Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially if it is a certain piece of equipment that is manufactured by a number of companies. When it comes to dust suppression units, this idiom is no different. Many manufacturers’ designs look the same, however, it is what’s inside the machine that matters most, says Mike Whitney, sales director for MobyDick Wheel Wash & Dust Control Systems, Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

MobyDick North America, a product line of Switzerland-based Frutiger Group, joined the list of dust control cannon manufacturers when it launched its dust suppression cannons in March 2015. Whitney has been selling wheel washing systems for MobyDick since 2003, and was appointed to the lead position for its dust control cannons in North America with the launch.

“Our competitors’ systems look similar in design, but it’s not until you get inside and look at the shape and structure that separates us from the herd,” Whitney says. “It is specifically designed and engineered like no others out there.”

The differences are “very subtle,” he says, and while slight, they are what set this company’s systems apart.

“There are a lot of manufacturers of dust cannons around the world; we’re certainly not the only ones,” Whitney says, adding, “These particular cannons are specifically designed for a difficult environment like construction sites, landfills and quarries.”

ENGINEER EFFORTS

While Whitney recognizes that MobyDick is not the first to offer such a system to construction and demolition (C&D) recyclers, construction contractors, demolition workers and miners, among other professionals, being a little late to the game has its advantages.

For one, an aeronautical engineer designed the system. The aerodynamic cone shape and the system’s smooth surface are “really the heartbeat of the entire system,” describes Whitney.

The engineer’s focus on the air stream coming out of the cannon also was imperative. “The air stream coming out of that cone is important as you have to create as much wind and force that you can,” Whitney says.

The cone shape helps the cannon’s throw distance, described by Whitney as “the distance from the cannon that shoots the actual water droplets.”

“Because of our design and cone, we’re able to achieve that distance with much less power requirements than our competition,” he says. “Directional blades in our cones keep that air pointing straight out of the cannon.”

The size of the water droplets, Whitney says, is the most important aspect on any dust cannons.

Most dust suppression systems available today spray large volumes of water, “and it looks impressive, but in actuality the larger the droplet and the faster it moves through the air, the more it moves dust to the side rather than bringing it to the ground,” Whitney says.

He says this pooling of water saturates the ground instead of bringing down dust particles.

As a result, MobyDick’s dust control systems have a two-stage water filtration system leading into the cannon. First, incoming water is screened prior to entering the high-pressure pump. Second, each cannon is equipped with a three-piece nozzle with 30 to 35 nozzles, each with an individual nozzle.

DUSTY SITUATIONS

For one San Francisco C&D recycling facility, controlling the dust particles in the air was just as important as minimizing water usage. With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, using less water is vital in that state.

Whitney describes how rather than using the same technology from its standard dust cannon systems, the company is able to tailor-make systems for specific needs. In this recycler’s case, customizing the spray nozzle ring was necessary.

“This huge C&D recycling facility needed to have minimum water usage to minimize the amount of water shooting out as they couldn’t deal with a 200-gallon-a-minute system,” Whitney says.

Prior to visiting the San Francisco facility, Whitney asked the company for a video and description of the operations, a protocol he has with nearly every potential customer. He then sends the information to the company’s European experts who may have already addressed the issue with another customer.

Whitney ran the same procedure for a C&D recycler in Dallas. The facility in Texas has “very dusty conditions,” so much so that workers who handle material wear respirators and masks “to keep from ingesting the dust,” Whitney says.

He describes the same dusty situation in San Francisco. Not only does every worker have to wear a dust mask over their face, the current misting system the company has in place isn’t very effective, Whitney says. Crushers were running, workers were moving material around and dust was flying everywhere, he says.

“When I walked into this facility, I couldn’t breathe. It was uncomfortable to stay inside this facility for very long.” Whitney says. “I was practically choking as I took my notes inside.”

DEMOLITION DEMAND

In addition to the C&D recycling facilities on the West Coast, a “big market” for MobyDick in regard to its dust control cannons in the past year has been the demolition sector, Whitney says. From contractors tearing down buildings to job sites where demolishing concrete and wood create dust, the demolition market is demanding these types of systems, Whitney says. Transfer stations also are showing interest in containing dust.

He explains, “For C&D waste, wood chipping and recycling wood creates a tremendous amount of dust. Cannons are being brought in for these purposes to control that dust.”

Whitney adds, “For any demolition we set up our dust control cannons so customers can point that small stream of water droplets at the source of dust and knock the dust down before it floats into the air and goes into someone’s house.”

He points to an ever-increasing concern about air quality as a reason for the interest in dust control cannons from the demolition sector. When demolition contractors are tearing down an old factory, for example, the chance of asbestos being present is high, Whitney says. This is problematic as dust particles and asbestos move throughout the air, affecting nearby areas as well.

“Once the dust gets into the air it doesn’t just affect the immediate area of the job site, quarry or C&D site; that dust gets into the air, and you may not be able to see it, but it travels for miles and miles,” Whitney says.

People are becoming more aware of the airborne dust from such sites, he says. As a result, it is imperative that workers at these types of job sites attempt to maintain control of dust in the air. “It really is a safety health issue. If you live in a house next to a facility that creates dust you don’t want to see that plume of dust in the air,” Whitney says.

The author is associate editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at mworkman@gie.net.