Recycling plastics is important; especially for a plastics manufacturer that produces large amounts of byproduct. However, the process to recycle the unused plastic can be a bit loud. Noise levels sometimes peak at 110 dB(A). One plastic manufacturer in the Northeast took a proactive step toward improving their employees’ health by reducing the noise levels with sound blanket enclosures.
“O.K., we’ll flip for it. Heads I have to do it, tails you have to do it.”
Sounds like a conversation between two kids arguing over who has to take out the trash. But, in actuality, it was the type of conversation that took place for years at a large plastics manufacturer in the Northeast. Like other plastics manufacturers, this plastics producer has a certain amount of waste inherent in the process. Fortunately, they are able to recycle the waste. Plastics waste is loaded into a granulator that grinds the plastic into tiny pellets. Eventually, these pellets are reused to create a finished product.
The problem was that no employee could go near the granulator. It was the loudest machine on the shop floor, peaking at 110 dB(A).
Finally, the noisy granulator became too much for management to deal with. Complaints from shop employees became more frequent and waste piled up: meaning that potential raw materials were being squandered and the threat of an insurance claim or an OSHA violation grew every day. Something had to be done quickly.
Company management figured that the best way to overcome the problem was with some type of acoustical enclosure, either metal or one constructed from composite materials. A metal enclosure would help reduce noise levels once the granulator was up and running, but the proposed design provided no protection for the operator when loading the machine. Another disadvantage of the metal enclosure is that access to the machinery would have been limited.
An enclosure design featuring a composite material, which combined a sound absorber with a noise barrier, was designed. The ABBC-13 AudioSeal® Combination Sound Blanket is made up of a 1 lb. /sq. ft. reinforced loaded vinyl noise barrier and 2″ thick quilted fiberglass sound absorber. Typically, a 1″ thick absorber is put on the interior of a reinforced barrier, but because of the extreme conditions in this case, they utilized the 2″ thick material. The composite gives overall noise protection comparable to the metal enclosure. Because of the extensive fabricating capabilities, the enclosure could be customized to meet every specification of the plastics manufacturer.
A critical design feature was developed: a feed flap that gave the operator a substantial amount of protection when loading the granulator. Prior to the installation of the sound enclosure, the operator could have been subjected to 110 dB of noise at close range. Continuous loading of the granulator without hearing protection would have been disastrous. With the new enclosure featuring the feed flap, an operator is no longer in danger if not using hearing protection.
Acoustical Solutions also overcame the concern the company had about access to the machine. The double curtain track and hardware design allows access at nearly any point in the enclosure.
Another key design feature is the ventilation system. Too often, the installation of a roof panel means sacrificing ventilation for enhanced acoustical performance. But an AudioSeal® Sound Blanket Enclosure can incorporate intake and exhaust ventilation baffles without compromising acoustical performance.
The idea of “one-stop shopping” appealed to the plastics manufacturer. Many noise control companies only sell the materials that comprise the enclosure. These companies leave it to the customer to find someone who can provide the structural framework for the enclosure and handle the installation. Acoustical Solutions has its own line of freestanding or suspended structural support systems and a Mid-Atlantic installation team. In fact, this enclosure was installed in just four hours.
Employee response to the enclosure has been tremendous. Loading and running the granulator is no longer the dreaded task it once was. Consequently, waste no longer piles up and materials are quickly recycled. The granulator is finally the productive machine management always hoped it would be.