Dust Collection for the Small Shop

Posted by Rumin Mann
February 18th, 2013

Dust collection is one of those issues for the small woodworking shop that cost money to operate and maintain, but doesn’t seem to add value to the product…or does it. Lacking dust collection or having inadequate dust collection can generate all sorts of problems if for example, you have a finishing booth. Without an appropriate dust collection system, fine dust particles will be drawn into the spray area either by the area’s exhaust system or by being stirred up by other movement in the shop. Wet coated surfaces are magnets for dust, and as a result product quality suffers and your finishing costs rise as you try to deal with fixing the problem at a later stage.

Small shops have two choices with regard to dust collection: a portable single stage dust collection system or a two-stage cyclone system. The single-stage systems are economical to acquire, simple to operate and being portable, they can be moved from wood working machine to machine as required. They have less loss of air velocity and volume as the blower unit is close to the source of chips, shavings and dust. However, they need adequate space to operate in and they have to be repositioned as required. The fan or impeller on these units does come into contact with dust or any other debris in the air stream which in turn may cause damage to the fan assembly. Such impacts can cause sparks and in the presence of dry, fine woody material, a fire could result.

Two-stage or centralized dust collection systems are more powerful and costly, but they can accommodate the dust collection needs of a number of machines simultaneously. A two stage system involves a cyclone to separate out coarse dust from the finer dust, followed by a filtering system or bag house to capture the fine dust. They are more often positioned outdoors thereby freeing up valuable floor space. With these systems the impeller does not come into contact with any of the debris drawn in but sparks can still occur in these systems especially in the ducting and the bag house.

A duct system is required to connect the machines to the dust collector. Ducting systems can be the downfall of any centralized system therefore careful design is required so that the dust collector position is optimized to the position of the machine it services. There are a number of factors that can influence the performance of these systems. For example, the machines being connected should be in close proximity to the dust collector and attached with ducting that contains a minimal number of corners and other joints. Using the optimal duct diameter size for each machine ensures sufficient air volume to provide effective dust collection and air velocity to move the dust along the duct without it settling into piles.

The decision between a single stage or a two stage dust collection system rests mainly with cost, space requirements, simplicity of operation and dust collection requirements. Contacting a local vendor of dust collection equipment is a good first step in making the final decision on which system to choose.

Good websites about dust collector basics can be found at  http://billpentz.com and http://www.rockler.com/articles/getting-tough-on-dust.cfm. Alternatively, there are a number of companies that offer turnkey dust collection systems and services to assist companies in selecting the optimum sized units for their manufacturing needs.

For further information contact on this topic, contact Brian Ehrecke (250) 462-4000, brian.ehrecke@fpinnovations.ca

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