Dirty air and unpleasant working conditions at a powder coating plant

Wednesday, 15 February, 2006

Investing in advanced filtration technology resulted in more than just a cleaner working environment for a Brisbane powder coating company. A powder coating specialist and exporter has made a significant upgrade to its Brisbane workshop which has resulted in enhanced productivity, internal OH&S gains as well as environmental improvements.

Caboolture Powdercoaters services many manufacturers in the Brisbane area, and in any one day can handle up to 70 different jobs. Items range from as small as a hinge to as large as a whole fence panel or large gate, more than seven or eight metres in size.

Until a recent design and fitout of a new filter/collector by Australian Dust Solutions, for the past seven years the powder coating workshop had been using a water curtain filtration system to prevent the powder and dust escaping into the atmosphere. But as that equipment began to age, owner Chris Reed began to look around for a more modern system.

"The water curtain was a bit of a dirty job to clean out," says Reed. "Every four weeks we'd have to shut down the workshop for two hours, while three of my men cleaned out the filter. It was a significant disruption to production and an unpleasant job to do. We weren't looking forward to the end of the month."

Caboolture Powdercoaters has been growing at a steady 14-18% each year and now has six employees. The quality of output demanded by customers together with ever-increasing production volumes meant the company could no longer afford the down time. Many of the jobs are destined for export markets as far afield as Europe or Canada. The business handles many different metals, from aluminium and stainless steel to wrought iron and everything in between, which can be powder coated in any one of 250 or so colours. There can be up to 20 colour changes a day.

Reed looked at three alternatives before choosing the Eurofilter Asia Pacific EFC 4-16 collector from Australian Dust Solutions.

"The additional features made it the best value for our business when you consider its performance and its labour-saving low maintenance requirements. The collectors are supplied powder coated as standard and the whole system looks like it was built to last.

"And because we are so busy, it was all installed and commissioned over the two days of a weekend. When we came back to work on the Monday, it was ready and waiting, we just had to flick the switch on and start working. The old unit was taken away, too."

The equipment was installed by Andrew Fanning from Australian Dust Solutions. The system is highly efficient, removing 16,500 m3/h of dust and features a computer-controlled, self-cleaning filter system, the Star-Jet PLC pulse controller.

At pre-set intervals the unit starts a reverse pulsing cycle to ensure that the filter does not get clogged up and works at peak efficiency at all times. After using the new filtration system for two months, Reed is satisfied with the result.

"The system does exactly what Andrew Fanning said it would," he said. "We have set the self-cleaning cycle on the PLC to start and stop when is required, and it does this automatically while we're working. We don't have to stop production or pay any attention to the filter, which is great for productivity."

"Instead of three of my men spending two hours every month on a dirty, unpleasant job cleaning the scrubber, we just change the filter every two years - a simple, two-hour job for one man."

By the time he expects to look at his filtration system again in about 10 years' time, Chris Reed will have saved more than 700 man-hours on maintenance alone.

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