Briquetting Case Study
Find a new way to handle potentially hazardous dust generated by laser-cutting hydro-formed automotive frame components. Our customer was paying quite a bit to gather, manually transport and dispose of the potentially explosive dust. Our challenge was to develop a dust collection system capable of cutting those costs considerably. Our ultimate solution did even better.
One leading automotive manufacturer found a way to trim vehicle weight while improving strength by using hydro-formed frame components. In post-forming work cells, holes were precisely cut to further eliminate weight, accommodate mounting assemblies and contain wire harnesses. A high speed robotic laser cutting process created metallic dust that was dangerous to inhale and potentially explosive.
Before we became involved, these cells were by enclosures with conventional dust collection hoods positioned extremely close to work in order to remove dust from the process. Dust was conveyed to collection containers at each work cell. Workers then manually vacuumed the dust into larger 55 gallon drums and carted them through the plant to a disposal collection area. Handling the dust in this manner created workplace safety and cleanliness issues. Also, the potentially hazardous dust could not be landfilled or recycled. Every month the plant paid approximately $6,000 to dispose of the dust created by these laser-cutting cells.
The Compass solution had two major components. First was a centralized dust collection process to eliminate manual dust handling. Second was a briquetting process that turned the dust into recyclable bricks.
To create the centralized dust collection process, we created two major pneumatic conveyance trunk lines made up of 12” diameter round ductwork. Each of these trunk lines were connected to 6 work stations bringing constant vacuum power to the 12 laser cutting work cells in operation. The configuration we designed removed 100% of the dust within each enclosure, improving the Interior Air Quality (IAQ) throughout the plant. Each trunkline conveyed dust to central collection units mounted in a three-story structure specially constructed for this project.
As the dust enters the collection units it is trapped in filters that are monitored by the control system. When filters become saturated causing air pressure to exceed pre-determined levels a cleaning cycle is initiated activating an automatic pulse jet filter cleaning system. The high pressure air is released from a manifold causing dust to fall from the filter into a trough-style screw conveyor. Clean air continues through the dust collector and system fan and is then returned back into the manufacturing plant to prevent negative air draft within the building.
The screw conveyor brings the dust to an air lock that periodically releases controlled quantities of the dust into a briquetting unit. There high pressure hydraulic rams compact dust into small briquettes roughly the size of a hockey puck. These briquettes are indexed out of the machine and deposited into 55-gallon drums for transport to the recycler.
The entire system is automated with system controls continuously monitoring system pressure to regulate fans and deliver compressed air to the dust collector units. By viewing screens on a centralized control cabinet, plant personnel are able to monitor all operations in real time. Briquette collection drums are continuously monitored with level sensors. An indexing conveyor moves drums into loading and unloading positions without operator involvement.
Given the hazardous nature of the dust, the customer also requested additional safeguards and back-up systems. In the event of briquettes failure, Compass integrated inline diverter units capable of conveying dust directly to 55-gallon drums. We also added dust capture hoods to remove volatilized dust from the briquetting process and briquette container drums.
A custom-designed three-level structure supported two large dust collector units while large air handling fans were positioned outside the structure and placed within sound enclosure units to minimize noise inside the plant.
An All (En)Compassing Turnkey Project
This project required single point accountability, so Compass delivered a complete turnkey solution incorporating our Engineering, Fabrication and Installation expertise.
- Engineering The entire integrated system was designed to operate with minimum labor while capturing 100% of the aluminum dust generated by the laser cutting operations. Utilizing 3D animation software, we were able to show the client the entire system as it would be installed within their plant before fabrication even began. Compass engineers designed the entire system, including the three-level high structure containing the two large dust collection units and briquetting operations.
- Fabrication All fabrication was completed in our plant using laser measurements taken at the customer’s plant. Controls were programmed, run and debugged before delivery. All components were staged before shipping, complete with controls and ductwork systems to ensure trouble-free installation and operation.
- Installation Compass construction and installation crews fully built, installed and tested the system in less than six months, completing our turn key process.
Most important, drums of briquettes material can now be handled without exposing plant workers to hazardous dust. This system also took material that was previously landfilled at considerable cost to the plant and turned it into a recyclable aluminum material that earned the plant over $1,000 per month, a $7,000 per month turnaround from the previous situation.
Once again, Compass pointed the way to lower labor and scrap handling costs while speeding return on investment.
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