Welding, while a highly essential industrial process, inherently produces fumes that are hazardous to the environment and workers’ health. These fumes can contain a mixture of various metallic oxides, silicates, and fluorides, some of which have been associated with severe health issues, including respiratory diseases and certain types of cancer. This makes welding fume extraction a vital aspect of a welding operation.
Fume extraction systems are designed to capture and filter these harmful welding fumes, protecting workers and helping to maintain a clean, safe working environment. Two types of fume extraction systems are commonly used: mobile and stationary units. Both serve the same fundamental purpose, but each comes with its benefits and drawbacks.
The choice between mobile and stationary units should be made carefully, considering various factors such as the nature of the welding tasks, the size of the workspace, the type of fumes produced, and the budget.
In this blog post, we will delve into a comprehensive comparison between mobile and stationary fume extraction units, evaluating their pros and cons to provide a helpful guide for businesses in the process of choosing the most appropriate solution for their welding operations.
Mobile Fume Extraction Units
Overview of Mobile Fume Extraction Units
As their name suggests, mobile fume extraction units are portable systems designed to be easily transported and positioned around the workspace. These units are typically equipped with flexible extraction arms or hoses connected to a fume extraction gun or extraction nozzle, a vacuum motor (or a fan for cheaper systems) for drawing in the fumes, and a filtration system for cleaning the captured air before it is vented back into the environment.
The primary advantage of mobile units lies in their versatility. They can be moved to different locations within a facility, making them particularly beneficial in workplaces where welding tasks are not confined to a single area. This flexibility also extends to their application in various industries, including automotive repair, construction, manufacturing, and more. As long as there’s a power source, these units can be set up and operated relatively quickly, providing immediate fume extraction wherever required.
However, mobile fume extraction units are not just defined by their portability. The efficiency of these systems also depends on their design and the technology they employ. The most effective ones balance portability with powerful suction capabilities and advanced filtration systems (minimum MERV-12, ideally more), ensuring the effective capture and neutralization of harmful welding fumes. The following section will discuss the advantages and limitations of mobile fume extraction units.
Pros and Cons of Mobile Fume Extraction Units
Mobile fume extraction units have unique advantages that make them well-suited for specific scenarios. However, as with any equipment, they also have certain limitations that users must be aware of.
Advantages of Mobile Fume Extraction Units
- Flexibility: The primary benefit of mobile units is their flexibility. They can be easily moved around the facility wherever needed, making them ideal for facilities where welding tasks are spread out or frequently change location. This flexibility can significantly increase operational efficiency in dynamic environments.
- Ease of Installation and Relocation: Mobile units are generally easier to install than stationary units. They usually require only a power source and minimal assembly, allowing them to be operational relatively quickly. They can also be easily relocated to accommodate changes in the workspace layout or welding operations.
- Suitable for Short-Term and Light-Duty Operations: Mobile units often prove cost-effective and adequate for short-term projects or light-duty operations where welding activities are not continuous or heavily concentrated.
Limitations of Mobile Fume Extraction Units
- Limited Extraction Capacity: While they are efficient within their scope, mobile units often lack the extraction capacity of their stationary counterparts. This limitation makes them less suitable for continuous, high-volume welding operations. One reason for this is that most portable units are designed to work in a standard 120V/15A wall plug which drastically limits the available power when most central vacuum units use 460 or 600V. This also means that, in most cases, each welding station will need its mobile extraction unit.
- Maintenance Requirements: The portability of these units can lead to more wear and tear as they are moved around, potentially increasing the maintenance requirements. These units also tend to use brush motors that need maintenance after every 500 to 1500 hours of use, so we always recommend using an automatic start/stop function. Finally, filters must be replaced regularly to maintain the required airflow, which can quickly become costly for heavy applications. If you have 20 portable units, the maintenance cost and time can become an issue, and it would be a lot easier and cheaper with a central system.
- Dependent on Power Availability: The operation of mobile units depends on the availability of a power source at the operation site. Providing power in remote or mobile workstations can sometimes be challenging.
Understanding these pros and cons can help users make an informed decision based on their welding operations’ specific needs and constraints.
If you have any questions about welding fume, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to give you some insight, and we can even visit you for free in the US and Canada.
Stationary Fume Extraction Units
Overview of Stationary Fume Extraction Units
Stationary fume extraction units, also known as fixed units, or central vacuums, are typically larger, more powerful systems designed for permanent installation within a facility. A typical stationary welding fume extraction system includes a vacuum unit, dust collector, electrical panel, ducts, and either flexible extraction arms or hoses and fume extraction MIG guns.
Unlike their mobile counterparts, stationary units are usually installed in a dedicated location like a maintenance room, outside, or on the roof of the building. They are connected to a series of ducts, hoses, or extraction arms that capture fumes at the source.
These systems are engineered to handle higher volumes of fume extraction, making them a preferred choice for continuous or high-intensity welding operations. Depending on their design, stationary fume extraction units can service multiple welding stations simultaneously, thanks to their greater suction power and larger filtration capacities.
The installation of stationary units involves a more elaborate setup process, including the need for ductwork and electrical installations. However, once in place, these systems offer efficient, reliable, and robust fume extraction solutions capable of handling the demands of larger operations.
Stationary fume extraction units are widely used across industries where welding is a significant part of the production process, such as shipbuilding, automotive and truck manufacturing, or heavy machinery production. Despite their remarkable benefits, these units also have certain limitations, which we will discuss in the following section.
Pros and Cons of Stationary Fume Extraction Units
Stationary fume extraction units offer distinct benefits, particularly for high-intensity welding operations. However, these advantages must be weighed against certain drawbacks, depending on the unique requirements of each facility.
