Clearing the Air in Arkansas: Owner Turns to Miller to Improve Air Quality with FILTAIR® Fume Extraction
The owner/operator of Chandler Equipment knows what it’s like to work as a welder. It’s his experience under the hood that led him to install a FILTAIR centralized fume extraction system in his shop.
The process for change at Chandler® Equipment always begins with a well-thought-out plan that includes thorough investigation. No piece of equipment or building change occurs without good reason and a bulletproof strategy. Adding fume extraction to the building was no different. After two years of evaluations, sales pitches and careful thought, Jeff Chandler and his crew chose the FILTAIR system from Miller to protect employees and his investment.
Supplying oil and gas
Chandler Equipment started out as a farm equipment business 30 years ago. The company then expanded into industrial-type waste-hauling tanks. Today the company manufactures hatches and ports for tank vessels in its Springdale, Ark., plant. The company supplies large oil and gas companies with the parts they need for their waste tanks used in the oil fields during America’s current oil and gas boom. Chandler fabricates the accessories for the tanks. Tank hatches, valving and the fittings for the tanks are the company’s sweet spot.
Chandler takes raw metal and fabricates the needed part. The majority of the work is done in his eight welding automation cells, while ten manual cells remain for smaller custom jobs or ones that take the expertise of a seasoned operator when the repetitive nature of automated welding won’t work.
“We started out with Miller® welders in the beginning, and throughout the years we’ve evolved with all the different types of power sources,” says owner/operator Jeff Chandler. “From the welding machines with an operator, all the way on up to what’s available now — with the automated welding cells and the computerized processes in welding.”
The material used ranges in size from 14-gauge up to ½-inch, with anything from short-circuit to spray-transfer welding. On both the manual and automated side of the Chandler welding business, the vast majority of work — 80 to 90 percent — is working with mild steel. However, as aluminum and stainless steel became a growing presence in the shop, the need to rid the building of fume and smoke became even more critical.
All eight automated welding cells are shielded by the FILTAIR system protecting all of the employees in the shop from weld fume.
The hood and curtain design esnures the fume created inside the automated welding cell enters into the FILTAIR system where the patented filter system cleans the weld fume.
The FILTAIR Centralized system queitly does its job of mitigating welding fume at Chandler Equipment.
Cleaning the air
Jeff Chandler got his start in the family business as a welder years ago. Today he runs the company, but remaining sharp in his mind is that past daily grind of welding fume and dust particles he experienced on the job. He wanted to give his employees the highest quality of filtration available. It started out as a combination of exhaust and ventilation fans. It did not take long to realize fans would not accomplish the high standards he had set for his shop in the manual welding area, along with his eight automated welding cells.
“We’d been using ventilation fans and exhaust fans over a period of time,” says Chandler. “It just didn’t work. There was always a cloud around during the workday. And in the winter the cold air we brought in through the ventilation meant we were spending a fortune trying to heat the place. We needed to do better to clean the air.”
Chandler’s first priority was the ten manual welding cells where the weld fume came in direct contact with his employees. He contacted Steve Jones from Airgas Mid South in Springdale for answers. Jones offered up the FILTAIR SWX wall mounted dual-arm system from Miller.
“Jeff started out with the purchase of the two dual-arm wall mount systems for the operators in those stations and was very happy, very satisfied,” says Jones, account manager with Airgas Mid South. “The two systems were working out so well for them, the shop started cleaning up immediately. Jeff gave us a purchase order for three additional units.”
While the success in the manual welding cell was phenomenal, there remained a haze in the larger automated portion of the facility. The eight automated cells were dutifully carrying out the welding programed into the electronic memory banks. The resulting weld fume was not acceptable to Chandler.
“Once Jeff made the decision that they needed to continue to move forward pulling the welding fumes out of their shop, they sat down and started researching the automated side of their business,” says Jones.
Finding the right filtration system
The search began for a fume capture system took nearly 24-months. A number of filtration offerings were immediately dismissed because they were inadequate to deal with large-scale weld fume due to the type of filtration or design. Five systems seemed to offer what Chandler needed to clear the air.
“We probably looked for a couple of years on which system to go wiht. We had several systems bid out throughout that length of time,” says Chandler. “We were looking for something that would eliminate the particles in the air, taking them off the source of the welding. We didn’t eliminate all airborne particles after something was welded.”
There were some cross-air systems that exchanged outside air with the inside air. There were bulky systems that did not seem to be the right fit for the building. There were systems dismissed when the sales representatives told Chandler their offering would require him to reconfigure his building and welding cell design. It came down to three systems.
“No decision is made here overnight,” says Jones. “If the production needs something, a drum of wire or something, then we have to get her going, but as for equipment or expansion, they research it until they are very satisfied they’ll get the product, the support and the customer service they need.”
Shop foreman Donnie Moore was part of the decision team. He was hearing directly from the operators on the manual side and he knew how big of an impact the FILTAIR SWX fume extractors from Miller had had on employee working conditions and morale.
“I wanted to get the high standard and the highest quality I can get for air quality in here, so that was a big decision that we stewed over. We looked at several systems. Some of them just dealt with mild steel. We needed something to take all the particulates out of the steel, aluminum and stainless,” says Moore. “We were looking for something that would clear the fume out of the shop and something that we could put inside with little noise and cleaner air all around.”
The company first turned to Miller and the FILTAIR SWX Dual Wallmount system to clean the air in the manual weld cells. The next step was looking at the automated cells that dominate the operations.
