A family-owned and -operated company founded in Pella, Iowa, in 1948, Vermeer provides agricultural and industrial equipment to customers in more than 60 nations, in industries that include biomass, landscaping, pipeline, surface mining, tree care and utility installation.
For Vermeer, building a quality product for customers starts with a foundation of well-trained, skilled employees. In keeping with that belief, Vermeer provides training to all new welding operators, and has welding engineers and technicians who conduct quality audits throughout the company.
Vermeer also has made continuous improvement a priority, implementing lean manufacturing practices to help make the company and its products the best they can be. Through that effort, Vermeer has worked to eliminate waste in its manufacturing and operational practices, and established a focus on workplace organization through lean manufacturing principles that promote efficient and effective order in production.
All of those efforts have helped Vermeer dramatically reduce the lead time for many products.
A natural extension of this continuous improvement process — and also a natural extension of how Vermeer strives to provide the best working environment for its people — was an assessment of fume extraction in the company’s welding cells. In an effort to positively impact an already favorable environment for welding operators, the company recently installed multiple FILTAIR® Capture 5 fume extraction systems from Miller in selected welding cells. Vermeer was interested in exploring any advantages the system could bring to the business, by placing a sampling of units in select facilities.
The larger fume capture zone created with this new technology means welding operators don’t have to stop welding as often to adjust or maneuver the extraction arm, which leads to greater arc-on time and improved productivity. Vermeer welding operators in the selected areas that use the systems say they also notice the fumes being captured faster in their work area.
“Fume extraction is very important. We use a very clean welding process, but we still want to improve,” says Dave Landon, manager of welding engineering at Vermeer. “We felt like the Capture 5 gave us our best option.”
Extended source capture zone
In the selected areas featuring the FILTAIR Capture 5 systems, Vermeer typically uses Pulsed MIG with solid wire as its chosen welding process. In considering new opportunities in fume extraction, the company decided on source capture rather than ambient air filtration.
Source capture allows weld fume to be removed at the source, before it reaches a welding operator’s breathing zone, so it’s considered among the most effective and practical solutions for fume extraction. However, many types of source capture require significant and continual welding operator interaction to position and reposition the arm over the weld area, which means frequent pauses in the welding process. This interaction can lead to downtime and, potentially, weld defects.
At Vermeer, welding operators use a lot of intermittent fillet welds on parts of significant size, requiring the operator to move around the fixture frequently. Moving a fume extraction arm after every movement would be time-consuming.
ZoneFlow™, the Miller-exclusive Capture 5 technology, significantly reduces that issue for Vermeer welding operators by creating a much larger fume extraction area — up to 3 feet wide and 5 feet deep — three times larger than the fume capture area created by conventional technologies.
“On many of our welding fixtures, the source capture can be set up in a single place and the operator can weld the entire weld without having to move the source,” Landon says of Capture 5. “It pulls the fumes away from the welder, no matter where he is on those fixtures.”
The technology works by way of a negative pressure zone. Air is suctioned into the arm at a standard fume capture rate of around 900 cfm, while simultaneously, clean filtered air moves out of the arm (at a point just above the hood portion of the extraction arm) at approximately a 90 degree angle. Additionally, some of the air that blows out of the extraction arm “short circuits” and circles back around, effectively allowing a portion of the filtered air to capture more fume before being suctioned up again.
Combined, these actions create a defined area of source capture, which funnels the weld fume particulates toward the center of the arm to maximize the extraction process. The system can accommodate fume from Stick, MIG, TIG and Flux-Cored welding.
Pleased with results
Vermeer first placed two of the new source capture units in its Drum Cell where welding operators work on components for a brush chipper. The system effectively impacted fume reduction in those weld cells.
“We were so pleased with the performance that we purchased several other units to put into what we call our Model Line, our highest volume production line for brush chippers,” Landon says.
Vermeer uses Miller Axcess® semi-automatic inverter welding power source machines with solid wire and a shielding gas of 90 percent argon/10 percent carbon dioxide, generally on mild and low carbon steels. On the company’s Model Line, material thickness varies from 16 gauge up to 2 inches.
With eight Capture 5 units installed on the Model Line, the technology has become an important part of continually improving the environment for welding operators at Vermeer.
The larger capture zone with the new technology makes a difference around the welding cells at Vermeer.
“Rather than getting a fog or mist when you have a lot of people welding — it’s completely clear in there,” says Cody Leedom, a weld group leader at Vermeer.
That effect on the welding environment contributes to the philosophy of safety and worker comfort that Vermeer values. It also helps keep good welding operators on the job and makes them feel good about their working environment.
The reduced welding operator interaction with the fume extraction arm means Vermeer operators can spend more time welding, which helps boost productivity and efficiency.
“When they stop welding, it’s what we call waste in our lean processes,” Landon says. “And so we’re always trying to eliminate waste. We’re always trying to keep the welder welding. By eliminating that waste, our productivity increases.”
The fume extraction arm is easy to operate and move, with full range of motion, and it stays in position. Arm adjustments are tool-less and welding operators can make them by hand.
Vermeer welding operators also save time with the new technology because their helmet lenses stay clearer, so they don’t have to change them out as often.
The welding operators like that the fume extraction arm does not disrupt the shielding gas that protects the weld.
A breakthrough technology
When Landon finds something that works well, he doesn’t hesitate to share that information with his colleagues in the welding field. The Capture 5 system is one of those technologies, providing a better work environment for Vermeer welding operators and reducing the amount of time they spend repositioning the fume extraction arm.
“I believe Miller has, in my opinion, hit a home run with the Capture 5, because it is very much a breakthrough technology in the area of fume extraction,” Landon says.