AAT > Resources > Ask the Experts > Batch Cleaning Vs In-line Cleaning – Which is Better? J

When it comes to cleaning options for electronics, there are two types of machines: batch and In-line. Both types of machines are found in many applications across the electronics and PCB assembly industries. Batch is the process of cleaning multiple circuit boards or “batches” as a group, and the batches of PCBs are sealed inside the machine where they are washed, rinsed, and dried in the same chamber for a given cycle time. In-line is the method of cleaning circuit boards along a continuously operating conveyor system and cycle times are based on the speed of the conveyor.

Naturally, the question often arises as to which of the two cleaning solutions is better: batch or In-line? The answer is that it depends on the application and the priorities of a given manufacturer. For example, one manufacturer may have high volume through-put, in which case an In-line solution may be better; alternatively, another manufacturer may have a budget that limits the initial capital expense, in which case a batch machine may be better.

Below are several factors that manufacturers can use to compare batch and In-line cleaning machines and help determine which option is better for each application!

  • Volume: for many manufacturers, volume is the biggest factor in determining whether a batch or In-line cleaning system is better for a given application. In general, In-line cleaners are the industry solution for high volume applications as they provide greater flexibility and through-put capabilities; whereas, batch cleaning is most cost-effective for small to medium production volumes.
  • Footprint: batch units are known for having a smaller footprint in a manufacturing facility than In-line; however, advances in In-line systems continue to achieve smaller and smaller footprints, closing the size gap between batch and In-line systems.
  • Cost: the initial capital cost of an In-line system is typically significantly higher than a batch system. For this reason, higher production volumes are needed to produce economics that favor In-line solutions.
  • Cleaning capabilities: It should be noted that both batch and In-line systems have outstanding circuit board cleaning capabilities. Some In-line systems have better fluid penetration, resulting in better cleaning of electronics with hard to reach features. Generally, In-line cleaners are able to clean to 1 mil gaps whereas batch cleaners are typically able to clean to a 2-5 mil gap range.
  • Environmental Impact: historically, batch machines have had lower chemical consumption and exhaust emissions when compared to In-line systems.  However, with recent advances such as closed-loop technologies, In-line cleaning options are becoming more environmentally friendly with lower chemical consumption and emissions. 

Austin American Technologies’ Electronics Cleaning

AAT is an innovative, market-leading company, engineering and manufacturing production and assembly systems for the electronics manufacturing industry. From general purpose to high reliability requirements, AAT systems are design-driven by the science of cleaning. Applications include solar panel cleaning, medical, military, aerospace, cleaning printed circuit board cleaning (aqueous and semi-aqueous), SMT, flip chip, BGA, etc. Our systems include batch and In-line, aqueous and solvent, spray-in-air, and spray under immersion with ultrasonics. Below are some of our batch and In-line cleaning systems.

Batch machines: all of AAT’s batch solutions clean all flux types using aqueous based chemistries, solvent or water only with multiple recipes depending on the model type.

  • Aqua Rose Batch: world’s first aqueous batch cleaner and ROSE tester in one – saving time and money by combining cleaning and testing! This system can be configured with a closed loop wash and rinse.
  • Aqua Therm Batch: multiple cleaning technologies in a small footprint
  • Mega Ion: jet under immersion cleaning with ROSE test capability.

In-line machines: all of AAT’s Jet In-line cleaners come standard as a closed-loop system to reduce chemistry and water usage – saving the environment and lowering operational costs. Based on our Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling we developed a Coherent Jet Wash Spray Technology with Progressive Energy Dynamics (PED) for our wash section. The Coherent Jets are solid streams of fluid that have the highest impingement pressure at the board surface. Once they hit the board, they are omni-directional giving you the best and fastest flux removal as well as best under low profile component penetration needed for cleaning to 1ml gaps. Additionally, our patented Coherent Air Jet Dryer gives the best drying possible at the lowest energy costs.

Contact us today to learn more about our batch and In-line cleaning solutions.