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Tom Howley

Ecogate installation at Tom Howley makes for a quiet, dust-free factory, that’s only half the price to run

Extractly has commissioned additional energy-saving extraction plant at Tom Howley’s kitchen manufacturing facility near Glossop, Derbyshire, where the custom-designed system serves the machining operations side of the company’s 5,000 square metre factory.

Established in 2004, by design director Tom Howley, the luxury kitchen brand has a nationwide presence through its 18 showrooms located across the UK, with another due to open later this year. Employing the highest quality materials to produce bespoke fitted kitchens in oak, walnut and hand-painted finishes, Tom Howley kitchens range in style from classic to contemporary. Through acquisition by Neville Johnson Group in 2011, the company is now part of the renamed Bespoke Home Interior Design Group (BHID) which also comprises Neville Johnson Furniture, Neville Johnson Staircases, and the London Door Company.

The two Boere sanders naturally require high-powered extraction when running but, with Ecogate® installed, energy consumption is reduced significantly when machines are idle.

Over the years, and in common with many furniture manufacturers, the company has replaced older machinery with newer, faster equipment, as well as adding new machines to increase capacity. The well-equipped production facility now houses two CNC machining centres, with another due to be installed in the spring, along with numerous saws, spindle moulders and routers, plus two Boere wide belt sanders which alone account for over 35% of the factory’s total extraction requirement.

In summer 2021, in order to optimise workflow, a reorganisation of machinery was being undertaken at Tom Howley, and Extractly Ltd were contracted to reconfigure the ductwork arrangement and integrated Ecogate® equipment which was controlling extraction to an existing, externally-sited, filter unit which continues to serve the finishing side of the factory.

Over on the machining side, however, planned installations of new, high-speed, dust-producing equipment would require a significant increase in extraction capacity. As factory manager, Alan Ashmore, explained: “The previously-installed, internally-sited, filter unit was going to need at least an upgrade, but probably replacement, so we approached Extractly for a quotation to bring the system up to specification.” After a full review of current and expected future extraction requirements, Extractly’s proposal included decommissioning the old filter and replacing it with a new, externally-sited unit.

Extractly director, Jake Oldfield, commented: “There were three key areas that needed consideration at Tom Howley: the requirement for increased extraction capacity; the need to expand the energy-saving Ecogate® system; and, since the only sensible option was to install a new fan and filter unit outside the building, to protect neighbouring residential properties from excessive noise pollution.” With projected airflow demand approaching 55,000m³ per hour, and suction provided by a 90kW main fan, Alan Ashmore had highlighted from the outset that it was crucial for the extraction system to be silenced to an acceptable level for residents living less than 50 metres from the location earmarked for the new dust plant.

To ensure there would be no environmental impact at residential properties closest to the site, Extractly commissioned a BS4142 noise impact survey from specialists Beechfield Design Consultancy (BDC). Armed with environmental noise measurements and using acoustic calculations, BDC established requirements for noise attenuation at the site, and designed and manufactured bespoke absorptive silencers. Fabricated from galvanised steel sheet, these particular silencers are designed to reduce the sound generated by turbulent air inside the fan, as well as the noise which travels down the ducting. Internally, the enclosures contain sound insulating materials, sandwiched within sheets of perforated steel, and spaced to allow efficient, unimpeded flow of dust-laden air through to the filter unit. Extractly’s engineers installed the noise attenuation equipment at the same time as the new fan and filter unit, and the design will ensure sound levels at the nearest properties are equivalent to normal background levels.

The filter unit Extractly installed at Tom Howley is a Nederman NFKZ3000 5+1; a 6-module unit fitted with Nederman’s patented, high-performance, polyester SUPERBAG filter bags. Filtered dust waste drops into the hopper below where a drag-chain conveyor transfers the collected waste to a rotary valve discharge unit. A series of five 1.1kW regeneration fans enable filter bag cleaning to be carried out automatically during operation, and waste dust is transferred, pressure-free, directly to a covered box cart.

Designed for continuous operation and to handle high dust volumes, these units are manufactured to strict safety and emissions standards and are fully ATEX compliant. In addition, the modular construction will allow Tom Howley to add further modules if future equipment acquisitions further increase demand for dust extraction.

The installation has also benefited from the inclusion of a second Ecogate® greenBOX12 controller; doubling the capacity of the existing on-demand energy-saving system. Ecogate® technology works in conjunction with a variable speed drive unit, which automatically adjusts and optimises the running speed of the main extraction fan as individual woodworking machines come on line or shut down. When compared to standard installations, where the fan operates continuously, at full power, an Ecogate® system can typically reduce energy consumption by over 50% — with the resulting cost savings becoming more dramatic as energy prices continue to rise.

Extractly’s technical director, William Kenyon, who has been involved with Ecogate since the technology was introduced to the UK woodworking industry back in 2010, explains how these savings are made: “With Ecogate®, sensors on each machine constantly monitor usage, and extraction is independently controlled, in real-time, to match the requirements of each individual piece of woodworking machinery. Since the extraction system only operates when machines are running, the total extraction volume requirement is significantly reduced, creating potential for huge energy and cost savings, as well as lower noise levels both at the fan, and inside the factory.”

Extractly completed the installation over the Christmas downtime and commissioned the system in time for full production to get underway as the company returned to work again in the new year. Adam Slack, Howley’s production supervisor, said:

“Everyone is delighted with the job Extractly have done here; we now have a fully-automated, future-proofed system which just gets on quietly and efficiently with the task of dust extraction — levels of both dust and noise on the factory floor have been reduced significantly. We were also very impressed with the standard of work, and the way Extractly handled every aspect of what was a very time-contingent contract.”

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