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Metal Prep: Protect Industrial Metal Parts From Rust & Corrosion

Originally Published: June 15, 2023 | Last Updated: January 3, 2023 | Contributor: Chris Jones (Global Business Development Manager, Brulin)

When metal parts are affected by rust or other corrosion as part of a cleaning process, a responsible supplier of the cleaning chemistry is able to assist the processor in finding the root cause of the problem. Offering rust protection chemistries and corrosion inhibitor products alone doesn’t necessarily solve the core issues at hand.

The entirety of the process needs to be evaluated, and that’s when processors turn to Brulin.

Customers and clients, new and old, turn to Brulin when they need to understand why their parts are rusting in the first place. We know that our customers look to our parts cleaning experts to truly solve the cause of the problem and eliminate rust as an issue entirely.

Uncovering The Root Cause Of Your Rusting Industrial Parts

Rust is a pervasive problem in industries where metal components are exposed to corrosive elements. This is especially true in space, aerospace and medical device manufacturing, where the cleanliness, performance and longevity of industrial metal parts are critical to subsequent processes or to product use.

Rust, or iron oxide, forms when iron or steel comes into contact with oxygen and moisture. This is known as oxidation, creating an oxide film. Temperature, humidity, exposure to corrosive substances, and the presence of other metals all factor into rust formation.

Typically we take a look at the entire operations process, beyond cleaning and chemistry, to find what factors are contributing to corrosion issues. This could include factors like storage, packaging or shipping, which are easy to build solutions around once identified.

Step One: Evaluate The Drying Process

One of the primary factors we consider is the drying process. The drying process following precision cleaning is a crucial step that should not be overlooked. Often, the smallest traces of moisture that remain can be the instigator of rust and corrosion on your industrial parts.

Proper drying ensures no moisture remains on the part’s surface or trapped within its small orifices after cleaning. Especially in parts with complex geometries, it’s common for water to remain trapped, which then evaporates slowly over time, providing the perfect conditions for rust formation.
Several techniques can be applied in the drying process, each with its pros and cons. Forced air drying, vacuum drying, and hot air drying are among the most used.

  • Forced air drying is fast and effective for simple components or parts with a large surface area but may not reach hidden pockets in intricate parts.
  • Vacuum drying is excellent for heat-sensitive parts and minimizes any chance of oxidation. However, it can be a slower process and may damage more delicate parts.
  • Hot air drying is simple, efficient and relatively cost-effective, but requires accurate temperature control and considerations toward the airflow direction when arranging or racking parts.

Depending on the part’s complexity and material, our parts cleaning team may even recommend using a combination of these techniques to ensure thorough drying.

Step Two: Evaluate The Cleaning Process

Next, we examine the cleaning process. We need to ascertain whether the part is making it through the washing process without any signs of corrosion.

To properly evaluate the cleaning process, several factors must be carefully assessed.

The first thing we consider is the type of cleaning solution being used. Avoiding corrosion in the washing step is as important as protecting the part in later handling. If an aqueous solution is used, it’s important to verify the compatibility of the cleaning solution with the substrate part material. Although ferrous metals are the main focus of oxidation corrosion, other metals can be sensitive to corrosion due to other factors.

Material compatibility is a core element of Brulin’s product specification process and will take into account the material properties, aerospace material compatibility requirements, and other factors.
The rinse process post-cleaning is also crucial in preventing rust. Rinsing should effectively remove all residues of the cleaning solution (as well as the soils removed by the cleaning) from the part’s surface. Residual cleaning solutions can react with the part material or create a moist environment, both of which could promote rusting.

Finally, throughout the cleaning process, the part should not come into contact with contaminating elements. If cleaned parts are handled with bare hands, the oils and salts from the skin can initiate corrosion. Tools and containers used during cleaning should also be kept free from rust and other contaminants.

Step Three: Evaluate Storage, Shipping & Packaging

Our team often finds that the storage conditions of parts end up playing an overlooked role in rust and corrosion issues. Humidity, seasonality, and location contribute to corrosion and our overall response to solving the issue.

One solution that works for a customer in Michigan won’t work for a customer in Arizona, and the same can be said for clients in Berlin versus Shanghai. Also, the nuances of the propensity for oxidation of different metallurgies within a seemingly similar category (I.e., “low alloy steel”) can vary widely.

Whether the parts are stored indoors or outdoors, under a roof or exposed to the elements, also impacts their susceptibility to rust. Storage of large metal parts isn’t as easy as storage of small components and is certainly a challenge to overcome case-by-case.

Once we visit customers in person, at their facilities, our team provides guidance on optimal storage conditions to minimize the risk of corrosion.

The packaging methods employed are another factor to consider. For small parts, we recommend the use of moisture-absorbing or desiccant bags to protect against moisture. Proper packaging can significantly reduce the risk of rusting during storage and transportation. This is especially true for parts shipped overseas, as the ocean air can cause a litany of rust problems once they arrive in port.

Step Four: Designing A Truly Proactive Solution

Once we’ve worked with a customer to evaluate all the factors that could be causing rust in the first place, we help them eliminate the problem once and for all. We assess the effectiveness of the cleaning process holistically, identifying areas where improvements could be made.
Our goal is to ensure that the cleaning process not only removes dirt and particulate, meets high cleanliness standards and is cost-effective, but also helps to prevent future rusting and corrosion.

We produce great rust protection chemistries, too. Our RP 737 chemistry is a water-based corrosion inhibitor that’s dilutable and can be applied during the rinse process to meet higher cleanliness standards. RP 737 is a great short-term solution, protecting for days and weeks at a time.

For customers who need to protect parts for a significantly longer period of time, our RP 800 chemistry is a ready-to-use, oil-based corrosion inhibitor that can protect for years. RP 800 is perfect for high-humidity environments and is applied after the rinse process, then removed at a later date. Customers using RP 800 typically do so using a dedicated tank.

RP 737 and RP 800 are both great products to use in different applications, but our team doesn’t stop there and wait for customers to take on the problem themselves. Our approach to identifying and resolving rust issues in industrial parts cleaning is comprehensive and systematic. We consider a wide range of factors and use our expertise to provide effective, custom-tailored solutions that not only resolve existing rust issues but also help prevent future corrosion.

We are continually exploring emerging trends and technologies in the field of industrial parts cleaning to ensure that we provide the best possible service to our customers. If you are experiencing rusting problems and need a trusted advisor to help eliminate the issue altogether, we hope you will consider learning more about what it’s like to work with Brulin.

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