By its very nature, woodwork in all of its forms produces wood dust and there is an increasing body of evidence warning us that wood dust causes lung irritation and may in fact, cause lung disease. Most woodworkers have some form of dust control while they are creating wood dust and these controls vary in both method and efficiency. For single person hobby woodworkers like most of us, this control extends from working outside, through personal protection such as masks to powered dust collectors that are available in all forms from glorified vacuum cleaners to stand alone sophisticated dust collectors which are connected to the sources of the dust by ducting and remove dust via cyclones and/or filters. This ducting is usually fitted with gates, most commonly known as BLAST GATES, which ensure that the dust collecting action, no matter how efficient it is or isn’t, is directed to the current source of dust creation.
For those who are responsible for more complex work situations such as woodworking schools and multi-user work spaces, the complexity of these dust collecting systems grows exponentially in response to the higher duty of care. However, IF THE BLAST GATE IS NOT OPENED or IF THE DUST COLLECTOR IS NOT TURNED ON, then the dust collector sitting in the corner, or in its dedicated enclosure, is nothing more than a workshop ornament!
AUTO BLAST GATES are therefore a system and a device that ensures that your dust collecting system, regardless of its own efficiency or inefficiency, is at least in use at the point of creating the dust. More advanced systems can also ensure that the dust collector system is at least turned on when any machine or process is in use and some even ensure that the dust collector bags and/or cyclone bins are NOT OVERFILLED.
Homemade automated blast gate systems are as varied as the woodworkers and the needs of those woodworkers who have created them! There are also a number of overseas manufactured systems available which, although technically very competent, are optimised for their domestic woodworking demographics and so do not satisfy the criteria which we felt were necessary for Australian woodworkers. We were in the process of creating our own systems when we decided to pool our resources and expertise to develop an automated system that would uniquely meet the following criteria:-
* Efficient and economic
* Low initial cost
* Upgradable and extendable
* Plug-and-play to eliminate the need for involving specialised trades such as electricians
The result of more than a year of development and trials is our AUTO BLAST GATES system which satisfies our criteria above and more.
One of the key benefits of our system is that the control logic is decentralised and so there is no expensive central controller which would normally make the cost of entry too high. Our system enables the purchase of a single gate and single individual automatic controller which allows an incremental approach to automating a dust collection system. In fact, it is possible to start even more simply with a single gate and a MANUAL controller, all of which can be upgraded in the future to full automation at very little cost, no need for external trades and uses the same gate!
Certainly, we are talking currently to both woodworking schools and Men’s Sheds about complete automation of their blast gate networks. Our system enables complete or incremental installation of an automated system and, by selective use of automatic only controllers, the system can ensure that if a machine is in use, its dedicated blast gate is open.
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