My version of an Ultrasonic Record Cleaner
I've had a VPI HW-17 record cleaner for some time, but have always wondered if there was a way that could deliver better cleaning results along with less contact with the vinyl . So, after reading threads here and elsewhere about using ultrasonic cleaners to get the dirt off of vinyl, I thought I'd rig up my own unit.
I started with an ultrasonic cleaner that uses 60 KHz transducers. It was a little harder to find and a little more expensive than the typical 40KHz Chinese-made units, but the higher frequencies theoretically do a better job at cleaning the very small grooves of a record and there is less risk of damaging the vinyl from the cavitation. Those two points are a big advantage of 60khz units over 40khz units.
To rotate the records, I wanted to minimize motion in the cleaning solution. My target was a 4 minute cleaning time for the vinyl surface. Given that about 1/3 of the record is submerged in the solution at any moment, the math told me to find a 5 revolution per HOUR synchronous motor. Synchron makes such motors in almost any rph or rpm you could want. The 5rph motor yields a 12 minute rotation time. My plan is 1 rotation = 1 cleaning cycle.
I fashioned a spindle out of 9/32 W1 drill rod. It was was easy to machine a 1/8" diameter hole in one end of the spindle on my lathe to fit over the motor shaft (1/8" diameter).
The motor and shaft are mounted in place using an electrical connector box and conduit. The arm is mounted to the ultrasonic unit using L-brackets and pipe straps. The setup allows the motor and spindle assembly to be rotated up to load records, and then rotated down into the bath.
My spacers are 4" diameter, 1/2" thick cork rounds. [Oct 2012 note: I have since found different spacers, which are much better: I've ordered these from the UK: 110mm by 105mm tapered cork stoppers - they cover the record label completely and very little of the lead out groove. They are just a touch over 1" thick, which is optimal spacing.
No.37 Natural Cork Stopper 110mm from Just Cork No. 37 Large]
[Dec 2012 Note: I added a sintered bronze bearing and a bearing housing to support the weight of the spindle, records and spacers, and eliminate the bending moment on the motor shaft.]
I'll report back after I clean and play some vinyl. My first batches will use distilled water and isopropyl alcohol at about 7 to 1 [Sep 2012 note: I've since gone to a much lower concentration of isopropyl, about 50 to 1] , with a few drops of Kodak PhotoFlo. This solution, combined with the very slow rotation, will allow the liquid to drain off the vinyl surface very easily.
The cleaner can still be used for any items you'd normally put in an ultrasonic unit. It does a great job on some fairly intricate gold jewelry I've cleaned.
Photos below. Questions and comments welcome.
[Feb 2013 Note: I have built a second, sturdier design using a metal frame and hinge assembly that fits over the top of the Ultrasonic cleaner. Here is a direct link to the description later in this thread:
Version 2 of BB's URC
And here's a direct link to the post with the parts list for Version 2:
BB's URC Version 2 Parts List ]
Feb 2015 Note: I've built a 3rd version, designed to be assembled with fewer tools and be more adaptable to different cleaners. Description, pics, and parts list for Version 3 start here:
BB's Version 3 URC
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yeah, cool beans mon!
A very clean design. Love the way you implemented the mobility of the arm and spindle. Curious to hear how you perceive multiple records versus fewer relative to cleaning effectiveness. Also whether you prefer a rinse on the VPI as a final step. Cheers.
Also, smart to start a new thread with more specific title re: ultrasonic RCM.
For those who want addt'l background, please catchup at Sclalars amazingly thorough thread that won't die here at: http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/analo...leaner-22.html
BUT, perhaps post new progress here to keep the ball (more visibly) rolling to attract new traffic ...
In the same way, I'm hoping to keep the process simple, and not require a rinse on the VPI. I'd try a non-contact, water-only rinse of some sort before cranking up the VPI. With the vinyl surface being horizontal on the VPI, a lot of debris gets left on the record. With the record vertical in the UC bath, I think there is less chance of that. But, we'll have to see.
With the things I've cleaned in the UC so far, I'm amazed at how much dirt and grit ends up on the bottom of the tank. These cleaners work well !
I did the same calculation. Can you share your source for the 60kHz cleaner? I can't wait to hear about your results!
The 60khz cleaner is a Sonix IV machine (6 quart version).
Warning: The fit and finish of the machine is terrible for a $500 item. I almost sent it back. (examples: control panel label wasn't put on flat and in the proper location. There were large, uneven lines of silicone sealant underneath the lip of the tank at the joint between the tank lip and the surrounding metal case.) But these problems don't affect function.
It works extremely well in it's functionality as a cleaner. So I kept it, and in the nature of DIY, fixed some of the problems myself--- e.g. it needed taller rubber feet so the drain valve is clear of the surface on which the unit sits.
The standing waves in the bath definitely are closer together and distributed better throughout the liquid than those in most 40khz units I've seen. And as I said, it did very well cleaning the jewelry I put in it. So, for me, it was worth the cost. But I want to make sure folks don't expect "Mercedes-level fit and finish" if they go down this path.
I looked into some 80khz units, like Zenith Ultrasonics makes, but these start at $1400 for a basic unit. Too expensive in my opinion. I get most of the benefits of higher frequencies at the $500 price point.
First batch of clean records
Well, I'm sold on the ultrasonic cleaner for vinyl. I started by cleaning a few fairly low-value LPs --- 60s and 70s pop recordings that were pretty noisy.
After a few minutes of degassing the bath (definitely necessary) I ran the LPs through one 12 minute rotation on my URC. My cleaning fluid for the first records was distilled water and a little isopropyl alcohol -- about 50 to 1. Also added a little Photoflo at 1 part in 200. In other words: 150 ounces water, 3 oz isopropyl, .75 oz photoflo.
The slow rotation allows all the cleaning fluid to run off and/or evaporate before the rotation allows drips to reach my spacers covering the record labels.
Because I added so little alcohol and photoflo, I didn't even feel the need to do a separate rinse. Will experiment with this, but my sense is another water rinse is not necessary. The records come out looking sparkly clean and the background noise is noticeably reduced. No, make that dramatically reduced --- better than the average record coming off of my VPI. I feel no need to run these through a rinse cycle on the VPI. I really think they'd come out worse. At a minimum, I don't think it would be worth the time.
I think 1" spacing between records is best in my unit. At the 1/2" spacing I started with, the excitation patterns were noticeably reduced in the cleaning solution between the records . My sense is that the cleaning action is not as good if the records are too close together.
As a tough test toward the end of my first fluid batch, I decided to clean a real nasty LP. The cover looks like it got damp at some point, and the record has a lot of visible residue -- some combo of dirt, glue residue and/or mildew. This stuff wouldn't come off with a discwasher type brush and fluid, and I certainly didn't want to muck up the brushes on my VPI 17. So into the ultrasonic cleaner it went. Before and after photos attached to this post. First photo, on the left, is Before. 2nd photo on the right is the same section After. The record looks great and sounds great. Lots of junk at the bottom of my tank.
Idea for Ver. 2.0
That is what I want to build. Being impatient I want to use some spacers and do 2 or even 4 records at once. Do you think that will work?
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