Maintaining filter health for energy efficiency

The cost of energy consumption is one of the key considerations for manufacturing productivity – and today there are lots of data-driven tools available to spot wasteful practices.

Increasingly these are automated systems that highlight areas of inefficiency – and among these tools is a BOFA platform that helps businesses monitor and maintain their fume and dust filtration technology…and bear down on energy costs.

BOFA extraction systems are critical in helping remove the airborne contaminants emitted by various industrial processes, such as lasering, printing, additive manufacturing and electronics production. These emissions, if not adequately filtered, can potentially impact human health and are subject to workplace exposure levels.

However, there’s also a sound business case for making sure local exhaust ventilation systems, such as those produced by BOFA, are maintained in tip-top working order.

It is self-evident that the fume and dust that filtration systems capture will build up within individual filters over time – whether that’s the pre-filter, which is designed to capture larger particles, the HEPA filter for particles down to 0.3 microns in size, and the activated carbon layer gathering gases and volatile organic compounds.

As the two main filters begin to fill, BOFA technology can automatically adjust the airflow to maintain filtration performance. In effect, the system begins working harder but it is only when filters reach a critical point of blockage that problems arise.

Firstly, a blocked filter will eventually stop performing effectively in capturing emissions, which can present a risk to operatives. Secondly, airborne contaminants can settle on production equipment, with the potential to damage product quality and even lead to failure and downtime. Thirdly, a system that has to work harder as a result of a blocked filter will inevitably consume more energy and, in turn, impact carbon output and sustainability goals.

Of course, the big question for manufacturers is when is the optimal time to exchange a filter to balance emissions extraction with the efficient use of energy?

Arran Morgan, Senior Product Manager at BOFA, explains: “Manufacturers should be aware that any filter blockage has an adverse impact on energy consumption and they might think that they’re doing the right thing commercially by keeping the filter running as long as they can.

“However, depending on the process, it may be advantageous to consider changing a filter when it is nearing capacity if this aligns with a production line maintenance schedule, rather than having to interrupt production later to exchange a fully blocked filter. This will ultimately cost less in the long run both in terms of productivity and energy consumption. Much better to resolve all the issues one go!”

Fortunately, help is at hand to help manufacturers select the sweet spot for filter exchange, thanks to BOFA’s Intelligent Operating System (iQ).

This provides a visual read-out of operating system information covering temperature, motor status, airflow rates (actual vs target set point) and filter condition. This makes monitoring filter saturation levels simple and helps users schedule filter exchanges in step with maintenance plans. iQ also stores downloadable historical performance data that tracks filter lifecycles and shows the effect of any changes to production and maintenance regimes. This can help users anticipate likely filter lifecycles.

It’s also worth remembering when it comes to energy efficiency that portable extraction technology, such as BOFA’s, tends to use less energy than a fixed vent-to-air system, which pushes large amounts of air into the environment. This air is then replaced by cold air in winter that needs to be warmed up to maintain a comfortable working temperature, or warm air in the summer, which needs to be cooled down. So, additional costs are incurred in warming and cooling air that has been displaced.

BOFA’s technology returns filtered air back into the workplace so it doesn’t need to condition the displaced air and, as such, can cope more easily with seasonal variations in ambient temperatures as well as being more agile for changing production runs.