Dry cleaning equipment: still going strong

With the headline focus often on wetcleaning, it is important to remember the continuing advances in drycleaning equipment.

Whether it be the use of perc or alternative solvents or technological advances, the drycleaning arena is keeping up with the need for change in the 21st century. Intelligent operating systems and innovations which reduce running and maintenance costs while improving energy efficiency, ecological solutions and methods of cutting the processing time are all out there for the forward-thinking drycleaner.

Jean Anderson reports on what the experts have to say.

Service Machinery LTD

Stephen Pick, who runs Service Machinery Ltd (SML) supplies and supports customers with drycleaning machines from the innovative German manufacturer Böwe.

Pick said: “Since the company foundation 75 years ago Böwe have been at the forefront of innovation in drycleaning and this continues to be true today.”

Böwe offer both perc and multisolvent machines.

“The MultiSolvent® label means we can support any of the alternatives to perc now offered, and with some of these offering cleaning performance similar to perc, but with ‘green’ credentials we are seeing a shift towards these solvents,” said Pick.

As far as the hardware is concerned Böwe machines have evolved along a separate path and remain today unique in the industry in many important areas. “For instance , the distillation system. Built from a titanium-enriched grade of stainless steel (316Ti) the still is cylindrical. This serves two purposes.

“First it makes for a much stronger shape which is important when operating under a 1000mb vacuum which is how Böwe keep the distillation efficient and safe when using flammable solvents in our MultiSolvent® (M) machines.

“Secondly it means there are no corners to try and dig the sludge out of, making manual raking much easier.”

Another key to the Böwe distillation success story is a temperature sensor used by the computer to assess the progress of the distillation process. “The process varies slightly depending on if we are distilling in an ‘M’ machine or perc, “said Pick.

“With an ‘M’ we halt the still heating at around 95ºC. This allows the low boiling components (mostly water) to evaporate first and be collected in a separate tank, the temperature is then increased to boil off the solvent and this is routed to the water separators. This process is known as fractional distillation and allow the separation of water before the high temperature boiling process. “In a perc machine the solvent separates easily enough so the fractional step is not needed but the temperature of the still floor still provides important information for the computer to control the process. It is a fact that while significant quantities of solvent are boiling off the still will not exceed about 125ºC, latent heat of evaporation sees to that, but as the solvent concentration decreases the temperature starts to rise.”

At this stage a Böwe machine will circulate the residue with the sludge pump. This drives more solvent off and has a scrubbing action on the still floor, next water or steam is injected. This makes an anisotropic mixture which boils violently driving off more solvent and lowering the still temperature so again we wait for the still temperature to rise.

“Finally, by about 140 degrees there is very little solvent, and no water, left so the residue can be pumped to the barrel. A return line ensures air displaced from the barrel goes back to the still which is why we call it our ‘Emissions Free Still Rake-Out System’. There is no smell and the operator is not exposed to the still residues.” Böwe machines are also well known for their drying performance.

“Todays drying systems were designed and developed to dry the more ‘difficult’ alternative solvents in a reasonable time and a happy by product of that effort is that they dry perc very well indeed. “Another happy coincidence is that a Böwe perc machine will convert to multisolvent operation with the addition of some safety monitoring features and a different design of water separator making it a truly futureproof machine.”

Pick goes on to explain that control makes Böwe different. “In this case control of the dip level in the cage ensures a consistent and correct dip level. “Without using the low level sensor a first bath low dip is made by a timed pump-up. This is roughly one litre per second but of course depends on the condition and efficiency of the pump and there being enough solvent in the tank. “If there is enough solvent a considerable amount could be absorbed by a ‘heavy’ load which means there could be insufficient to provide the correct wash (mechanical) action. Similarly, a light load, of silks say, would not absorb much solvent and there would be too much solvent again preventing effective washing and resulting in an excess to be distilled. “The answer is to measure and control the dip level.

The Böwe PremiumLine does this, pumping up until the level is made and then adjusting the level if required, even switching to another tank if the dip cannot be made or maintained from the one selected. Meaning the correct amount of solvent is always used, the wash action is always as desired, and no excess solvent is distilled. “There is also a sensor provided for control of a high dip.”

