Shop Solutions: Safe, Productive Fume Extraction Technology
Vermeer Corp., a family-owned and operated company was founded in Pella, IA, in 1948. Vermeer provides agricultural and industrial equipment to customers in more than 60 nations for industries including biomass, landscaping, pipeline, surface mining, tree care, and utility installation.
For Vermeer, building a quality product for customers starts with a foundation of well-trained, skilled employees who are valued as its most important resource. In keeping with that belief, Vermeer provides training to all new welding operators, and has welding engineers and technicians who conduct quality audits throughout the company.
Vermeer has made continuous improvement a priority, implementing lean manufacturing practices to help make the company and its products the best they can be. Through that effort, Vermeer has worked to eliminate waste in its manufacturing and operational practices, and established a focus on workplace organization through lean manufacturing principles that promotes efficient and effective order in production.
All of those efforts have helped Vermeer dramatically reduce the lead time for many products.
A natural extension of this continuous improvement process—and a natural extension of how Vermeer strives to provide the best working environment for its people—was an assessment of fume extraction in the company’s welding cells. In an effort to positively impact an already favorable environment for welding operators, the company recently installed multiple FILTAIR Capture 5 fume extraction systems from Miller Electric Mfg Co. (Appleton, WI) in selected welding cells and facilities.
The FILTAIR Capture 5 fume extraction system captures fumes from up to 5' (1.5 m) away and reduces operator interaction with the extraction arm, providing a cleaner, safer, and more comfortable environment for Vermeer welding operators. The larger fume-capture zone created with this new technology means welding operators don’t have to stop welding as often to adjust or maneuver the extraction arm, which leads to greater arc-on time and improved productivity. Vermeer welding operators in the selected areas that use the systems said they also notice the fumes being captured faster in their work area.
“Fume extraction is very important. We use a very clean welding process, but we still want to improve,” says Dave Landon, manager of welding engineering at Vermeer. “We felt like the Capture 5 gave us our best option.”
In the selected areas featuring the FILTAIR Capture 5 systems, Vermeer typically uses Pulsed MIG with solid wire as its chosen welding process. In considering new opportunities in fume extraction, the company decided on source capture rather than ambient air filtration.
Source capture allows weld fumes to be removed at the source before reaching a welding operator’s breathing zone, so it’s considered among the most effective and practical solutions for fume extraction. However, many types of source capture require significant and continual welding operator interaction to position and reposition the arm over the weld area, which means frequent pauses in the welding process. This interaction can lead to downtime and, potentially, weld defects.
At Vermeer, welding operators use a lot of intermittent fillet welds on large parts, requiring the operator to move around the fixture frequently. Moving a fume extraction arm after every movement would be time-consuming.
ZoneFlow, the Miller-exclusive Capture 5 technology, significantly reduces that issue by creating a much larger fume extraction area—up to 3' (0.9-m) wide and 5' (1.5-m) deep—three times larger than the fume capture area created by conventional technologies.
“On many of our welding fixtures, the source capture can be set up in a single place and the operator can weld the entire weld without having to move the source,” Landon says of Capture 5. “It pulls the fumes away from the welder, no matter where he is on those fixtures.”
The technology works by way of a negative pressure zone. Air is suctioned into the arm at a standard fume capture rate of around 900 cfm (25.49 cmm), while simultaneously, clean filtered air moves out of the arm (at a point just above the hood portion of the extraction arm) at approximately a 90° angle. Additionally, some of the air that blows out of the extraction arm “short circuits” and circles back around, effectively allowing a portion of the filtered air to capture more fumes before being suctioned up again.
Combined, these actions create a defined area of source capture, which funnels the weld fume particulates toward the center of the arm to maximize the extraction process. The system can accommodate fumes from stick, MIG, TIG and flux-cored welding.
Vermeer first placed two of the new source capture units in its Drum Cell where welding operators work on components for a brush chipper where the system effectively impacted fume reduction in those weld cells.
“We were so pleased with the performance that we purchased several other units to put into what we call our Model Line, our highest volume production line for brush chippers,” Landon said.
Vermeer uses Miller Axcess semiautomatic inverter welding power source machines with solid wire and a shielding gas of 90% argon/10% carbon dioxide, generally on mild and low-carbon steels. On the company’s Model Line, material thickness varies from 16 gage up to 2" (51 mm).
With eight Capture 5 units installed on the Model Line, the technology has become an important part of continually improving the environment for welding operators at Vermeer.
The larger capture zone with the new technology has made a significant difference around the welding cells at Vermeer. “Rather than getting a fog or mist when you have a lot of people welding—it’s completely clear in there,” said Cody Leedom, a weld group leader at Vermeer.
That effect on the welding environment contributes to the philosophy of safety and worker comfort that Vermeer values. It also helps keep good welding operators on the job and makes them feel good about their working environment.
The reduced welding operator interaction with the fume extraction arm means Vermeer operators can spend more time welding, which helps boost productivity and efficiency.
“When they stop welding, it’s what we call waste in our lean processes,” Landon said. “And so we’re always trying to eliminate waste. We’re always trying to keep the welder welding. By eliminating that waste, our productivity increases.”
The fume extraction arm is easy to operate and move, with full range of motion, and it stays in position. Arm adjustments are tool-less and welding operators can make them by hand.Vermeer welding operators also save time with the new technology because their helmet lenses stay clearer, so they don’t have to change them out as often. The welding operators like that the fume extraction arm does not disrupt the shielding gas that protects the weld.
When Landon finds something that works well, he doesn’t hesitate to share that information with his colleagues in the welding field. The Capture 5 system is one of those technologies, providing a better work environment for Vermeer welding operators and reducing the amount of time they spend repositioning the fume extraction arm.
“I believe Miller has, in my opinion, hit a home run with the Capture 5, because it is very much a breakthrough technology in the area of fume extraction,” Landon said. ME
For more information from Miller Electric, go to www.millerwelds.com, or phone 920-734-9821.
This article was first published in the July 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.
Published Date : 7/1/2014