Modifying A Sonic Cleaner For The Lab


[Sean] wrote in to tell us about this hack he did to modify a consumer sonicator for lab use. Sonication is often used in labs to aid in mixing in difficult containers or to add energy for certain events.  He’s a chemist on a budget, so he couldn’t necessarily afford a nice industrial one. Instead, he found a sonic jewelry cleaner.  The main shortcoming of the consumer level one is the fact that it can only go for 3 minute intervals. He needed up to an hour at a time. His solution was fairly simple, he closed the circuit to force it to be continually in the on position, then added a timer in the power line. He notes, that the consumer model wasn’t made to be run this long and could possibly produce enough heat to damage itself. It should not be turned on, then left alone.

12 thoughts on “Modifying A Sonic Cleaner For The Lab

  1. i wonder if he considered using an ultrasonic
    humidifer… those things can be left turned
    on for days. this may be more powerful and have
    a less focused delivery area than a humidifier

  2. My mother used to have one for cleaning stuff at her shop and she let it fell on the ground,making it work kinda weird,so she gave it to me.
    She also told me not to let it work too much cauz(about 5 min after) fire is coming from the unit and melting the plastic case :P
    still a usefull machine, (i saved the circuit for further usages) any suggestions?

  3. I have a ‘proper’ industrial lab-grade unit. While it is more powerful and has some other nice minor features, I note that the transducers or whatever they are come bonded to the inside of the stainless body shell. I am assuming that is for cooling but it seems a pretty safe bet.
    Seeing this units construction I would second the theory that just heatsinking the active components would likely be all you would need to do to increase a consumer units duty cycle.

  4. I’ve thought several times of getting one of these things when they were on sale at Harbor Freight a few months ago for etching circuit boards. I’m used to using ferric chloride and have always been fearful of using that in a metal, even stainless, tank. Contamination and the tank being etched are my two main fears.

  5. @squantmuts: Yes, these are great for cleaning PCBs. At a previous job we used distilled (NOT deionized!) water in a big industrial ultrasonic bath for cleaning boards after rework. You have to use water soluble flux on the board and in solder instead of no-clean to make this useful.

  6. Josh – I use my unit with some pretty nasty stuff, and if I’m worried about contamination or etching the tank I just fill the unit with hot water, and then drop whatever I want to etch or clean in a ziploc baggie along with the desired etch solution. A submerged plastic baggie doesn’t attenuate the vibration, at least enough to notice, so I still get the desired action with no mess or danger to the unit or worries of cross-contamination. Use a submerged bag, don’t use a rigid container like a plastic cup set in the unit or it will damp the vibrations and you won’t see any useful action reaching the liquid inside of the cup!

  7. Heh. I did the exact same modification to that same model. Then I got the bright idea of using it to clean my reprap’s print head which was plugged with abs so naturally filled it with acetone which dissolves abs. turns out that vaporized acetone being forced into the plastic housing (which apparently is also abs) was not the best, the thing sort of melted and became spongy by the time I went back to check on it. moral: solvents are fun.

  8. I was Looking into building one of these a while ago. But a few of the parts were difficult to source. Do you think you could pull this apart and stick the transducers to a larger (say 1lt) tank easily. I’m thinking you may have to increase the wattage to get a good clean. I want to use this to clean motorcycle engine parts.

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