Optimizing dust collector systems from floor to cloud

By Samuele Oliva   

Features dust collector systems Emerson

Using a three-level approach to digital transformation,  manufacturers can simultaneously improve sustainability, streamline maintenance and empower their workforce.

Movicon.NExT software from Emerson features intuitive dashboards that let operators easily and remotely monitor dust collector systems in real time. Image courtesy of Emerson.

Dust collector systems are the lungs of a factory. These systems capture powder and solid particulates to filter the air in processing plants across many industries. However, there are multiple challenges that today’s manufacturers face that affect the performance of these systems. They must meet ambitious sustainability targets while experiencing ongoing labor shortages and skills gaps in the workforce they do have. At a time when factories need to operate as efficiently as possible, labour challenges often negatively affect equipment performance and energy consumption.

By using a Floor to Cloud approach to the digital transformation of these systems, manufacturers can gain the visibility and control to simultaneously address these challenges and significantly improve dust collector performance. In this approach, there are three layers of technology, from the factory floor up to the cloud, that can optimize dust collector systems. A combination of dust collector components, sensors, controllers and advanced software can provide greater overall facility sustainability, reduced maintenance and a more empowered workforce.

Improving sustainability
Dust collector systems can clean the air inside the factory as well as the air that is ventilated outside. In this way, an effective dust collector system already helps facilities reduce their impact on the environment while providing a cleaner and safer work environment. However, an optimized dust collector system can help facilities significantly improve their sustainability efforts in two ways: by more efficiently capturing particles to keep them from entering the atmosphere and by minimizing compressed air use by up to 40%, reducing energy use, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and waste.

As they work, dust collector systems use a lot of compressed air. Producing compressed air requires a compressor, which uses electrical energy. If the electrical energy is produced using fossil fuels, this results in more CO2 emissions. However, not all compressed air is used efficiently. Some may be lost to inefficient pulsing or leaks, resulting in waste.

At the component level, the pulse valves that a dust collector system has can affect how much compressed air the system uses. Pulse valves with a single-piece diaphragm are often more energy-efficient. They can quickly open and close, reducing compressed air consumption by 15% without sacrificing performance. In fact, the high peak pressure of these valves can increase pulsing efficiency by about 14% over conventional pulse valves.

In addition to reducing compressed air use, facilities can reduce the amount of particles that they release to the atmosphere. At the sensing level, there are smart particle sensors sensitive enough to detect the number of particles that the system emits after the filtering stage. They feature contact and non-contact technology to sense particles, which is more accurate and requires less maintenance compared to conventional particle sensors. They can also identify early-stage breakage in filter bags and leakage in the filtering system. This makes it possible for personnel to address the issue and improve filtration.

And at the control and software level, there are industrial controllers and advanced software specifically designed for dust collector systems. The controllers aggregate all system data streams, while the software translates that data into meaningful insights and displays it in intuitive, easy-to-understand dashboards. This makes it possible for operators to gain real-time visibility and control of dust collector systems to continuously improve system sustainability and performance.

Using the software, operators can monitor all aspects of the system to optimize performance and quickly detect and address anomalies. For instance, they can identify if there is a worn component causing a compressed air leak. Personnel can quickly replace the component, minimizing compressed air waste and energy use.

Facilities can also optimize pulse-jet cleaning. In many facilities, pulse valve frequency is determined by a preset, timed interval. This means that valves can pulse and release compressed air even when it isn’t necessary, wasting compressed air and reducing the operating life of valves and filter bags. In comparison, a dust collector control system can use real-time process data captured from sensors to only pulse valves when it is needed. By introducing a data-driven operation of the system, facilities can reduce the amount of compressed air used and also extend the lifetime of the equipment, improving sustainability and reducing system maintenance.

Streamlining maintenance
A dust collector system, like any other machine, requires regular maintenance, especially given the dusty environments where they work. However, many organizations take a time-based approach to dust collector maintenance, which means components are serviced or replaced at regular intervals whether they need it or not. Because it is periodic, the frequency may not be enough and can lead to system inefficiencies. It is also time-consuming, because components must be checked one by one. A Floor to Cloud approach can help facilities optimize their maintenance procedures and move to a predictive maintenance model, which can minimize waste and unplanned downtime.

A combination of sensors, control technology and advanced software make it possible to detect and address issues in real time. For example, this intelligent approach makes it possible to quickly identify a valve with a broken diaphragm or a broken coil from all systems of valves through a quick glance at a dashboard or an alarm. The software is intuitive and easy to use, making it clear to see what is happening in the system and when the system will require future maintenance so it can be scheduled, reducing unplanned downtime.

What’s more, many of the components and devices used in a Floor to Cloud approach to dust collection have designs that simply require less maintenance. For instance, the single-piece diaphragm on the latest pulse valves has a significantly longer lifetime than multi-part mechanisms on standard pulse valves. They require less maintenance and fewer spare parts compared to standard pulse valves.

Empowering manufacturing personnel
The labor shortage and skills gap continue to impact many industries, including pharmaceutical, chemical, woodworking and food and beverage. As a result, manufacturers are digitally transforming their machines and processes to empower their teams with real-time data and insights to guide them through their responsibilities. This includes the personnel who maintain and operate dust collector systems.

With so many staff who are new to the company or industry or those who take on additional responsibilities to compensate for less labor power, machine and process efficiency can suffer and cause compressed air waste and excess maintenance time and costs. And if dust collector systems are used to collect dust as product, product losses can occur.

Through intuitive dashboards and alarm notifications, the Floor to Cloud approach to dust collector systems gives personnel the guidance and insights they need to complete their responsibilities accurately and efficiently, regardless of skill level.

Many of the aspects that make maintenance easier can ease pressures of the labor shortage and skills gap. Valves and tanks that have a longer lifetime can extend maintenance intervals, and sensors that require less maintenance can reduce service frequency. However, controllers and advanced software maximize these assets and provide significant benefit on their own.

Advanced dust collector software can direct personnel as to what needs maintenance when in an easy and straightforward way. By using this kind of technology, it is very easy to understand what is going on in the system, where there may be potential or future issues, and how to proactively solve them before they become problems. This level of guidance and insight can adequately substitute operator skill and experience and keep operations running. In one glance, operators can quickly and easily see such factors as particle concentration, differential pressure and valve function. Operators can also preset thresholds and receive alarms if they exceeded their values.

Achieving multiple outcomes through one comprehensive approach
Even as manufacturers face simultaneous, competing challenges, they can ease their pressures and achieve the outcomes that benefit them most using a Floor to Cloud approach to dust collection. A combination of high-efficiency pulse valves, smart sensors, industrial controllers and advanced software can give operators the visibility and control of dust collector systems to improve sustainability, optimize maintenance procedures and empower staff — all at the same time.

Samuele Oliva is a product marketing manager for dust filtration systems for Emerson.

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