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Case Study

Baron-Blakeslee Creates a Smarter, Smaller Vapor Degreaser

With more than 80 years of experience in designing and building industrial cleaning equipment, Baron-Blakeslee has been through its share of machine iterations. Standardization on the Maple Systems controller allowed Baron-Blakeslee to develop new equipment and bring it to customers more quickly, and spurred a push to standardize much of their equipment on a single control system.

Baron-Blakeslee Creates a Smarter, Smaller Vapor Degreaser

Industry: Industrial Cleaning Manufacturer
Location: West Virginia
Company Size: 10-20 people
Year founded: 1920

Baron-Blakeslee is a leader in the industrial parts cleaning market. After parts are machined and manufactured, they are often covered in grease, oil, and other debris. Baron-Blakeslee specializes in equipment that cleans these parts, without damaging them, and requires very little interaction by the end user after the parts are loaded into the machines.

Project History

AK-225 is the commercial name for a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that was banned from production and import in the United States as of 2015. It was the key solvent used in vapor degreasing equipment. Honeywell commercialized a safer alternative solvent, named Solstice PF, in 2014, which required Baron-Blakeslee to design new machinery that could take advantage of this market development.

And thus, the Equinox EQ1 was born.

The Problem

"There are a lot of parts out there that you cannot clean any other way," explains Patrick Oliver, international sales manager at Baron-Blakeslee in Williamstown, West Virginia. "Water is a pretty small molecule, but the hydrogen and oxygen atoms on adjacent water molecules interact with one another, so a group of water molecules act like one bigger molecule. Sometimes there are tight spaces that water cannot get into to clean, nor out of to dry. The Solstice PF does a good job of getting into tight capillary spaces." A lot of solvents are regulated, but Solstice PF is not considered to be a volatile organic compound (VOC).

"It all stems from the Solstice PF solvent, although the Equinox works with many other solvents, too, not just Solstice," explains Oliver. "The California market was driving this. When the AK-225 vapor degreasing solvent got phased out, they had to start using new solvents. You can’t put the new solvent in an old machine because it will evaporate too quickly. We were one of the first companies to start designing equipment for Solstice PF. We had to redesign our machine, which turned into the Equinox EQ1. To put one of these machines on a benchtop, you have to squeeze a lot of components into a pretty small box."

Converting from a Manual Process to an Automated Solution

Baron-Blakeslee’s old machine design included:

  • Single purpose digital displays
  • Push buttons
  • Analog temperature controllers
  • Relays
  • Pilot lights

Attempting to retrofit existing degreasers to operate with Solstice PF is generally a bandage solution, and, if the solvent is constantly evaporating, that is costly. "This stuff boils at 66°F, and it comes in a refrigerant cylinder," says Oliver.

Converting from a Manual Process to an Automated Solution

"If it’s exposed to air, it’s gone. Evaporation gets to be very expensive. We needed automation, but we just ran out of room to put all of the components in the little box. On the old machines, all of the electronics were in the front. The space behind there is very limited and restricted. There was no way to use the previously designed hoist."

Baron-Blakeslee switched from a Leeson motor to a Baldor DC motor in the back of the cabinet behind the process tank of the Equinox. “Guards go around the pulley and cable assembly to the hoist,” says Oliver. "You look inside the cabinet, and there’s a lot of stuff in that little box."

When redesigning the vapor degreasing machine, Baron-Blakeslee looked at a variety of ways to upgrade, while keeping the footprint the same. "We looked at putting a box on top of the cabinet to hold a touchscreen HMI," says Oliver. "We were using Zytron analog temperature controllers on the old model. We tried to stick within the same dimensional envelope, but the existing control components made it impossible to achieve that goal."

Equipment Design Process

While the Maple Systems HMI+PLC combo was the primary technology that made the Equinox work, it was Baron-Blakeslee’s Lab Kleen equipment that was the original inspiration for the Equinox.

"We had an external, rodless air cylinder, which we controlled with a smart relay," explains Oliver. "You had to add an extra structure on the side and another separate electrical enclosure for the hoist. There was an e-stop and magnetic proximity switches. One of the real features of the Equinox EQ1 is thermal management. You have to control the thermal input. We redesigned the cabinet, and we put all of the heat on one side and all of the cold on the other side. It’s got a little compressor and a condenser and a pump. The cabinet got wider. If we were to use the Lab Kleen hoist, that would make it even bigger."

Machine Design - Version 1

Machine Design - Version 1

"Part baskets are lowered into and out of the degreaser with speeds below 3 ft./min. Parts are first immersed in liquid solvent, which is filtered, and may feature ultrasonics to enhance cleaning, and then are paused in a zone of saturated solvent vapor to permit parts to drain and dry as condensation ceases. The dwell times in each zone must be programmable, and different program recipes must be stored to allow operators to process a variety of part types in predetermined, optimized cleaning cycles."

The first Equinox still had push-button controls, and no automation (Figure 1). "Automation is important with Solstice PF degreasing processes because precise control of the process is essential for solvent conservation," says Oliver. They quickly realized they needed to find a cost-effective control solution to automate their machine.

Machine Design - Version 2

"We simply ran out of space to add extra push buttons and components in the EQ1 package, and we discovered that the Maple Systems controller would allow us to integrate all the features we needed with the lift, plus many more, while maintaining the packaging objectives of this particular product line, to be a benchtop vapor degreaser."

Baron-Blakeslee’s use of the Maple Systems controller on the EQ1 (Version 2 Design) was motivated by the fact that it had to add a programmable lift to the Equinox for efficient, repeatable, predictable processing with the Solstice PF solvent.

Machine Design - Version 2

The Solution:
HMI with built-in I/O

Baron-Blakeslee found the solution to this problem in a controller from Maple Systems, an HMI+PLC combo with a 4.3" touchscreen display and three ports for plugging in I/O modules.

The HMC Series merges the functionality of an HMI and a PLC into a touchscreen that controls all of their equipment, all-in-one package, and all programmed in our free configuration software, MAPware-7000. The HMC device enables data logging and real-time trending to monitor your process while it’s happening and identify where issues are occurring.

  • One Ethernet port, One Serial port, USB ports

  • Ability for you to choose your specific Input/Output modules, that fit your project needs, and keep cost down

  • This enabled Baron-Blakeslee to easily control standard industrial equipment, such as Relays or Valves

  • Integrate with Temperate, Analog, & Digital Sensors

The Solution
The HMC device enables data logging and real-time trending to monitor your process while it’s happening and identify where issues are occurring.

Report: The Latest in HMI & Operator Interface Technology

The Equinox will herald the dawn of smarter, smaller equipment at Baron-Blakeslee. It plugs into a 120-V, single-phase outlet, just like a computer does, and it offers quite a bit of computing options.

Baron-Blakeslee Equinox EQ1 with the Maple Systems HMI with built-in I/O installed

Supported Products

HMI + PLC Series
HMI + PLC Series

Our HMC series combines a Touch Screen HMI and PLC all in one unit. Utilized worldwide to employ diverse applications, our HMI PLCs lower costs, save space, and feature options including: Serial and Ethernet communication, support for Class I, Division 2 installations, and numerous I/O configurations.

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