A systems approach to dust collection

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A growing number of shops are acknowledging that proper dust management is essential for adequate productivity, cleanliness and employee health, according to manufacturers of dust collection and air filtration products.

When discussing their latest and most popular products, company representatives indicate sales have increased over the years with everything from cyclones to air filters, to gadgets and accessories, such as quick-connect hoses and remote controls for blast gates. They speculate the underlying reason is that shop owners know these systems are an investment, so quality is important.

Festool's Rick Bush says that when he entered the tool industry 12 years ago, he noticed that dust collectors were put in place to capture chips and cut down on cleanup time. Now they're a standard, especially when it comes to healthy breathing.

"They weren't really seen as part of a system, let alone some of the other benefits that we're now seeing come to the forefront when it comes to dust extraction," says Bush. "People have become much more health conscious, they're also much more aware of the fact that a lot of the woods they're working with can have things like fungus and other things that they can be very sensitive to, allergy-wise, so they become very careful about the air they breathe."

Cyclones dominate
Dust collection system sales in the cyclone category have been consistent at Oneida Air Systems, which caters to the small woodworking shop.

"In general, our sales increase every year and more people are going to central dust collection and you see less bag systems," says Robert Witter, the company's president. "Mostly, we sell cyclone-style systems. They've become more popular because they're more sophisticated than standard bag-style units. They're the next step up."

The most popular Oneida systems, according to Witter, are the smaller 2- and 3-hp Gorilla cyclones. The company has recently added a 5-hp model to broaden its product line. The three models range in price from $800 to $2,000.

Witter also notes that more companies are offering cyclones than ever before. "It's just a better mouse trap," he said. "It pre-separates the material so that your system runs better. It doesn't bind or clog the way the single-stage systems do. Typically, the filter medias are higher tech, or better.

"I think people are moving from the portable to the central-style unit styles just because it saves time. You don't have to hook each machine up and instead of using flex hose, they use a blast gate."

Oneida recently launched the Dust Pod, which allows users to redesign their current single-stage or inefficient two-stage dust collector — up to 3-hp machines — into a cyclonic dust collector.

"These days, we're finding a lot of woodworkers are gravitating toward cyclone systems," adds Ed Levey of Penn State Industries. "Cyclones have many advantages over stand-alone systems. They are primarily cleaner in the sense that most of the particulate goes into pre-stage, and all the debris doesn't go into a filter, and the air flow is not inhibited."