The composite industry is both an innovative and growing economic sector. The European sector was valued at $16.6 billion in 2018, while in the UK, the market was reportedly growing by 5% annually.

The main reason behind the growth lays with the increasing global demand for high-performance materials arising from the automotive, aerospace, construction and marine industries to name but a few. 

A composite is a material that is made from two or more different materials, often with very different properties, which when combined, are much stronger than as single elements. Composites are usually designed with a particular outcome in mind, be it added durability, strength, corrosion resistance or efficiency, and work by binding together fibres or fragments of the other material, which is called the reinforcement. It is normally simple to spot the different materials within a composite as they don’t tend to dissolve or blend into each other. Composite materials are found in numerous products including wooden floor tiles, boat hulls, surfboards, doors, shower enclosures and planes.

When products made of composites are cut, drilled, machined or polished, they can release harmful dust, particles or fibres. This dust is found in many industries such as metals, ceramics and fibreglass and the dust can be small enough to be inhaled, entering the lungs and threatening human health. Composite manufacturing can also produce organic substances including gases that are dangerous to inhale. The risk of exposure is dependent upon the type of dust or fumes created in the manufacturing process however there are clear regulations which must be followed for the by-products created from the creation of such composites.

Types of composites

Natural composites - Wood is a composite made from long cellulose fibres held together by a much weaker substance called lignin. Together, these two weak substances, form a much stronger one. The bone in your body is also a composite, made from a hard but brittle material called hydroxyapatite and a soft and flexible material called collagen.

Synthetic composites - Plywood is a man-made composite that combines natural and synthetic materials. Thin layers of wood veneer are bonded together with adhesive to form flat sheets of laminated wood that are stronger than natural wood.

Modern Composites – Amongst the first modern composite materials was fibreglass and it is still widely used today for sporting equipment, car bodies and boating hulls. Fibreglass or glass fibre is a reinforced plastic material embedded with glass fibres. Combined with resin this forms an extremely strong, flexible and sturdy composite. Another type of fibreglass known as GRP provides builders with a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to steel, aluminium and timber. These days, more advanced composites are using carbon fibres rather than glass as they are lighter and stronger but come at an extra cost.

Typical engineered composite materials include:

  • Reinforced concrete and masonry
  • Composite wood such as plywood
  • Reinforced plastics, such as fibre-reinforced polymer or fibreglass
  • Ceramic matrix composites
  • Metal matrix composites
  • Fabric and textiles

Composites manufacturing and dust

Dust is a constant in composites manufacturing. Whatever product is being manufactured, there will be no let-up of dust and because it is everywhere, the dust can affect many areas of the working environment.

If not controlled, the dust can get into workers’ eyes and lungs creating serious health risks. It can find its way into small crevices and cracks creating dust hazards and can also lead to slip hazards on several different surfaces. There is numerous hazardous dust found within composites manufacturing and these include silica, carbon fibre and nanotubes, resins and combustible dust. If exposed to these and other dust, workers might experience serious health issues ranging from skin conditions to lung cancer.

How can dust be controlled in the workplace?

Improve worker health and safety

There are many dust-related risks to workers’ health. The particles produced within the manufacturing process are often small enough to be breathed in. Also, some types of dust can be slippery, which can lead to falls. Keeping your working facility clean and risk-free is the best way to improve workers’ health.

Reduce the risk of cross-contamination

Contamination is a very common problem with composites manufacturing. The dust produced can become airborne and then interfere with other processes and products. Dust-control is the best solution to this problem.

Improve product quality

Dust can also lower equipment functions. Controlling the levels of dust in the environment will help to keep your equipment working properly.

Lower equipment maintenance costs

If dust accumulates, there is no doubt that over time, it will cause wear and tear to your equipment. This not only affects product quality but also increases the cost of product maintenance.

Is there a safer solution for removal?

When it comes to removing composite dust, in contrast to using compressed air, which can be very dangerous, blower-driven air has been shown to provide a safer and highly effective means of removing fibres, dust and water from people, surfaces and environments.

By using blower-driven air, the JetBlack Safety range of personnel Cleaning Booths can provide a safer and more convenient solution for personnel clean-down. What’s more, the product range has been designed as an easy-to-use alternative to compressed air, as the low pressure, high-velocity air produced poses no threat to the safety and can be directed at almost any part of the body. This gives organisations peace of mind and users a safer solution for all de-dusting operations.

The JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth is particularly suited to agitating and removing all forms of dust from employees’ work clothes; a process which typically takes no longer than 30 seconds. The dust is then safely extracted away from the user and collected in the HEPA H14 extractor.

Personnel Cleaning Booth applications include:

  • Cement Processing Plants
  • Wood Working Companies
  • Fibreglass Manufacturing & Product Repair
  • Textile Plants