Böwe Innovation extends outside traditional drycleaning and two recent examples of the application of Böwe technology are:

Turbidity measurement

With this system, available now on the BÖWE PremiumLine, the solvent from the first bath is measured, optically, to see how dirty (or coloured) it is. If it is not dirty it is pumped back to the working tank to be used in the next cycle. If it is dirty it is pumped to still in the normal fashion. Turbidity measurement can help avoid unnecessary distillation potentially saving huge amounts of energy in the right cleaning process.

Disinfection in drycleaning

Long thought to be the preserve of the laundry process, Böwe has developed the technology to reliably disinfect linens in a drycleaning machine. An obvious application is in the cleaning of surgical cloths which can be contaminated with glues etc which cannot be laundered out but require disinfection to approved standards in a one step process. Said Pick: “All of the above-mentioned technology is either standard fitment or available as an option on any of the currently available Böwe drycleaning machines.

Böwe’s Black Forest P30 is a 30kg perc machine which is also available in multisolvent configuration from SML.

The round distillation system used by Böwe means there are no corners for sludge to hide in.

The latest machine to arrive in the Dane Realstar range is the Realstar Atmos machine, for use with Sensene solvent.

Dane Realstar

“When looking for a replacement machine an est abl i shed drycleaners will surely ring the suppliers they know in the industry,” says Sheila Higgs of Dane Realstar.

Higgs advises: “If they want the machine to run relatively trouble free for a number of years then they should look at a top specification, well-built machine. The machine should be manufactured using high quality components and stainless steel parts. “A high specification machine which is not guaranteed to be manufactured with stainless steel parts and fittings will suffer corrosion in quite a short time.

With a cheaper machine, there is always a ‘catch’; either the quality of the product is inferior, or the after sales service and parts are poor – and in the end it is the customer who suffers. “They should therefore make sure the supplier is reputable with a proven track record. “Realstar has always been the innovative industry leader in engineering new products to service the textile care industry – recognised worldwide for their emphasis on quality, ecology, low environmental impact and safety.

Whilst perc is still the primary solvent used within drycleaning, there are a number of alternatives available to the drycleaner including Sensene, Hydrocarbon, Green Earth, and K4. “Sensene is an exciting development in cleaning solvents with an excellent kB value and cleaning power, along with a very gentle touch to the garments. The complete Realstar range of machines produce fantastic results with any choice of solvent, and are available in a wide choice of configurations, with and without distillation,” said Higgs.

The latest machine to arrive in the range is the Realstar Atmos machine, for use with Sensene Solvent. Using the new revolutionary atomising Jet Solvent System (twin high pressure solvent injection) washing in addition to immersion bath washing “This machine without distillation is perfect for all purposes in the drycleaning industry,” said Higgs. She continues: “The continued development in the manufacture of a drycleaning machine is the awareness of running costs, i.e. water, electricity and of course the solvent.

“With the significant cost of solvent the customer must ensure the machine will comply with the latest solvent emissions directives. The modern computer control will also ensure that the machine runs at its most efficient.

“Consideration should also be given to solvent temperature; the modern machine will be available with solvent chilling or heating devices depending on the solvent used. Serious consideration should be given to the inclusion of this feature, which only adds a small amount per year over the life of the machine!” For newcomers to the industry it is vital that machinery is purchased from a reputable supplier who can offer good after sales service and support, says Higgs. If the budget allows new machinery should be purchased where possible. A portfolio of products should be considered to enable good results with both wet and drycleaning processes and finishing.

Dane Realstar is a founder member of the Society of Laundry Engineers and Allied Trades (SLEAT) whose code of conduct states; supplying a complete range of machines that comply with the latest SED requirements; offering a high level of service; and ensuring the customer is in safe hands.

As a family run company, Dane Realstar has delivered exemplary service to the drycleaning industry for over 35 years and seen a lot of players “come and go.” They pride themselves on the supply of competitively priced, quality products, backed by experienced technical service, the servicing of customer equipment, technical solutions or the undertaking of major installations.

“Experts at difficult deliveries, we can strip machines for access and delivery requirements, then reassemble on site as required. We recommend that all machines should be serviced at least once a year and must have the critical seals replaced,” said Higgs.

