Combustible Dust Fans for Wood Pellets Applications
Greene Team Pellet Fuel Company
“When it comes to controlling combustible dust, the best practice in the pellet manufacturing industry is to contain it,” reports Andy Galis, Operations Manager at Greene Team Pellet Fuel Company, “but it’s impossible to catch it all.”
The company receives daily shipments of fresh sawdust, which the facility processes into wood pellet fuel. While effective, this production process is not without challenges.
“For all wood pellet manufacturers,” explains Galis, “the number one challenge is controlling combustible dust, especially the dry powder-like dust. Despite our best efforts to contain the dust, it still becomes airborne—and that is where the issue is.”
Galis explains, “We did some calculations for our mill, and even if we contained 99.99% of the dry dust going into the pellet mill, that would still lead to over 130 pounds of dry dust becoming airborne per week from each pellet mill. And this dust is highly flammable. Once moisture content of the dust drops below 25% H2O, you have the chance for an explosion. Our dust typically exits the dryer around 10% H2O. It’s the smallest pieces that escape suction, and these are typically around 3% H2O, making them even more dangerous. Once the dust is that dry, we treat it like gasoline.”
“If an explosion were to happen, dust gets rattled off the horizontal surfaces and then could potentially fuel a secondary (typically more dangerous) explosion. The way to prevent this is with SonicAire fans. We installed four in our facility, and we’re amazed at how clean the overhead areas are staying. There is practically zero dust in the rafters. We couldn’t be happier with the performance of the SonicAire fans. It makes our plant much safer.”
Combustible Dust Fans for Plastics Applications
Continental Structural Plastics
Dedicated to best practices in all facets of its business, Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) was determined to find the best solution for eliminating combustible dust, which can lead to fire and explosion events in plastics manufacturing environments.
“The main challenge is when the dust is out of reach,” notes Tracy Gray, Plant Manager of the Lenoir, NC facility. “We had a housekeeping program in place, but our ceilings reach heights of 45 feet, and our molding presses are more than 20 feet tall.” When dust accumulates in these areas, cleaning isn’t a simple process.
“We had to have a crew come in and physically wipe down the presses,” explains Gray. “They had to harness in and then work through cleaning each of the 15 presses, wearing eye protection and safety gloves. We also had to schedule down-shifts to free up the presses for this cleaning, and then work overtime in advance to prepare for lost production time.”
CSP installed SonicAire industrial dust control fans in the Lenoir plant. The results have provided a trifecta of benefits for CSP.
SonicAire’s proprietary technology provides cost reduction and convenience, as the industrial dust control fans guide airflow to prevent the accumulation of dust particles on overhead structures. The fans work while the plant is in operation, to maintain the cleanliness of the plant. Gray reports, “We run the fans 24/7, and they have kept the overhead areas constantly clean.”
“As an added benefit,” notes Gray, “the fans circulate the air so the exhaust system can pull air out of the roof more effectively. This has noticeably reduced the ambient temperature in the plant. Our presses operate at around 300 degrees, so the plant can get very warm in the summer months. This is a nice benefit to help keep our operators more comfortable.”
CSP was also pleased to discover that the fans did not add to the noise level of the facility. Gray points out, “One of our original questions was the decibel level of the fans, but, based on our studies, this isn’t an issue. The fans have not added to noise concerns.”
Gray, who has worked in this industry for 27 years, explains that the concerns at the Lenoir plant aren’t unique. “Sanding composite components generates dust that transfers up, and above, and everywhere. A dust collection system can pull the dust away from operators to avoid inhalation, but you’ll still have the housekeeping issue for overhead areas.”
And what’s on the mind of safety professionals in the plastics industry today?
“The dust issue is one of our greatest challenges,” admits Dina Graham, Corporate Director of Health & Safety for CSP. “When we first got to see the plant after the fans were in place, I was amazed. The ‘before and after’ effect was substantial. The fans are a great tool for controlling dust concerns at the plant; helping with housekeeping and overall dust control for air contaminants. I’m very impressed with the way the fans work and the outcome of this project.”
Combustible Dust Fans for Wood Cabinets and Furniture Applications
Kent Moore Cabinets
Prior to SonicAire fans, Kent Moore Cabinets had a serious problem with dust accumulation. VP of Operations Jack Moreno reports, “It looked like the building had been vacant, with all the dust webs present.”
“We were cleaning by hand but had to find the time and manpower. Since installation, we’ve seen a drastic improvement.” He adds, “Visitors to the plant are amazed at how clean we have that area.”
“And I think it helps employees, their frame of mind, to say they’re working in a nice, clean environment in a woodworking facility.”
Moreno admits to trying an experiment: he temporarily turned off the fans after installation. He notes, “I was amazed at how quickly the dust accumulated.”
Would he recommend SonicAire for other facilities? Yes. Moreno says, “It’s unbelievable the amount of labor savings and other things that go along with it. It’s impressive. When you think about the man hours it takes to clean that facility and to get it clean like the SonicAire fans maintain it for you – you see the payback very quickly.”
