Fresh start

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Students at the Kentucky Welding Institute train both outside and in booths to gain a fuller experience of future work environments.

Breathable air helps students hone their craft

November 2016 - The discussions about educated, jobless Millennials have almost become rote. A bevy of degree-toting graduates with no particularly strong prospects after accumulating four (or more) years of student loan debt may find the job hunt daunting. Yet there is a bright spot as more and more colleges around the U.S. are focusing on the value of skilled trades. 

Intensive, hands-on welding training is the name of the game at Kentucky Welding Institute LLC, Flemingsburg, Kentucky. The school teaches all processes, including MIG and flux core, stick welding, TIG—and doesn’t stop at the basic metals, including alloys chrome-moly (molybdenum) and stainless steels into its repertoire. “We train both outside and in booths and use simulations so students can get a full experience,” says Ashley Applegate, a KWI instructor. 

Students can become certified fabricators in three months, certified structural welders in four months, certified as a pipe fitter/welder in six months and take courses to learn custom welding. 

The student demographic covers the gamut of ages—but all are either high school graduates or have a GED; and range from complete novices fresh out of school to a 46-year-old displaced coal miner who lost his job after the mine was idled, prompting him to develop a new set of skills. “Now that he’s welding for a living ... [he is] making more money than he’s ever made after being certified at KWI,” Applegate says.

Training primarily with Miller and Lincoln Electric equipment in 20 welding booths, students generate a lot of heat and smoke. Wielding the torch for eight-hour shifts, the contained air can become an enemy. To prevent harmful particulates from taking over, KWI brought in Donaldson Co. Inc. to provide a solution. 


Miller and Lincoln Electric supply the majority of the welding booth equipment at Kentucky Welding Institute.

Breathe easy

Donaldson Torit dust collector filters and returns cleaned air back into customers’ facilities, says Market Manager John Woolever. “Reclaiming that air and putting it back into the shop can be a customer objective,” he says. “We will visit a customer’s facility first-hand to take stock of the environment, the manufacturing process, and other constraints to learn as much as we can in order to propose the right filtration solution.”

Depending on the materials being used and frequency of the welding process, the smoke and fumes generated varies, Woolever says. “Hazardous materials, like hexavalent chromium, are especially concerning for our customers,” and that’s an example of a particulate produced within fumes from certain metal fabrication operations.

Through Donaldson Torit’s pulse-jet cleaning system, pleated cartridge filters are cleaned from the inside out. “We leverage a fine fiber filtration media to deliver highly efficient Minimum Efficiency Reporting (MERV15) filtration performance,” Woolever says. “Our fine fiber filter media is able to capture fume particulates on the surface of the filter media and a pulse-jet of air knocks them off easily to extend filter life.  With the powerful combination of fine fiber media and a highly-engineered cleaning system, our units require fewer filter
elements and take up less floor space.”

KWI purchased Donaldson’s Downflo Evolution cartridge collector DFE5-30. The 5-30 nomenclature means it is a housing containing a matrix of filters five rows high and totaling 30 cartridge filters. The Downflo Evolution product line has more than 20 different model sizes available, including housings containing four cartridge filters up to 80. The DFE5-30—including standard legs and hopper up to its 55-gallon drum (not including the inlet/ducting)—is 100.6 in. long by 66.6 in. wide and 180.2 in. (about 15 ft.) tall.

Filter life varies depending on airflow amount, dust collection equipment specified, filter design selected, dust physical properties and dust loading (how much dust is generated by the application and sent to the dust collector), explains Woolever. “We regularly work with customers to provide filter life warranties during the collector equipment selling process to deliver 2,000 to 8,000 hours of operational filter life,” he says, adding that KWI’s version had no specification.


KWI purchased Donaldson Co. Inc.’s Downflo Evolution DFE5-30 model, which contains 30 filtration cartridges, to keep the shop air clean 24 hours a day.

Particle breakdown

Cleaning the air isn’t the only benefit KWI reaps as the air is scrubbed, recycled and recirculated around the facility. “That means that hot air is clean to breathe and churned right back into the shop. During winter, our furnace never needs to kick on,” lowering utility costs, Applegate says. 

The constant recirculation of recycled air was so efficient that the city’s gas company came by to make sure the meter used to measure gas was still working. “The gas company figured since we weren’t using any gas, there must be a problem with the meter,” recalls Applegate. “They figured it’s a brand new school, a new meter, so the meter must be faulty because it’s still sitting at zero.”

The type of collector and filter differs from company to company based on the type of work being performed. 

Donaldson determines whether an operation emits dust, mist or fumes and whether that dust density is super fine (as is the case with fumes), fine (powder), coarse (powder), or irregularly shaped debris. The company assists customers to understand whether the particles are abrasive, agglomerative (sticky), corrosive, fibrous, hygroscopic (containing moisture), toxic or combustible. Other variables, such as how many shifts there are per day, the estimated airflow to the collector and preferred dust capture method, will dictate the most efficient and cost-effective solution. Donaldson can recommend source capture hoods, portable trunk or snorkel arms, or ambient filtration via a ceiling or wall mounted unit. 

Filter options include fabric bag filters; cartridge filters; aluminum panel filters for more corrosive material; pleated bag filters, made with spunbound polyester substrate for longer life; and PowerCore filter elements. The dust collector housings can include filter-cleaning systems to extend filter life or provide static (non-cleaned) operation.

“Ultimately it comes down to the complete fume collection design,” Woolever says. “Our cartridge fume collectors can handle and filter more air more effectively than others. We sold KWI a 30-cartridge collector instead of a larger unit with more filters and a larger housing.”

Donaldson’s dealer network has years of industrial ventilation knowledge backing its recommendations. Woolever says a cookie cutter approach doesn’t work to meet the objectives of so many different client needs. “We work with customers to figure out exactly what is needed to provide clean air that meets their standards—that includes the right products, delivery, installation, technical support and supply of replacement filters.”

The right filtration system helps KWI fulfill its mission to prepare students for work in any environment.

“We want our students to be well-versed from machines that are brand new to machines from the 1960s because we never know what a student is going to weld with when they get on the job,” Applegate says. It is hoped their work environments are as clean as their training environment. FFJ



  • Donaldson Co. Inc.
    Bloomington, Minnesota
    phone: 952/887-3131
  • Kentucky Welding Institute LLC
    Flemingsburg, Kentucky
    phone: 606/849-9353

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