Effective dust extraction can be a big game-changer for collision shops.
Air quality within the shop environment is something that’s gained increasing importance over the last several years.
Savvy collision repair operators understand that having quality dust extraction equipment not only improves the health and safety of technicians working in the shop, but also productivity and the overall working environment.
Safety and efficiency
According to Craig Alvaro, Sales Representative, 3M Canada, it’s important for shop owners and managers to consider not only health and safety within the shop and the cleanliness of the external shop environment but also shop efficiency.
The quality dust extraction can prolong the life of abrasives as well as reduce the risk of contaminants getting into the repair and refinish process which can compromise quality and prove costly for the shop in the long run.
Speaking of cost, Alvaro notes that Festool, the line of dust-extraction equipment that 3M distributes in Canada as part of a Total Automotive Sanding System package (in conjunction with 3M’s line of premium abrasives), calculated that it can cost a shop thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity, re-work and defects as well as building maintenance (such as HVAC servicing) by not using an effective dust extraction system.
With the advent of more and more aluminum repairs for many shops (due to the proliferation of high-volume aluminum-bodied vehicles such as the 2015 and up Ford F-150), the need to avoid aluminum dust build-up, which not only impacts breathing but also can cause potential explosions if cross-contaminated with other materials.
It means that dust extraction needs to be a top priority. At CSN Penney in Vancouver, shop owner Morris King says that extraction is now a standard operating procedure (SOP) not only for safety and containing air contaminants but also from a liability standpoint.
Stu Klein, Technical Trainer at Fix Auto Canada, says that when it comes to procuring dust extraction equipment, the effectiveness of controlling and containing airborne dust, as well as compatibility with abrasives are both key considerations.
“Abrasives aren’t always compatible with the equipment,” he says, “so I would suggest looking at something that is designed to work with top quality abrasives, and that applies to both electric and pneumatic sanders.”
Craig Alvaro says that it’s important for shops to understand that dust extraction is an investment and along with the equipment, solid training and customer support are also critical. “There are a few points to consider,” he says.
“Firstly, capability and ergonomics of the machine—does it do what you are intending it to do, and are your technicians comfortable using it?
Secondly, from a safety standpoint is it a fully certified HEPA unit where the particles are filtered and contained properly, so clean air is going to be extracted from the unit while you’re sanding. Thirdly, what kind of warranty and service support comes with the unit?”
Alvaro says another factor to consider is flexibility from the technician’s standpoint, such as multiple options for abrasives including different tiers and hole patterns—all designed to maximize the equipment’s capability within the shop environment.
Not only that but how the sanding/dust extraction system fits into the entire repair process must also be considered.
“You want to make sure the tool offering is complete and will match all of your needs,” says Alvaro who says that the longevity and experience of the equipment manufacturer is also something to take into account.
“With somebody like Festool, they’ve been in business for more than 90 years and manufacturing dust extraction equipment since the early 1970s, so they have a lot of experience when it comes to creating a healthy work environment for collision repair centres.”