Extracting aluminum and refining it into a substance that another manufacturer can use as an aluminum part requires many steps. The raw material, bauxite, is fed into a separator tank also known as a digester. Inside the digester tank are a series of wires that resemble a spider web. These wires carry an electrical current that separates the aluminum ore from the rest of the material. This process is known as electrolysis. The residual matter ends up layered on the walls of the tank. Periodically, this clay-like substance needs to be removed from the walls of the digester; pneumatically powered chipping guns do the job. Removing this residue is hot, dirty and strenuous work.
If you’ve ever endured road construction (and who hasn’t) while making the daily work commute or during the family vacation trip, you may have noticed the construction workers creating quite a bit of dust while using tools that sound like machine guns. Congratulations—you’ve just encountered a pneumatic jackhammer.
The process of making sugar from sugar cane has been around since before the birth of Jesus Christ. In many countries, sugar is still made the same way: The stalks are cut, the juice is extracted by ox-drawn crushers and then boiled to remove impurities, and finally it is evaporated to produce sugar crystals. Sugar was once a luxury item for the rich or presented only at special occasions. In the 1700s, sugar had another moniker: “white gold.” In today’s sugar processing plant, moving from sugar cane juice to the white crystals we see in the bowl on our kitchen table is done on a much grander scale. The equipment used in extraction, evaporation, boiling, centrifugal and, finally, packaging make this an amazingly quick journey. However, dangers are inherent to this automation, one in a most inconspicuous form: dust.
A customer’s truck pulled up to the hose shop and the shop leader went over to it to see what he needed. After a short conversation with the chemical plant driver, the shop leader motioned for another employee to come over. The shop leader explained that the customer’s hose had only been in service for a week and had gotten run over by a tanker truck. The hose was damaged, and it needed to be replaced, although the fittings were basically new, and the company had paid good money for them. He then told the employee to cut the fittings out of the hose, get the same style hose from stock, and put the customer’s existing fittings in the new hose. The shop leader instructed the employee to do it quickly, since the driver was going to wait.
Manufacturing is a fast-paced environment where every company faces the challenge to ramp up production as demand increases. The challenge becomes critically important in the food and beverage industry where complying with Food and Drug Administration standards while increasing production is a necessity. There are many ways to help production meet demand; adding people, extra shifts and equipment to name a few.
A sewer cleaning truck is a sophisticated piece of equipment. It has a pump capable of blasting a stream of water up to 2,000 PSI. Specialized nozzles, attached to a hose, use the pressurized water to clean and unclog pipes. The pump also pulsates the water stream, giving the nozzle a “jackhammer” effect to remove really tough clogs. When the task is complete, the nozzle is retrieved from the sewer pipe by winding the hose back up on a hose reel.
At a waste-to-energy facility, part of the operating procedure is to periodically dislodge the buildup of ash that collects on the internal walls of the scrubbers (air cleaners) so that it can be removed for proper disposal. This is done to maintain efficiency of the scrubbers and to prevent the ash from being released into the atmosphere.
“Depress brake before shifting out of park.” “Don’t lift the chute while mower is running.” The goal of these manufacturer safety warnings is to prevent an unintended, and often dangerous, action. Automotive manufacturers put safety devices in place to prevent sudden, and possibly uncontrollable, movement of their cars. Lawn mower manufacturers install deflection chutes to prevent objects from being hurled from mowers at great velocity. Often viewed as a nuisance, safety devices also appear to slow things down. So, sometimes they are removed or disabled.
No matter how stern the warning, we are sometimes blind to the consequences. Even with a manufacturer’s warning, productivity is often of greater importance than safety. Until someone gets severely injured.
Storm clouds. Shuffling feet on a carpet. A chemical hose in use. What do these three things have in common? They all have the capability of producing static electricity.