Ways of Extracting Weld Fumes

Posted by on Jun 23, 2017 in Clean Air Solutions | 0 comments

Some of the most dangerous airborne contaminants in manufacturing facilities are produced by weld fumes, and weld fumes still become much more dangerous when metallic particulates mix with these. Due to the less than the micrometer sizes of these metallic particulates, these can easily be inhaled and absorbed into the body, and move through the lungs and into the bloodstream faster.

Effects of exposure to weld fumes include, and usually start with, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. More serious than these, however, is “metal fume fever,” which is caused by prolonged exposure to weld fumes. Besides this “metal fume fever,” which involves flu-like symptoms, exposure to weld fumes can also cause stomach ulcers and damage to the kidney and the nervous system. Exposure to weld fumes that contain toxic metals, such as hexavalent chromium or manganese, is most dangerous, though as this can result to more serious diseases. Manganese, in particular, can cause manganism, a neurological condition that is similar to Parkinson’s disease; hexavalent chromium, which is a known carcinogen, on the other hand, can cause cancer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency assigned to regulate exposure to inhalable metallic particulates, especially in welding facilities. To control the presence of these harmful particulates to tolerable level, OSHA has set what is called the “permissible exposure limits” (PELs) in order to protect workers’ health. Manufacturers who fail to comply with the PELs regulation face the risk of fines, lawsuits and reputational harm.

In the website of RoboVent, it is explained that welding fume extraction may be effectively and efficiently accomplished in a number of ways. The only question manufacturers need to answer is which method is right for them, considering their facility’s available space, layout and the amount of dust and contaminants generated.

Ways of extracting weld fumes include:

  • Portable Weld Fume Smoke Extraction. These are self-contained systems that enable workers to capture weld fumes from any location. When production lines or welding cells must remain flexible, these systems safeguard workers, no matter the situation.
  • Use of source capture weld fume extraction equipment. There are different types of these, including: (i) the Backdraft Hoods, which sucks smoke away from the source at a table or workstation. This is actually the best solution to handle weld fumes; (ii) the Hi-Vac Fume Guns, which capture fumes at the tip of the weld gun. Lighter version of these Hi-Vac fume guns can capture as much as 90% of weld fumes; (iii) Hi-Vac Hoods which, like the fume guns are positioned close to the weld point—sometimes via magnet—but are not physically attached to the weld gun. The larger surface area of hi-vac hoods can reduce the required suction to capture weld fume while providing shielding for the operator against spark and UV exposure; (iv) the Fume Arms, which are more common in manual welding environment because they are relatively inexpensive; and, (v) the Overhead Hoods, which are positioned over a welding station and are a great choice for robotic welding. These may also be used in manual welding, but should not be used for high-volume manual operations.
  • Laser Welding Fume Extraction, wherein a series of intense, highly-focused light beam pulses quickly heat and melt weld material instead of typical filler. Given the tightly focused nature of the laser beam, heat transfer is minimized to the weld location meaning parts can be handled almost immediately.


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