4 Operations every metal fabricator should contain with an industrial air filtration system
Shops that make fabricated metal products, do fabricated plate work, or engage in fabricated structural metal manufacturing cut, grind, weld, and finish metal. These operations release particulates and fumes into the shop environment. Containing them with an industrial air filtration system can ensure compliance with environmental regulations, benefit employee health, and reduce downtime.
Below we take a closer look at four key operations employed by most metal fabricators and discuss how an industrial air filtration system can help control their contaminating byproducts.
1. Abrasive Blasting
Abrasive blasting results in two byproducts — the used abrasive material used to blast an object (e.g., sand, glass, steel shot) and the dust scoured from the target object. Both can threaten air quality in a facility and even cause slip and fall hazards.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require that abrasive blasting be done in enclosed blast chambers that capture particulate and vent them to a filtration control device. Products larger than eight feet in any dimension can be blasted outside an enclosure but that approach requires additional monitoring and management practices to minimize emissions.
Grinding is essentially the application of abrasives to a local area on a piece of metal to prepare it for welding, remove weld residue, or establish a continuous surface that can either be polished or finished in another fashion.
Grinding metal always produces a significant amount of particulate, which can include hazardous materials such as hexavalent chromium and manganese. These metals have been shown to influence respiratory ailments and nerve damage and are potential eye and skin irritants.
That’s why, when grinding is carried out using larger, fixed machines, the EPA requires that it be done with a proper industrial air filtration system that captures emissions and vents to a filtration control device.
But even when grinding is pursued using hand-held tools, it’s a good idea to capture the resulting dust. Not only is it a potential health hazard for employees, it can circulate in the shop and affect CNC machines and other computers, which rely on cooling fans that can become imbalanced — and eventually fail — when too much dust gets inside them. This can lead to unnecessary downtime, which no one wants.
3. Spray Painting
Most metal objects produced in a metal fabrication facility are made of high carbon steel and need to be finished with a protective coating. The most prevalent form of coating used for fabricated metal products is spray painting, which can get messy if it isn’t contained — as well as expose workers and the environment to toxic fumes.
EPA rules dictate that most objects of less than 15 feet in any dimension have to be spray painted in filtered booths with at least 98% capture efficiency for overspray. Larger objects are not subject to these rules but encapsulating them in an enclosure can protect the surrounding environment from overspray, as well as speed up dry time.
Nearly every fabricator uses welding to joining pieces of metal together. During the process, they release toxic fumes into their shop and run the risk of igniting flammable dust released by other processes, such as laser cutting that uses an inert shielding gas.
These twin dangers make welding a closely regulated process with EPA guidelines not only for capturing emissions but also reducing them through the use of fume-minimizing welding techniques and materials, as well as regular equipment optimization.
While many small shops may not be subject to these regulations, a proper industrial air filtration system will mitigate the risks they aim to minimize. One of the better approaches to combating welding’s dual threat is to take the idea of a welding curtain a step further and contain welding stations with an enveloping enclosure that can capture fumes and prevent welding sparks from coming into contact with flammable particulate that may be present in a shop.
An Industrial Air Filtration System Is More Than Just a Compliance Issue
Every metal fabricator needs to heed environmental regulations and there are plenty that point to the need for an industrial air filtration system that will contain particulates released into the workplace during regular fabricating and finishing operations.
But an industrial air filtration system shouldn’t feel like an imposition. At Duroair, we’re committed to devising cost-effective clean air solutions that go further than simple compliance to protect employee health and enhance productivity in a manner that works with a plant’s current floor plan.