Advantages of Stationary Fume Extraction Units
- Superior Power and Extraction Capacity: Stationary units have larger motors and are more powerful, which allows them to handle higher volumes of fume extraction. This makes them ideal for continuous, heavy-duty welding operations. They can also provide a higher vacuum than their portable counterpart, which is beneficial when working with fume extraction MIG guns.
- Multi-Point Extraction: With greater power and capacity, stationary units can service multiple welding stations simultaneously. This is achieved by connecting the unit to a network of ducts and fume extractors, which can be strategically placed at various points of fume generation. With automatic vales, we have designed stationary systems servicing over 100 welders.
- Durability and Longevity: Stationary units are designed for robust, long-term performance. Their heavy-duty construction can withstand the rigors of continuous operation, often with less wear and tear compared to mobile units. It also means less maintenance for the vacuum and dust collection units, which often have efficient automatic cleaning systems.
Limitations of Stationary Fume Extraction Units
- Immobility: The most apparent limitation of stationary units is their lack of mobility. Once installed, they can’t be easily moved or relocated. This can be a disadvantage in facilities where welding operations frequently change location.
- Higher Initial Investment: Stationary units typically come with a higher upfront cost than mobile units, including the cost of the unit itself and installation (electricity, ductwork).
- Complex Installation: Installing a stationary unit is more complicated and time-consuming, often requiring professional help. Factors like power requirements, ductwork planning, and space allocation must be considered. Unlike a portable unit which tends to be a plug-and-play situation, a central system requires a lot of planning and engineering.
Understanding these pros and cons is crucial for businesses when deciding on the type of fume extraction unit that best suits their operations. Each situation is unique and requires a thorough evaluation of specific needs and conditions.
7 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Mobile and Stationary Units
Choosing between mobile and stationary fume extraction units is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Several factors need to be considered to select the system that best suits the specific needs of a facility:
- Layout of the Workspace: Consider the physical space where the welding occurs. A mobile unit may be the best choice if the workstations are spread out or frequently change locations. Conversely, a stationary unit may be more appropriate if welding is performed in a dedicated, fixed location.
- Size of the Workspace: Portable units take more floor space and must be placed at each workstation which can be an issue, especially for bigger powerful ones.
- Type of Welding Operations: The nature of the welding tasks plays a crucial role. If the welding operations involve heavy-duty, continuous work with high fume production, a stationary unit’s larger capacity might be necessary to provide the required performance. On the other hand, for sporadic or light-duty welding tasks, a mobile unit may suffice.
- Type of Fumes Produced: The type and amount of fumes produced can also influence the choice of extraction unit. Some processes produce more hazardous fumes than others. A more powerful extraction system may be necessary to ensure all harmful particles are effectively captured and filtered and abide by health and safety standards. Some fumes must be sent outside (for example, when welding aluminum, ozone cannot be recirculated), which makes using most portable units prohibited since they exhaust the filtered air back into the workplace.
- Frequency and Duration of Welding Tasks: Consider how often and for how long welding tasks are performed. Frequent, long-duration welding operations might benefit more from a robust stationary system, while a mobile unit might adequately service less frequent, shorter tasks. Maintenance tends to become too expensive and time-consuming when using portable units for 8 hours a day or more.
- Number of Welders: A stationary system will usually be too expensive if you have less than five welding workstations, and portable units will be the way to go in most cases. Between five and ten workstations, both solutions could be considered. For continuous welding operations, stationary will be better. For more than ten welding stations, stationary units are almost always a better investment.
- Budget Considerations: Last but not least, financial factors play a role. Mobile units are generally less expensive initially in terms of unit cost and installation. However, for heavy-duty, continuous welding operations, a stationary unit could prove to be more cost-effective in the long run, despite its higher upfront cost. They are cheaper to operate and maintain. For example, you could get an excellent portable unit with a fume extraction MIG gun for around $3,000 per workstation. On the other hand, expect to spend approximately $5,000 per workstation with a stationary unit. But each year, the stationary unit that will service dozens of welders will probably cost you a few hundred dollars to maintain, which would be the same as each of the portable units, making them a lot more costly in the long run.
By thoroughly considering these factors, businesses can make an informed decision about the type of fume extraction unit that will best balance operational efficiency, worker safety, and cost-effectiveness.
Welding fume extraction is crucial to maintaining a safe and healthy working environment in welding operations. Both mobile and stationary fume extraction units offer unique benefits, but they also come with certain limitations.
Mobile units are ideal for dynamic environments with diverse welding locations or sporadic, light-duty operations. They offer flexibility and ease of installation but may fall short when it comes to continuous, high-volume fume extraction.
On the other hand, stationary units are best suited for larger, continuous welding operations that generate a significant volume of fumes. Their superior power and extraction capacity provide efficient and effective fume control. However, these units require a more complex installation process with a higher initial cost.
Choosing between mobile and stationary units should not be a rushed decision. Businesses must consider various factors, including the nature of their welding tasks, workspace layout, type of fumes produced, frequency of operations, and budget considerations. Through careful analysis and planning, finding a fume extraction solution that best balances operational efficiency, worker safety, and cost-effectiveness is possible.
Remember, the goal is not just to meet regulatory standards (see the regulations in Canada and in the United States) but to provide a safe, clean environment that promotes the health and well-being of employees while maximizing operational efficiency. By achieving this balance, businesses can enhance productivity, reduce health-related absences, and ultimately improve their bottom line.
Feel free to contact us. We will help you protect your workers and comply with welding fumes standards anywhere in the US and Canada.