Dust Collectors Breathe New Life Into Volvo’s Robotic Welding Cells
Dublin, VA, is well known for being named after Ireland’s most famous city. But it is best known as home to the largest Volvo Trucks manufacturing facility in the world.
Located on nearly 300 acres, this facility houses a welding and painting plant, and an assembly plant under one roof. Its nearly 2,000 workers assemble thousands of Class 8 trucks annually.
Energy efficiency has been a priority at the plant for several years. In December 2009, the company joined the Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now LEADER initiative. This federal program calls on manufacturers to reduce their facilities’ energy intensity by 25 percent over a 10-year time frame.
Volvo’s drive to lower its energy usage required the company to closely examine certain manufacturing processes. One was the robotic MIG welding operation, which includes many welding cells.
Although the welding operation consistently produced high-quality welds, it also generated a significant amount of oily smoke and fumes. For many years, Volvo had relied on traditional hoods and oversized fans to collect, filter and exhaust air through ductwork to the outside.
Unfortunately, this setup didn’t meet the latest EPA air quality standards or Volvo’s energy-usage goals. So, Volvo Trucks project engineer David Jenks looked for a system that would help the company meet both challenges.
“Our system was drawing a lot of make-up air from outside,” explains Jenks. “Plus, the amount of energy it took to collect and move the dirty air and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature was undermining [our] efforts to become more energy efficient.”
Through his research, Jenks learned about the Fusion 3 fume and dust collector made by RoboVent Products Group Inc. A fully automated unit, the collector returns clean air back to the plant instead of exhausting it outdoors.
Contaminants are collected in high-efficiency filters that are specifically matched to the welding operation of each cell. Each filter is pretreated to resist the gummy smoke and fumes produced by oil and anti-splatter spray used in most welding operations.
These capabilities convinced Jenks that the Fusion 3 was the best fit for the welding cells. He was further impressed when RoboVent created a custom canopy for each welding cell onsite to enhance contaminant collection and protect overhead water and power lines.
“I was a little surprised they did it that way, but it ensures that the hoods fit correctly,” says Jenks. “The canopy encases the entire cell.”
He also likes the Fusion 3’s Spark-Out technology, ePad touch screen panel and limited maintenance. SparkOut is an advanced spark-arrest system that ensures worker safety. The ePad automatically manages all functions of the filtration and ventilation system. Maintenance is primarily changing filters, which requires no tools and can be performed from outside the filter cabinet.