Drop-in eco-friendly cleaning chemistries
  • Test before you buy at our trial centres

The sunset date for Trichloroethylene – a.k.a. ‘Trike’ or ‘TCE’ – as a cleaning solvent has been and gone but many are still using Trike and are looking to find an alternative solution.

Our one stop solution includes advice on the related regulatory and technical challenges complete replacement cleaning systems and/or alternative chemistries, supported by our customer Trike replacement trial centres.

Trike: what you need to consider

Time is of the essence to find the right cleaning process solution. Here are some of the key factors your need to be aware of from the regulations and statements on Trike replacement:

Enclosed systems

Under REACH regulations, if you are using Trichloroethylene in ECSA type I, II and III cleaning systems (respectively: open-top, enclosed and closed with internal air cleaning) then you must stop doing so. This means allowing ample time either to test and evaluate replacement chemistries or to consider an alternative equipment package. Some alternatives such as Perchloroethylene (PERC) and Methylene Chloride (MECL) should be treated with caution as strict DEFRA rules apply to them, and health and safety considerations need to be weighed carefully.

Type IV and V closed systems authorisation – but conditions apply

Major Trichloroethylene manufacturers have applied, with some success, for blanket authorisation for continued use of Trike after the April 2016 deadline. This has been granted only for type IV and V cleaning systems (closed, with activated carbon filtration), but subject to satisfying the conditions below by the sunset date and further arrangements after the sunset date.

Analysis of alternatives and declaration of conformity

Under the authorisation for continued use of Trike in type IV and V closed systems, end users have to undertake an analysis of alternatives and provide a declaration of conformity to their Trike supplier showing that they cannot substitute Trike. If they identify an alternative then substitution is mandatory

There are three important steps to take if you haven’t yet found an alternative cleaning agent. Our infographic will also help.

Investigate the alternatives

Tread carefully if you are considering replacing Trike with restricted solvents such as Perchloroethylene (PERC) or Methylene Chloride (MECL) as this could merely be kicking the can further down the road in health and safety and environmental terms.

We’d advise customers to consider a new-generation cleaning product, such as Opteon™ Sion by Chemours™. A drop-in, eco-friendly Trike alternative suitable for type I and II systems, Sion has comparable cleaning performance to Trike. It’s also safe in use, energy efficient and legislation compliant.

Assess the total cost of alternatives

The price per litre of alternative chemistries can mask the full picture. Other restricted solvents may be priced similarly to Trike, but this may hide their overall cost in productivity, safety, handling, storage and energy use terms. If you’re running type III systems to clean certain substrates such as titanium, you will need to replace your equipment too.

Carry out trials

If you haven’t already done so, you will need to act quickly to conduct trials of replacement chemistries with your own particular components and soil types.

That’s why our one-stop service includes free customer trial centres in the London and Edinburgh areas. There you, or we on your behalf, can test out alternative chemistries such as Opteon™ Sion , and new equipment if required, before you buy.

For more information on Trike replacement contact us

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