Setting up Air Filtration in Your Welding Shop
Optimizing air filtration solutions is unique to your business, your setup, your processes and your needs. Welding shop ventilation requirements are important, but which ones apply and how they work with your business can differ per operation.
We can generally categorize the process in three easy steps, 1) finding the best air filtration solution, 2) configuring the equipment and 3) determining placement. Each are discussed in more detail below.
What type of contaminants are produced in welding shops?
Overall there are a number of factors that determine what is produced within a welding shop. Some key types of hazardous dust and particulates produced are Particulate Matter (PM): Welding generates fine particulate matter composed of metal fumes and other particles. These particles can be inhaled and pose respiratory risks. Some of these include:
Metal Fumes and Dust: Welding processes release metal fumes and dust into the air, which can include metals such as aluminum, chromium, nickel, zinc, and others. Inhaling these fumes may lead to metal fume fever and other health issues.
Gases and Vapors: Various gases and vapors are produced during welding, such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these gases can be harmful to health and contribute to poor air quality.
Welding Fumes: The composition of welding fumes depends on the type of welding and materials used. Fumes may contain oxides of nitrogen, hexavalent chromium, manganese, and other potentially hazardous substances.
Flux Emissions: Welding often involves the use of flux to protect the weld area. The thermal decomposition of flux can release substances like fluoride compounds, which can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities.
Finding the Best Air Filtration Solutions for Welding Shops
To determine the air filtration solutions best suited to your facility, begin by considering the current level of activity, as well as what's likely in the future. Ambient air intake filtration, where plant dusts and welding emissions are filtered together, may suffice if there's just one welding operation and welding is incidental. Where welding is multi-station or ongoing, source capture air filtration solutions, through the use of an air intake hood system in close proximity to the workstation, will be needed to be effective. By "effective", we mean capable of capturing, efficiently and consistently, both fumes and heavier particulates. The second part of being "effective" is that the device can do its work for extended periods, and without creating a maintenance issue.
If source capture air filter installation is required, the first step is to quantify the airflow required to draw fumes and fine particles away from the welder. As a practical matter, to collect all particulates would require such a huge airflow that it would detrimentally affect the welding process. So, the largest particulate will not be extracted. The collection of fine particles and the fumes that OSHA regulates is the mission.
The second step is to configure the air filtration solutions and equipment. The distance from the source(s) to the collector during air filter installation is key. Will one collector serve multiple hoods? If so, duct losses will increase, and the airflow required for efficient collection will rise.
The capture velocities required to collect the material and the sizing of the ducts transporting the material regulate to the development of static pressure, the airflow required with the proper horse power to achieve proper draw. This the most critical calculation during air filter installation, and the single most important reason why filtration is generally not a simple weekend D-I-Y.
It was recommended earlier that shops consider future requirements right from the start. The reason is that any addition of equipment, or increase in the distance between system components, necessitates revision of the air filtration solutions design. Systems designed with a fan operation at a given RPM will produce a given cfm against a given static pressure. Change any element of this equation and you change everything else. The airflow required to achieve a given result rise or falls based on the length and diameter of the ductwork and the size of the hoods.
Where to Place the System
Step three of air filter installation is to decide where it all fits. Assume the room is 30" long, and the collector and one welding station are installed at opposite ends. Given this distance, the system losses, which include the hood, duct, elbow, collector and fan stack, are calculated at 8.0 in. water gage, a measure of air flow resistance. At that point, the collector and the fan can be properly sized.
For a typical welding application air filter installation involving carbon steel material, the normal air-to-media ratio is approximately 2.0 to 2.5:1. That is 2 to 2-½ cfm of air for every one ft. of filter media.
If we use 3,000 cfm and divide that by the air to media ratio (2.5), that produces a requirement for 1,000 ft. of filter media.
That value is then divided by the square feet of media in the filter (assume 226), and the result will indicate a requirement for 5.3 cartridges
*Phil Weber, Welding Processes Pose Tough Challenge for Fume Filtration, (Welding Design and Fabrication) 9/03