Reducing Risks to Employees’ Health with Extraction and Filtration Technology

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Occupational health and safety in manufacturing companies have become increasingly important in recent years. Today it should be seen as a part of the job rather than an annoyance. Manufacturing processes have gained in complexity, and resulting pollutants have become smaller and particularly more exotic.

"From chipping come chips" is a popular saying. Today, the chips cannot be seen with the naked eye any longer since particle size of resulting dust and smoke has arrived in the nano range.

Pollutants of any size always affect humans, machines and the environment. In addition to social and human aspects, a high sickness absence rate of employees has adverse economic effects on a company just like malfunctioning machines due to pollutions. Maintenance expenses, rework and finally loss of reputation and falling demand are the predominant adverse effects.

These factors lead to a rising demand for extraction and filtration technology, which reliably protects equipment and employee health, and furthermore, takes account of changing process parameters.

By now, extraction and filtration technology covers a wide range of airborne substances. Nearly all processes to be found in the manufacturing industry are supported. From interconnection and separation technologies, surface processing such as drilling, sintering and milling, the utilisation of fluxes or production processes such as 3D printing or rapid prototyping by means of laser, soldering and gluing — all these processes generate harmful substances that might show extreme impact on health.

Lasers are increasingly utilised in metal and plastics processing (e.g., drilling, welding, cutting, engraving, sintering, etc.). For example, in metal processing dusts containing heavy metals are released that may accumulate in the human body. During processing of alloyed metals, contained substances such as nickel, cobalt and chromium are released. The pyrolysis of organic substances may generate dioxins or hydrogen chloride. Moreover, laser smoke contains fine dust that may, at worst, lead to respiratory diseases, cardiovascular problems and an increased cancer risk.

Apart from bad quality of work due to permanent smoke and odour emissions, machines may be affected or damaged due to pollution and chemical reactions of their products. In particular, in the case of finest precision mechanical works, each kind of impact by particles must be avoided.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of SMT Magazine.


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