Smoke collectors are an unseen but critical aspect of any manufacturing plant’s infrastructure, but they are particularly important for automotive factories. Parts manufacturing, welding, and painting can all generate toxic fumes that imperil worker health, and the impurities in smoke can compromise infrastructure, including how well car parts take paint or the security of their joints. Testing combustion engines in an enclosed space, such as a laboratory, also requires stringent air quality measures to protect your engineers’ respiratory systems.
Whether you manufacture gas-engine autos or electric vehicles and chargers, you must install a smoke collector, but not every product is made equally. As such, take these considerations into mind as you shop for this most essential piece of equipment.
Every factory is different in terms of square footage as well as the fume-producing activities taking place therein, which is why it’s important to match your infrastructure to the size of your operations. Having an insufficient filter can imperil the health of your workers, especially as it exposes them to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are known carcinogens. It can also lead to a reduction in product quality and potential fines.
While having an excessively large fume collection system won’t necessarily harm your operations, it’s more expensive in terms of installation and upkeep, such as maintenance and electricity, which reduces profit.
Fortunately, a good smoke collector manufacturer will be able to accurately size your facility and determine the amount of air volume required to keep your workers safe.
Types of Fumes Produced
Each part of the manufacturing process produces a different quantity and quality of compounds. For example, welding generates metal fumes such as iron oxide and chromium, while painting releases epoxy resins; long-term exposure to these fumes may lead to asthma. Metal grinding creates an oil mist, which, when inhaled, may lead to lung cancer.
These fume particles are of varying sizes, ranging from tiny epoxy resin molecules to larger oil droplets suspended in the air. Your smoke collection system must have the correct filters, made of the right materials, to properly capture the most common fumes in your manufacturing plant, or your efforts to clear the air will be in vain. A good manufacturer will perform careful environmental testing to understand what kinds of fumes need to be ameliorated and identify the right filters to catch all particulates.
In some instances, your municipality may have air quality standards that regulate the thresholds of common pollutants in your factory. While OSHA only requires that you have some form of air cleaning without specifying what this involves, certain areas of the country – particularly California – have cracked down and developed strong regulations. While an excellent fume collection installer will have intimate knowledge of these, you may also want to double-check yourself if any of these laws are on the books and, if so, what they include. As standards may change over time, and smoke collection products are meant to be a long-term solution, consider going above and beyond the current standards so that you won’t need to replace your system until the end of its natural lifespan.
There really isn’t an “off the shelf” solution for a fume collector, because it must be thoughtfully installed on-site based on your facility’s specifications. This means that, rather than simply buying and placing a smoke collection system, you must work closely with a reputable installer familiar with your industry. Given that fume collectors can be pricey, it’s important that you choose a company with a long history of success and an excellent reputation. You should also check that other facilities similar to your own have had success with their products by asking for references and reaching out to ask questions.
Fume collection systems may be dangerous if they’re installed incorrectly; there have been instances of dust and smoke products catching fire, either due to poor maintenance or improper placement. Carefully review the company’s credentials and ensure that they are familiar with NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) standards, which is the leading agency involved in industrial fire safety requirements.
The company should be able to perform maintenance on their equipment in addition to installing this, as they will be most familiar with their product. Ask them specifically about what they offer for maintenance packages so that you’re not left hanging when something breaks.
A smoke collector is a critical and underappreciated piece of infrastructure in every manufacturing plant, but it is vital for automotive production because of the large variety of fumes produced. By focusing on these factors, you can protect the welfare of your workers and comply with all necessary safety standards in your area.