Here at VODEX we provide extraction and safety solutions to a wide array of industries.

In the first of a recurring series, here we look at the fume dangers in the automotive industry, and talk to one of our automotive clients about the processes they undertake, the safety measures they need in place, and how we helped them make life safer for their people.

The chemical dangers in the automotive industry

There are a wide range of exposure risks in automotive manufacturing. For instance, when an automotive client comes to us, the process they need safety measures for could be:

  • Adhesives (a lot of cars are glued now)
  • Electronic soldering in the electronics department if they’re looking at engine management system repair or oil repair.
  • Welding and cutting – plastic as well as metal
  • Grinding
  • Paint fumes from paint repair
  • Creating custom parts – for instance, one of our clients does titanium 3D printing and needed a titanium dust extractor from us
  • And of course, it could be to extract dust or fumes in their workplace.

To illustrate the fume dangers in the automotive industry, we sat down with members of the team at a client of ours, Dymag Performance Wheels.

Dymag Case Study

Dymag logo

“Dymag was originally founded back in 1974 as a manufacturer of wheels and actually pioneered the very first carbon fibre wheels in the mid-nineties,” says Michael Keene, Dymag Quality, Health & Safety, Environment and Facilities (QHSEF) Manager. “Three years ago we moved to a new location in Chippenham, where we’re still making aluminium and motorcycle wheels, and carbon composite wheels for cars.”

“We do a lot of magnesium, carbon and aluminium fettling and polishing,” says Brian Hills, the company’s head fettler-polisher. “Some of it can be quite heavy and very dirty, with a lot of bad debris flying about everywhere. Magnesium in particular can be quite dangerous and a significant fire hazard.”

The problem

“We had a couple of instances of sparking in our old location, where we had a backdraft table that had aged and wasn’t up to scratch any more,” says Brian. “When I was working on magnesium, I was aware of the risks of sparks, and asked Michael to look into getting an upgrade.”

“Sparks in that situation can happen when tool bits catch a bit of metal – for instance, in our case, that might happen using a rough grit bit with a small grinding tool – and with all the magnesium in the air, as soon as there is any kind of spark, you’d be likely to get a loud ‘BANG!’” explained Brian. “When you also consider that there were people constantly walking into the room, opening the door sent big wafts of air through the space, which upset the extraction flow and caused the problem to happen more and more”.

“What we needed was a system where the magnesium would be pulled down into the bench, letting me work without fear of anything bad happening”.

“It wasn’t just the fear of sparks though,” continues Brian. “Magnesium is pretty horrible stuff. If it got in my mouth, it could have caused problems like swelling. I didn’t want to risk that, so I advised Michael that it really was time for a new machine and a new solution. Thankfully, the management agreed!”

The VODEX solution

“We already had some VODEX downdraft benches in other departments, so it made sense, when we got to the quotation stage, to see what VODEX could do for us,” explains Michael.

“We could have just taken a VODEX bench with a different or external, extractor from elsewhere I suppose,” he says. “But it was easier to contact VODEX and get a full all-in-one solution.”

The result was a Kemper welding bench with downdraft extraction and wet collector, fully fitted and installed by a team of expert engineers.

“VODEX were quite easy to work with really,” says Michael. “The whole process progressed smoothly. Once they understood what we wanted, they did all the ordering and the installation, got all the people in the right place at the right time and it was really all quite painless from my perspective. There were some things we had to do, like provide power and a water supply and so on, but that was the easy part of the job. On the whole, it was really all quite straightforward.”

The result

“The bench extractor effectively takes all of the dust out of the air and away from Brian,” explains Michael. “It then passes it through a curtain of water to wash out the impurities, before the ‘washed’ air is fed back into the factory unit. It’s ideal for reducing air-borne particulates in our automotive manufacturing environment.

“It basically takes most of the light stuff and sucks it out,” says Brian. “For the heavier particulate, there’s a tray below where it gravitates down and collects. Then periodically I’ll empty it out and clean it.

“It works perfectly,” says Brian. “You can actually see all the dust it collects so you know it’s working. It’s brought me a lot of peace of mind knowing for sure there won’t be any sparks and any loud bangs!”

“The fear of sparks was a worry from a fire perspective,” says Michael. “But the particulate dangers in an automotive manufacturing environment are quite wide and varied, so it’s just as much about the small contaminates in the air,” he explains. “The previous system was old and inefficient; it was built for a different era and no longer did the job to meet current DSEAR requirements. A bespoke system was exactly what we needed and VODEX delivered.”

“It’s been around a year since we had it installed,” says Brian. “It’s doing well! We haven’t had any problems. It’s quieter than I thought it was going to be too and it’s at the right work height, which is a bonus. I didn’t think it was going to have, but it has adjustable feet which are sturdy enough to be useful. Sometimes with these kinds of machines things go wrong and they prove unreliable, but we haven’t had that here. It is in use around eight hours a day, every day and I’m really pleased with it!”

“[VODEX Co-Founder] Paul has been great too,” says Michael. “We had a couple of queries about power use requirements and anti-bacteria solution mix ratios and so on they were all answered swiftly. I’m assuming the aftercare is good, as we haven’t had to call on it yet, which is a good thing. But I’m sure it’ll be there if and when we need it!”

Do you need a safety solution for your automotive processes?

Here at VODEX, we offer a range of fume and dust extraction solutions built especially for the automotive industry.

Take a look at our automotive safety products or get in touch to discuss your workspace’s bespoke needs.

For more on workplace safety, check out the hand-picked blogs below.


Further reading

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