Kicking out dust in Greenville

Over the years, Chris Folks, owner of Greenville, S.C.-based Spectrum Products Inc. has become used to moving into a facility and creating his dust collection system after-the-fact. However, when it recently came time to move to a larger facility in Greenville, Folks saw that he had the opportunity to create "the dust collection system of our dreams."

And for Spectrum, dust is no small thing. In fact, in some weeks the manufacturer of specialty mouldings generates as much as five tractor-trailer loads of waste material.

Spectrum's primary customers are cabinet manufacturers, and Spectrum produces approximately 120 profiles for its main customer, including door mouldings, crowns, installation mouldings, light rails and cabinet top mouldings.

Spectrum currently runs among other machinery five moulders, three planers, two gang rip saws and three defecting saws. With this much woodworking machinery, it is clear why dust collection is a major concern.

A moving target

Folks started Spectrum in 1984 in Florida, but eventually felt the market there had become too saturated. As a result, in 1996 he moved his operation to Greenville and obtained a lease purchase on a 9,500-square-foot facility, a facility over three times the size of his 2,500-square-foot Florida shop. At the time, it seemed to Folks that he had more space than his shop would ever need. In fact, at first Folks parked his car, truck and boat in the facility and still had room left over.
"We thought we had unlimited space in the beginning," Folks says. "Then after a couple of years it got to the point where we had to put material outside just so we could operate. And that's what it's been like the past several years."

Despite increasingly cramped quarters, Folks continued with his plan to purchase the facility. However, a clouded title put the deal on hold with no resolution in sight. Finally, Folks began looking for another facility in Greenville. He found one approximately one mile away from the first shop.

Dust collection a priority

According to Curt Corum, sales manager for Air Handling Systems in Woodbridge, Conn., Spectrum has always been committed to taking proper steps in the area of dust collection.

"We were a sole source for Spectrum from day one," Corum says. "Every time they expanded or upgraded their system we were there to make their custom manifolds and any custom fittings they needed." Corum adds that a few times Air Handling Systems went as far as to create head covers for old moulders that Spectrum had renovated.

While Folks worked hard to keep dust collection in his first Greenville shop under control, he readily admits it was not the best scenario. "In our old shop in Greenville we put a main trunk line up that was already stubbed into the building from a previous woodworking shop," Folks says. "The system sprang up out of need, with more and more transitions and saddle-tap tees connecting new lines in. It was a grossly overloaded system. There was not nearly enough CFM to run all the machinery."

Folks notes that while the components and ductwork of the old system were good, the system as a whole was patched together, requiring that everything be blast-gated off. "We'd blast-gate one thing off, run another machine, close the blast gates and move to the next one," Folks says. The old system ran at 75 hp with approximately 12,000 CFM, according to Folks.

New facility, new system

Most of the shop's equipment had been moved to the new facility when the main electrical panel at the old facility blew up, which Folks says gave Spectrum "added impetus" to get out of its old space.

The new space is a leap forward from Spectrum's first Greenville facility. Square footage is 22,500 with 22 employees. Yet, even with the additional space, Folks says it's already beginning to feel a bit crowded, mostly as a result of the amount of material traveling through the facility. Folks estimates that between 3 and 3.5 million board feet of lumber will be run through the plant this year.

The new dust collection system is the result of over a year of careful planning and work with Air Handling Systems and G-M Mechanical Corp., Greenville, S.C. In the front of the plant is a Pneumafil reverse air system. There is a MacDonald system in the back. Three trunk lines enter the plant.

In the new "loop" system, there is a negative pressure or return line. There is a vacuum line going in on one side of the trailer, and on the other door in the back there is a feed line with pipes inside the trailer, so it blows in with one and then sucks the return air out.

There are 460 bags that filter the air so Spectrum can vent the return air back in and heat the facility. "It always stays above 50 degrees in the plant," Folks says. "Even if it's freezing out."

Folks is especially pleased with the new system. "With a constant loop, there's no foreign matter floating around, so it's a clean system, and something the EPA and DHEC are happy with. It runs a lot more cleanly and efficiently that way," Folks says. He is also pleased with the heating system in general, which uses gas. The old shop was warmed by kerosene heaters.

Looking back

"I started in a 10 x 16 garage, and my dust collection system was a non-particle dust mask," Folks says. "Now we've progressed to the point where we handle about 67,000 CFM of air flowing through here."

"I figure I've come a long way from when I was 19 years old, making boat parts with teak dust floating in the air," Folks laughs.

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About the author
Ken Jennison

Ken Jennison was a senior editor at CabinetMaker and FDM magazines from 2006 to 2008, writing more than 70 articles about cabinet and furniture manufacturers. He is currently director of acquisitions at Hearland Historical Properties LLC in San Francisco.