Aluminum Welding Fume Extraction

Process Intro

Aluminum is a prevalent material in the manufacturing industry (aerospace, construction, automotive, bikes, etc.), and aluminum welding is very common. However, it tends to generate a lot of toxic fumes in factories. Therefore, fume extraction is mandatory or recommended by health and safety organizations in all US states and Canadian provinces.

Many processes can be used to weld aluminum, the two most common being TIG and MIG. Unfortunately, aluminum welders have been forgotten by the fume extraction industry in the past, mainly because there is no push-pull fume extraction welding gun. But over the years, we have helped many manufacturers solve their issues by adapting our fume extraction MIG guns or offering viable alternative solutions.

AIRGOMIG & Portable Vacuum Unit

If you are currently using a standard or a push-pull MIG welding gun, we are pleased to say that AIRGOMIG could help you get rid of welding fumes. We have developed a line of Teflon liners that makes it possible to weld aluminum with an AIRGOMIG gun.

If you only have a few workstations to cover or need to be able to move easily, an HV103, HV105, or HVMAX portable unit and AIRGOMIG guns will be a perfect solution. The mobile fume collector will provide the necessary vacuum to the fume extractor MIG gun and filter the air. Add a remote starter to increase the motor’s life and stop the vacuum noise when nobody is welding, and you will have an efficient, low cost, and elegant solution to your fumes problem.

AIRGOMIG is the perfect solution for Aluminum MIG welding fume extraction as the welding gun is also the extractor. It is always well-positioned no matter how long the weld is or the welding position.

It will generally be required to send the filtered air outside to avoid recirculating the ozone inside, which is possible with our portable units.

AIRGOMIG & Central Vacuum System

As mentioned above, an AIRGOMIG equipped with one of our Teflon liners will make it possible to extract aluminum MIG welding fumes directly at the welding gun.

Investing in a central vacuum system for larger projects makes more sense. Our turbines can simultaneously provide vacuum for up to 60 AIRGOMIG guns. Compared to multiple portable units, a turbine will cost less, take less floor space, require less maintenance, and reduce the overall noise as they tend to be installed outside or in mechanical rooms.

Environmental laws might require a dust collector. You can also use our HVAV automatic valves to shut off the vacuum on unused AIRGOMIG guns, lowering energy costs and stopping the vacuum noise.

Capture Arm & Blower

For processes other than MIG, the best way to get rid of Aluminum welding fumes is with a flexible Capture Arm. Combined with a blower and, if needed, a dust collector, it will be a cost-effective and maintenance-free option. As long as the arm is always well-positioned, it will extract fumes efficiently. Your Capture Arms will be tailored to your needs (diameter, length).

We have done many projects using this method and have found great success. The arms can be installed on a wall or a beam and easily reach anywhere within up to 20′. It could be a simple project with a Capture Arm directly connected to a small blower. But we can also deliver a complete duct network with multiple arms on one end and a big blower and dust collector outside the building on the other end.

Extraction Nozzle & Portable Unit

If you are working in a confined space where a Capture Arm isn’t an option, an HV103 portable unit with a flexible hose and an extraction nozzle (round, linear, or self-supported) will be a very cost-efficient solution. Using the magnet or suction cup, position your nozzle close to the welding point. The portable unit will provide you with the necessary vacuum and filtration. This is cost-efficient to extract and filter welding fumes, especially when the weld length is under one foot. To avoid recirculating ozone inside, you will generally be required to send the filtered air outside.

A Note on Downdraft Tables and Hoods

There is a misconception that downdraft tables are suitable for welding fume extraction. But it is nonsense to extract welding fume naturally going up at high speed from the bottom. So, either downdraft tables don’t work for welding fumes, or the airflow needed to make it efficient is cost-prohibitive. Use a downdraft table for plasma cutting or a grinding workstation, but not for welding.

In most cases, fume extraction hoods cannot protect a welder as their head would be between the welding area and the hood itself. But they are perfect for robotic welding and offer an unmatched fume extraction efficiency in this case.

Health Risks of Welding Fumes

The welding process produces smoke that contains harmful metal fume and gas by-products. Fumes are formed when a metal is heated above its boiling point, and its vapors condense into very fine particles.

Welding fumes usually contain a combination of metal (Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silver, Tin, Titanium, Vanadium, Zinc) and gases (Argon, Helium, Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, Nitric Oxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Ozone, Phosgene, Hydrogen Fluoride).

The composition of welding fumes is determined by the metals in the material being welded, the electrode, coatings, and other factors. For example, aluminum welding fumes can create significant amounts of aluminum oxide (harmful to the lungs) and ozone (classified as a toxic, carcinogenic gas).

The size of welding fume particles ranges between 0.005 and 20 µm (almost all particles are smaller than 1 µm), and inhaled particles may deposit throughout the respiratory system.

According to OSHA, breathing welding fumes could cause the following health effects:

  • eye, nose, and throat irritation;
  • dizziness and nausea;
  • lung damage and various types of cancer;
  • metal fume fever;
  • stomach ulcers;
  • kidney damage;
  • nervous system damage;
  • prolonged exposure to manganese fume can cause Parkinson’s–like symptoms;
  • suffocation;
  • asphyxiation.

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