Legislation also demands that any engineer working on refrigerated system is required by law to have the qualification ‘Safe handling of Refigerants F gas J11’. All drycleaning machines with a refrigeration charge of 3kg or above must have an annual safety inspection carried out by a competent person. All Dane Realstar engineers are fully qualified to carry out the inspections demanded.

Renzacci UK

With nearly 50 years’ experience in supplying drycleaning machines from industry-leader, Renzacci SpA, Renzacci UK uses the knowledge and expertise gained in nearly half a century to provide state-of-the-ar t drycleaning solutions, alongside awardwinning customer support.

Jason Alexander, MD at Renzacci UK says: “Whilst there has been a significant shift towards greener drycleaning and environmentally-friendly cleaning techniques over the last few years; the rise of wetcleaning epitomising this, many businesses in the UK are still reluctant to move away from their traditional solvent-based drycleaning machine. There is understandable loyalty to a machine that has provided them with revenue, reliability and good cleaning quality for so many years.”

Alexander suggests that businesses that are still loyal to traditional solvent-based drycleaning should look no further than the Renzacci Progress Xtreme Industrial range which, he says, is easily capable of meeting the needs of even the most demanding drycleaners and laundries. “Like all Renzacci products, this range of industrial-sized equipment has been built to a high specification, using only the best, most durable materials. With increased thickness on all stainless steel components, the range can withstand the most punishing of work,” explains Alexander.

Commenting on the features, he continues: “Complementing the machine’s engineer ing excellence, the Progress Xtreme range is equipped with the iBrain control panel – a system that allows business owners to control the machine remotely from their device, diagnose machine faults faster, get instant access to service and support for their machine and manage machine alerts and warnings.”

“With increased interactivity and operating flexibility, the machine can undertake several important functions, such as controlling the processing speed, drying inlet and outlet temperature and set the number of soap dosing pumps. Depending on the machine model, functions like the water level of the still heating element or the current state of the solvent level can also be monitored.”

Renzacci UK’s Progress Xtreme Industrial range has been built to a high specification to withstand the most punishing of work, and its iBrain control panel allows business owners to control the machine remotely.

This Firbimatic EcoGreen™ Advance 18kg capacity machine running on Sensene solvent was recently installed at Vicuna Exclusive Dry Cleaners in Eltham, London.

CML Equipment Solutions

CML Equipment Solutions can offer a wide range of drycleaning machines from Firbimatic.

Chris Lambourne, director of CML explains what he can offer drycleaners. Said Lambourne: “What made Firbimatic a cult brand among connoisseurs has always been the perfect combination of technological innovation and style. We are pleased to offer the EcoGreen™ Advance series of multisolvent cleaning machines. “Firbimatic, always on the cutting edge of development, has designed and engineered another innovative breakthrough in state of the art multisolvent cleaning machine technology. “The New EcoGreen™ machines are available in rigid models ranging from 18-40kg loading capacity. The EcoGreen range allows you also the flexibility to use any Hydrocarbon Class III A/B solvent without having to make any changes to the physical construction of the machine.”

Lambourne adds: “Firbimatic is pleased to introduce Vortex vapour induction drying which greatly reduces drying times thanks to a combination of factors such as a unique high volume fan and drying chamber design along with special placement of the condensing and heat pump coils. “The Vortex technology greatly increases the induction f low of both air and solvent vapour into the recovery chamber resulting in shorter overall cycle times from start to finish. Increased production in less time means more garments cleaned daily and more money.”

CML also offers the F range with smaller capacity of 10kg to 15kg which is available in both perc and alternative solvents, with both slimline two tank and wide three tank versions. “Designed to comply with strict environmental regulations and to achieve ultimate cleaning results with the lowest possible operational costs and very simple to maintain. One of the major factors in deciding on which machine to purchase should be the quality of service and cost of spare parts.

Lambourne said: “Many clients focus on the cost of the purchase and do not take into consideration the lifetime cost of the machine. These costs can vary considerably and could run into thousands of pounds over the lifetime of the machine. “We stock many spare parts that can be dispatched on a next day service. This provides our customers with an efficient fast service and parts solution at affordable prices.”

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