Fuel-Tank Manufacturer Clears the Haze

October 1, 2013

As one of the nation’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of OEM and aftermarket diesel-fuel tanks, Cleveland Tank & Supply operates a busy shop floor to keep up with customer demands and its “immediate shipment” promise. The company occupies a 33,000-sq. ft. facility near Cleveland, OH. In any given week, its workforce of less than 50 employees produces tanks to fit various makes of vehicles, oil fields, specialty equipment and trailers, as well as tanks designed for specific custom applications.

In any given week, the workforce at Cleveland Tank & Supply produces tanks to fit various makes of vehicles, oil fields, specialty equipment and trailers, as well as tanks designed for specific custom applications.

The manufacturing process for standard, in-stock products, as well as for tanks custom designed to customer specifications, involves plasma cutting and welding. Cleveland Tank’s shop floor—which encompasses nearly 17,500 sq. ft. of space—features a high-definition plasma cutting station, some 10 gas-metal- and gas-tungsten-arc-welding booths for steel and aluminum products (roughly 250 to 300 tanks per week), and a welding booth dedicated to production of stainless-steel tanks.

This heavy, constant production boils down to one thing—a lot of welding. And with all of that welding comes the potential for weld fume in the various production areas.

“Everything we build gets welded,” notes operations manager David Wilson. “Depending on the application and material used, we can easily weld 10 tanks per day per booth. We generate fume all day long.”

Clearing the Haze

The company took a three-fold approach to reducing haze and improving overall air quality on the shop floor. First, it installed a free-standing fume-extraction system that reduces the overall concentration of welding fume on the floor. Both Wilson and Rich Ferris, the company’s vice president and general manager, note that the company initially looked at fume-extraction systems that have arms extending to individual welding booths. However, they decided that the facility would be best served with a system that provided comprehensive protection for the entire shop floor. They started investigating options by talking with some 10 different vendors.

When they heard about The Circulator fume-exhaust system from Lincoln Electric, they were intrigued, Ferris says. This standalone system uses continuous filtration and airflow to extract and filter welding fume released during the most common welding and fabrication processes. It supplements natural, draft ventilation or forced ventilation through the roof and wall fans, if necessary. For Wilson and Ferris, the system made the most sense for Cleveland Tank’s needs.

“There used to be a haze overhead throughout the whole facility, and to mitigate that we would have to run exhaust fans all year, even in the winter,” says Wilson. “This made it pretty cold in the work areas. Now, using the Circulator, we rarely if ever need to run those fans.”

Extinguishing Sparks from Plasma Cutting

The downdraft table in the stainless-steel weld booth has made notable improvements to the booth’s air quality, driving hexavalent chromium levels to 100 times lower than the specified limit.

Next, Wilson and Ferris focused on the firm’s high-definition plasma table, which generates dust, fumes and potentially hazardous sparks. Cleveland Tank employs the table for cutting as many as 300 aluminum and stainless-steel sheets per day, ranging in size from 36 by 96 to 72 by 120 in.

The goal: Eradicate the fume and particulate matter in this work zone, in light of the high production and the materials used; and employ a fume-extraction solution that could stop sparks created during the cutting process from entering the extraction system’s filter.

“We wanted to ensure that the system would suck up everything that burns on the table and pose no filter fire risk,” Ferris says.

The answer? Lincoln Electric’s Spark Guardian, part of its Guardian fire-safety solution for fume-control systems. This system, working in tandem with The Circulator, efficiently prevents sparks from passing through, and on to, the extraction filter’s system. It also serves as an inline pre-separator that reduces dust load in the connected system.

“It has exceeded our expectations,” Ferris says. “Because we can use it with our comprehensive fume-extraction system, we have been able to cut stainless steel on the table. That’s something that would be unheard of if we hadn’t put these fume-extraction measures into place.”

Mitigating the Threat of Hexavalent Chromium

As Cleveland Tank officials were formulating their air-quality improvement measures, they also knew from the start of the process that they wanted to install extraction measures in the shop’s stainless-steel welding booth. Welders in this booth fabricate as many as five stainless-steel tanks per week, as well as stainless-steel straps and brackets.

“While developing our specification plan for this particular area, we discovered that our levels of hexavalent chromium were 1.5 times over the allowed limit,” Ferris says. “That discovery gave us even greater incentive to select the best available system and get it up and running quickly.”

The company ultimately specified Lincoln Electric’s DownFlex downdraft table, a dual-purpose workbench and extraction unit designed specifically to remove weld fume at the source—a must for the regulations governing stainless-steel welding. The addition of this unit made notable improvements to the booth’s air quality.

“The air is so much cleaner in the booth,” says welder Mike McAvoy. “It’s definitely noticeable.”

Furthermore, since installing the downdraft table in the stainless-steel booth, hexavalent chromium levels have shrunk to 100 times lower than the specified limit.

“The remediation has been phenomenal,” Ferris notes, adding that all three installed fume-extraction solutions have produced significant increases in air quality throughout the manufacturing facility. MF

Article provided by Lincoln Electric, Cleveland, OH: 216/481-8800; www.lincolnelectric.com.
Industry-Related Terms: Run, Stainless Steel
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Lincoln Electric Co.

Technologies: Welding and Joining


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