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Collect & control

By Lauren Duensing

Addressing challenges in a shop environment requires logical steps, says Donaldson Applications Engineering Manager, Chrissy Klocker

FFJ 0717 facetime leadQ: Why is dust, fume and mist control essential in fabricating and forming?

Chrissy Klocker: Three reasons to care about shop air quality include employees’ health and safety, prevention of fires and explosions, and regulatory compliance. Many dusts, mists and fumes generated in fabrication are toxic when inhaled. Fire risks are also common in metalworking, with frequent sparks and either flammable or reactive metals in confined spaces or mixed across work stations. National Fire Protection Association standards spell out precautions for fabricators, and some local municipalities are adopting them as legal code. Even if you avoid medical claims or combustion events, failed inspections can result in fines or even shut down your operation.

Q: Where should a business owner start when addressing hazards?

Klocker: First, be specific about the nature of the nuisance dust you’re trying to control. What process generates the nuisance dust, how often does it occur and what volume of contaminant is produced? Next, is the substance toxic or combustible? If you don’t know, have it tested. Third, understand any specific industry standards that may apply to your processes. Can the filtered air be returned to your facility—or do local or industry codes dictate discharging the airstream outside? Codes and standards may influence where you can install a dust collector or which discharge device is suitable for your process. These are the biggest drivers of equipment size, collector location and local exhaust hood design. If your contaminant is corrosive as well, your collector and ductwork may require resistant coatings such as epoxy paint or special construction materials.

Q: How does one narrow the options between many available collectors?

Klocker: Look for a filter technology that will best handle the dust, fume or mist you generate. There are three options plus a hybrid: A cartridge collector, generally for finer particulates and lighter dust loading (1 to 2 grains per cubic foot); a baghouse for heavier dust and a higher volume of inlet grain loading; and fluted media—a compact dust collector that uses high-efficiency media in a fluted configuration. A practical new hybrid is a pleated cartridge filter, which fits in a baghouse. Cartridge collectors and fluted filters generally require a compressed air supply to support cleaning/regenerating of the filters; baghouses may also require compressed air. If cartridge technology is best for your contaminant, but you want to avoid compressed air expenses, the pleated filter bag in a baghouse collector may offer a good solution.

Besides technology, another driver of equipment choice is how frequently your process operates and the rate of release for dust, mist or fumes. If you produce contaminants eight, 16 or 24 hours a day, you’ll want a continuous-duty collector that cleans the filters while in operation. If you weld or grind in stretches or have a batch process, an intermittent collector is a cost-saving alternative.

If your facility is somewhere in between the two types, you might want a variable frequency drive to manage fan motor speed, pulling only as much airflow as the local exhaust ventilation system requires to control nuisance dust release. This option saves energy and spares wear and tear on your filters and fan.

Q: How do I get the most cost-efficient dust and fume control system?

Klocker: Assessing your long-term operating costs is important. How much compressed air and energy will you use? How much will you spend on replacement filters?

Also consider the lost income during downtime. Every time you stop for manual cleanings or to change filters, you stop production. If your process requires 24/7 operation or you have stretches of heavy demand, make sure you get the longest life possible out of your filters. You can avoid interruptions by scaling up your equipment, which decreases the pressure differential on the media, or by switching to alternative filters and technology.

Cost-efficient dust, mist and fume control requires careful planning. With these major questions in mind, you can have productive conversations with your dust collection manufacturer. Look for a partner that thinks big-picture, can customize a solution to your needs and provides great technical support. FFJ

Chrissy Klocker is the applications engineering manager with the Torit Division at Donaldson Co. Inc., Bloomington, Minnesota. For the past four years, she has been an instructor at the Industrial Ventilation Conference in Lansing, Michigan. 

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