A gentle breeze makes all the difference for brick producer
April 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial
Kentucky-based Owensboro Brick & Tile produces 30 to 35 million bricks annually. When condensation and moisture buildup began to severely impact product integrity, the company installed a series of fans to keep air moving in its production facility. The result improved health and safety for workers while boosting production speed.
The staging area holds 300,000 to 400,000 bricks at a time as they dry out before going into the kiln. “We have to get a certain percentage of moisture out of the brick before we can fire it,” explains plant manager Mark Sexton. As one set of bricks would come out the kiln, the steam would keep the area hot and perpetually wet, negatively affecting the dryers. Sexton says they tried using numerous small fans to clear the moist air, but the steam kept all surfaces covered in a fine layer of slick water and clay.
The company considered both dehumidification systems and heating systems. However, the cost of these approaches for the company’s large industrial space was impractical.
Instead, four 16-foot diameter high-volume, low-speed fans (Big Ass Fans, bigassfans.com) were installed to evenly distribute humidity in the air. The fans improve air circulation and aid in the evaporation of moisture from the bricks waiting to be fired, while also dissipating heat and moisture from the steaming bricks coming out of the kiln. The large size of the fans paired with their slow speed equates to a larger volume of air being moved without disrupting the workplace.
“These fans are helping the dryer out, to get the moisture out of the brick,” Sexton says. “So it’s actually letting me run our kilns a little faster to get more product out.” The same air movement that boosts product integrity also helps curb condensation issues that negatively affect employee safety, the most common of which are wet floors and mold/mildew growth.