Using Triboelectric Dust Detection Systems To Cut Production Downtime

Posted by Justin Dechene on Aug 7, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Preventing unscheduled downtime is a huge priority for maintenance and engineering teams. Production downtime means enormous losses. Reducing it can mean the difference between turning a profit and operating at a loss for a plant.

Dust emissions issues frequently lead to shutdowns and directly impact the bottom line of operations at many facilities. However, triboelectric dust detection systems have proven effective in reducing system downtime due to particle/dust emissions. Even with relatively small upfront costs, triboelectric systems can provide a high return on investment in this area.

How Can Dust Cause System Downtime in an Industrial Facility?


Whether in the form of particulate emissions (pollution), nuisance dust, fugitive (ambient) dust, or within materials handling and processing systems (process applications), dust leaks can have plant-wide impact on operations.

In facilities that use them, baghouse dust collectors must consistently operate at near peak efficiency in order to prevent a wide range of problems.

When used to control emissions, even minor leaks from torn filters, loose filters, or just using bags past their service life can result in failing emissions levels set forth in a plant’s air permits.

In some process applications, baghouses are used to collect valuable materials (precious metals, mining, refining, etc. ), transport dry powdered goods throughout the process, prevent cross-contamination of materials or ensure purity of manufactured goods. Problems from dust leaks in any of these situations could cause major issues and result in stoppage of production lines or the spoilage of manufactured goods.

Additionally, many process applications require careful monitoring of material flow (no-flow/flow monitors), such as bulk conveying systems, pneumatic conveyors, screw feeders, air slides, etc. Blockages, overflows, or any other malfunction in these systems can lead to similar production stoppages or product spoilage.

In many facilities, baghouses also play a role in providing a safe work environment, supplying clean, breathable air for workers. Problems with ambient dust in this regard can result in respiratory problems for workers such as asthma, certain cancers, and other aliments or in some case expose workers to hazardous materials.

Many facilities monitor ambient or fugitive dust levels throughout the plant (not just in production areas) to prevent product contamination or damage to sensitive equipment. Fugitive dust can damage sensitive electronics on key pieces of equipment, leading to the shutdown of production lines until repairs can be made. In applications where product purity must be maintained (e.g. food processing, pharmaceuticals, etc.), fugitive dust emissions can contaminate various sections of the process line, leading to shutdowns for cleaning, repairs, or even a loss of produced goods.

Finally, applications that handle combustible dusts face special risks from inadequate dust control. Even minimal buildup of combustible dust (1/4” or more) pose a grave safety risk and buildup on elevated spaces (rafters, ductwork, machine tops, etc.) is an especially dangerous situation that can arise from dust leaks. Safety inspectors may issue citations for these hazards and require stoppage of work or even total close of entire areas until the dust is removed.

Want to learn more about how triboelectric dust detection can predict when problems may arise?  Watch our free 'on-demand' webinar

How Triboelectric Bag Leak Detection Systems Prevent Downtime

When dust collector filters leak, the resulting increase in dust emissions can contaminate multiple areas of the plant and the area surrounding the plant, as well as clog process equipment including the baghouse. Cleaning these accumulations of dust is labor intensive and often requires dozens of man-hours in labor costs. 

Triboelectric bag leak detection systems can identify bag leaks before they pose a problem. Other dust monitoring methods such as opacity monitoring, visual monitoring and baghouse differential pressure monitoring cannot provide advance warning of leaking bags. Triboelectric systems can detect leaks within hours, while these other methods can take days (see case study) . This early warning enables maintenance personnel to instantly determine the severity of the leak and schedule preventative maintenance to resolve the situation. This prevents leaks from escalating to point where emissions are so great they become “reportable events”, which often results in fines, and possibly punitive sanctions from regulators.

In process applications, triboelectric detectors can prevent problems in the material handling systems that lead to production bottlenecks and shutdowns. For example, in cement production, operators must closely monitor flow rates through various conveyor systems, such as air slides, pneumatic conveyors, product feeders, screw conveyors and others. If product flow is not steady due to blockages, backups, overflows, etc., production may need to halt in order to fix the problem(s) or else the final manufactured product may have defects.

In facilities concerned with fugitive dust emissions, triboelectric dust detectors can provide instant feedback about ambient dust levels throughout a facility. Even in large facilities, multiple detectors can be networked together and send data back to either a central control room or a nearby display panel to provide accurate readings throughout the plant. And while triboelectric devices should not be considered prevention or protection devices in facilities handling combustible dusts, they certainly are a useful tool for monitoring dust accumulations and can provide warnings when dust levels begin to rise anywhere in the plant. 

Reduce Unscheduled Downtime With Triboelectric Dust Detection Systems

In the end, reducing shutdowns is key to operating a successful and profitable plant. Triboelectric dust detection systems provide advanced warning of dust leaks and enable plant personnel to take immediate corrective action and plan for preventative maintenance. Auburn Systems has helped many plants reduce their downtime over the years as shown in our various case studies. Would you like to learn how Auburn can help your plant reduce its downtime due to dust issues? If so, then take a moment to view our webinar The Power of Predictive Monitoring

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Topics: Triboelectric Detection, Particulate Monitoring, Process Control, Dust Detection