After completing a facility expansion that more than doubled its space to greater than 135,000 square feet, Hypertherm Inc., of Hanover, New Hampshire, implemented a new team concept with traditional functional teams being replaced by process-based teams in the newly designed "open-concept" office areas. In addition, the company put the office, manufacturing and cafeteria areas in close proximity to contribute to the team interaction that is an important part of the company's culture. With all these changes, this fast-growing, leading manufacturer of plasma cutting systems was concerned with finding a way to keep its new building clean and safe.
One of the decisions made was that all machine tools purchased would either come equipped with Royal Filtermist mist and smoke collectors or that these units would be installed shortly after the machines arrived. These mist and smoke collectors are supplied by Royal Products of Hauppage, New York. About 75 manual and CNC lathes, mills and grinders in the shop are equipped with Royal Filtermist units to collect oil mist and, in some cases, also to capture dry smoke. Instead of costly replaceable filters or electrostatics, the Royal Filtermist utilizes the mechanical principle of centrifugal impaction to collect oil mist.
The benefits are a continuous high efficiency, reduced maintenance requirements and lower operating costs. It works by a three-phase motor rotating the internal drum at high speed, creating a suction which draws mist particles into the center of the drum; the mist particles then collide with the rotating drum's vanes and are forced together with other particles, causing them to coalesce and form larger, droplet-sized particles. As the particles grow into larger droplets, they pass through perforations in the rotating drum, and centrifugal force causes them to be thrown onto the inner wall of the outer case; the particles are then forced, under pressure, up the walls of the case to the oil return channel, where they are drained back to the machine's coolant tank; clean, oil-free air blows past the motor and is returned to the shop.
These mist collectors work efficiently and are easier to maintain than competitive products tried, said Al Soucy, Hypertherm machine maintenance technician and a member of the team that selected the Filtermist units. Mr. Soucy had prior experience with Royal Filtermist as well as with horizontal impaction type and multi-stage filter systems. He found the other types to be both expensive and time-consuming to maintain.
"We were able to justify these purchases mainly because of the need for improved air quality and on the basis of easier maintenance," Mr. Soucy said of the company's required cost justification for the acquisition of the Filtermist units. "The Filtermist units need minimal maintenance and are less expensive to operate than other systems."
Having progressed a great distance from the days when the company relied on the enclosed cabinets of the machines to contain oil mist, Hypertherm now achieves the many benefits of efficient mist collection at the source—its machine tools. These benefits include reduced health risks, reduced accident risks, reduced fire hazards, cost savings, better lighting, compliance with OSHA standards, and a greatly improved overall work environment for all Hypertherm associates.
The machines in the Hypertherm plant are used to produce electrodes and other torch components for the company's plasma cutting systems. Hypertherm's manual and mechanized systems are designed for cutting steel, aluminum, stainless steel and other metals from gauge to more than 6 inches thick. MMS