Combustible Dust Fans for Commercial Laundry Applications
Commonwealth Linen Service
“Lint is the biggest carrier of pathogens in the laundry environment,” explains Jim Buchbinder, director of Commonwealth Linen. “So, if lint isn’t present for the pathogens to attach to, then you’ve eliminated a big problem in your plant.”
To maintain top hygiene protocols for their 42,000-square-foot facility, Commonwealth Linen has installed SonicAire industrial dust control fans.
Buchbinder reports, “Any laundry that becomes accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) needs to have a processing area environment that is free from lint. We find that SonicAire fans really help us maintain that environment, making it a lot easier for my team to keep the plant clean and free of lint.”
The SonicAire industrial lint control fan system also differentiates the facility from their competitors. “In poorly run laundries, you’ll notice a haze when you enter the building,” explains Buchbinder. “You look up at the rafters and see a layer of lint. In our building, we have a process in place, so we experience an absence of lint in our plant.”
Prior to implementing SonicAire’s industrial lint control fan system, the facility had to rely on inefficient manual housekeeping measures. “We would get an air hose and an extension, cover all the linen, and blow the lint down from overhead areas one portion of the plant at a time, then sweep it up. It was very time consuming.”
“Keeping these areas clean was a particular challenge in this facility, because we have an HVAC system,” continued Buchbinder. “This helps us maintain better air quality, but we don’t have exhaust fans on the clean side of our plant. Without these, all of the lint tends to settle down on the equipment and rafters. There’s no place for it to escape.”
Lint that gets trapped in overhead areas accumulates and poses a fire hazard to the facility, supporting fire spread if the lint ignites.
Buchbinder notes an added benefit from the SonicAire fans. As part of their marketing efforts, Commonwealth Linen Services offers facility tours to current and potential clients, and the indoor air quality is remarkable. Buchbinder reports that he hears great feedback about the absence of lint in their plant. “I constantly get comments,” he says. “It’s good for our employees, good for our customers and good for business.”
Combustible Dust Fans for Boat Builders
“In the boat building industry, the biggest challenge with dust control is from processing large parts and molds,” reports Jeff Staub, Special Projects Manager for Viking Yachts.
This industry-leading manufacturer produces 90 percent of each semi-custom boat in house. That generates a lot of dust.
“We have wood and fiberglass dust,” says Staub, who also has company responsibility for environmental compliance. “The wood dust stems from our Mill department, which fabricates our furniture and cabinetry. And our boats are made from fiberglass reinforced plastic, so a majority of the dust generated is from sanding and grinding of those materials.”
Staub admits, “When working with these parts, traditional dust collection methods are not always effective and can result in increased housekeeping.”
What did Viking Yachts do to improve their dust control measures?
“We’ve worked closely with the engineers at SonicAire to develop customized layouts for industrial dust control fans at Viking Yachts. Their staff is knowledgeable and dedicated to meeting our needs. Each target area of our facility has unique characteristics, and SonicAire has addressed the differences in operations and building designs. Using their fans helps keep the housekeeping on the ground where it is easier, cheaper and ultimately safer to clean than high surfaces.”
Since installing SonicAire fans, Viking Yachts has benefited from five areas of improvement at their facility.
- Reduced Cost Before fans were installed, Viking outsourced the cleaning of high surface areas to outside vendors after a certain amount of accumulation had been identified. This helped Viking manage the cost by limiting capital expenditures and also reducing their liability. However, the process was still expensive and time consuming. Staub explains, “It took crews five months to work through the facility. In addition, cleaning once the dust has already accumulated is not the most effective management strategy.”
- Reduced Downtime Manual housekeeping of high surface areas at Viking was highly disruptive to production. Even with crews working at night, there was significant time allocated to moving parts and molds to provide access. “We figured if we could eliminate or extend the time between cleanings, there is a definite savings in logistics labor,” says Staub.
- Reduced Risk “There are a lot of variables that contribute to combustible dust events,” notes Staub, “but if you can find a way to control one or more of those contributing factors, you can reduce the risk of an event. Managing the dust accumulation levels is one way to reduce that risk—and the Sonic Aire fans are a good tool to do that.”
- Increased Morale “Employees like the idea that their work areas are safer and ultimately cleaner,” reports Staub. “They have made comments that they appreciate seeing the company take initiative to reduce these risks versus allowing dust to accumulate before cleaning.”
- Increased Compliance Staub notes that managing dust accumulation with SonicAire fans allows Viking Yachts to better comply with the requirements of state fire codes. He adds, “An added benefit is that our insurance company likes the results!”
It didn’t take long for Viking Yachts to start reaping the benefits of SonicAire fans. Staub reports, “With SonicAire fans, it is immediately noticeable that high surfaces—where dust previously accumulated quickly—are clean.”