The FILTAIR centralized system
One of the three finalists was the FILTAIR centralized system from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. The system, designed by welders, was created specifically to capture weld fume. The group was familiar with the FILTAIR SWX series fume extractors from Miller and how well they worked. The centralized system moved to the top of the list because the group was familiar with Miller and the high standards for quality and toughness in products.
“When we came across Miller and the FILTAIR system, we found that everything was pretty much confined to the robot, and the particles could be taken off right exactly when it was welded,” says Chandler. “When I found out the footprint of the machines was 65 percent smaller than the average centralized collector, we took an even closer look.”
What Chandler and his team found was not only a compact package, but also one with the power needed in an industrial setting. The compact size allowed for indoor setup and the clamp ducting system meant no expensive tear outs if the company decided to expand and add more automation or cells.
“Miller came up with a way of figuring it all out for us. They were turnkey, so we didn’t have to worry about our configuration; they matched what we had,” says Chandler. “Miller planned everything for us, and we didn’t have to worry about anything except for getting electric installed. Everything just fit right — really simple.”
Change in the air
The effect on the atmosphere at Chandler was immediate. Within a few hours of flipping the switch on the newly installed FILTAIR centralized system, the building cleared and the air quality drastically improved. Gone was the smoky haze hanging above the manufacturing floor.
“I was amazed. The clean air, it was just like it cleared up in a second,” says Moore.
It inspired Chandler to spend a day cleaning the entire facility from the factory floor to the rafters above. A cleansing that remains today, thanks to the FILTAIR systems quietly hard at work.
“We cleaned the whole building, all the beams throughout, so everything would stay clean from now on — so we wouldn’t have any weld fume problems or particles in the building,” says Chandler. “I’d want this facility to be how I would want it if I was welding. The wellbeing of my employees is very important.”
The system’s footprint is 65 percent smaller than other centralized systems. The FILTAIR is also one of the quietest fume capturing systems on the market. The noise level is so low that Chandler employees can carry on normal conversations while right next to the hard-working machines.
“You can just barely hear it. You can talk being up next to it. That’s very important, especially when you’re giving instructions on things that need to be done,” says Moore.
The maintenance of the system has been a breeze, according to shop foreman Moore. At a Minimal Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) rating of 15, the FILTAIR is efficient at removing 99 percent of weld fume. But thanks to the Linear Jet Automatic Cleaning System, the particle surface loading FilTek™ filters remain efficient at capturing weld fume longer than other filters. When it does become time for maintenance, the filters’ surface-loading capture of fume particles allows for easy cleaning.
“With the centralized system, the benefits are a lot less maintenance, a lot less cleaning for our part. It does it all itself,” says Moore. “It’s user-friendly.”
The FILTAIR Centralized system requires a small footprint and operates quietly, ensuring fume extration without distracting the employees.
Company owner Jeff Chandler was impressed with the FILTAIR team's ability to fit the system into his shops layout. Other competitor systems required Chandler to adapt to their equipment.
The user-friendly controls and ease of maintenance was a key factor when Chandler Equipment decided on the FILTAIR Centralized System.
Employees are protected from the fumes inside the robotic welding cells by the FILTAIR centralized system.
Adjustable in a click
Unlike some of the more rigid systems, which require traditional ductwork that would need to be torn out if expansion were necessary, the FILTAIR system was installed with a unique snap-tight interlocking ductwork system. When assembled, the design ensures a sealed system that can also be easily changed as the business grows. New cells can added without tearing out the system.
“In fact, the duct work is a whole lot smaller than a lot of the other people bid out. We were bidding out some huge duct work and I didn’t know how we were even going to put it in this building,” says company owner Jeff Chandler. “The adjustable part is absolutely important. For future use we’ll be able to expand in areas and add on when we need to. Everything is flexible where we can hook right on to it or ‘T into’ the group that’s existing today. No other system could offer that feature.”
Reduced energy consumption
One surprise with the installation of the FILTAIR system was the consistent temperature of the building. Before, when pulling cool or hot air from the outside, the thermostat would spike one way or the other. Today the centralized system provides a consistent environment that has kept the thermostat and the resulting heating or cooling bill in check.
“We always had a problem with the flow of air because different days the air outside was different,” says Moore. “Now we’re not even turning the heat on in here, and the system itself is keeping it warmer and we’ve lowered our heating bill. With it taking the fume out of the air, we do not have to clean as much as we used to.”
“After using the FILTAIR systems, now everything is just so pure, it’s unbelievable, air-quality-wise,” says Chandler. “The employees are all a lot happier.”
Partnership clears the air
It makes Chandler smile knowing his desire to clear the air has had such an immediate and beneficial impact on morale. He’s been a longtime supporter of Miller equipment and his friends at Airgas — and it’s more than just the great products.
“Miller has done the research and instills the quality that needs to be in a product before they give it to a customer,” says Chandler. “Whether it’s a welding machine or FILTAIR system, they make the best and they want the customer to be satisfied. That means my repeat business. We work hard with our customers to create repeat business and customer service. That’s why Miller is such a good partner — we’re more than an order number.”
Jeff Chandler now has peace of mind that his employees are receiving the best fume extraction available — and that his partners will be there the next time he decides to make a well-thought-out and vetted improvement.
The adjustable ductwork on the FILTAIR system allows for future expansion at Chandler Equipment.
A unique snap tight system allows for later insertion of new T or Y connections to bring new welding cells into the FILTAIR unit.
In this video Jeff Chandler talks about why it was important to think about future expansion when considering weld fume extraction.
The adjustable ductwork system carries weld fume from the work area to the FILTAIR Centralized system.