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Duct cleaning - don't factor it, avoid it

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AS part of production plant maintenance routine, some businesses regularly clean their duct work to gain better use from it. Although this is commendable, it has in fact become an archaic practice, which has been superseded by prevention measures rather than stop-gap cures.

Morris Short of ducting specialist Eximo says the businesses that leapfrog this potential problem are more than likely armed with the right insight and new technologies.

"There are various factors which prompt operations managers to shut production in order to clean out a ducting or ventilation system," said Mr Short.

"Snake-skinning is a major cause for such stoppages. Snake-skinning is a term used to describe a situation where particles within a conduit adhere to the insides and eventually clog a section of ducting to cause a blockage.

"To a production plant, it is no different to clogged artery in a human body. While a clogged artery is likely to cause an aneurysm, snake skinning will almost certainly cause the equivalent to a factory - a blocked ducting system, hence an unscheduled downtime."

Mr Short outlines several key technologies and considerations to keep in mind.

Firstly, new technology ducting is impregnated with specific low friction polymers (in the case of non-metal ducting) or special high-slip internal coatings (in the case of metal systems).

Low friction also equals low abrasion, so instead of just protecting the inner surface of the ducting the extra slip qualities protect the integrity of the product it transfers - it is important to bear in mind that not all ducted product is waste product.

Another important factor in stopping snake skinning and blockages is design. Fitting the appropriate angle on joints, providing the right pressure across distances, using gravity wisely and, above all, maintaining an optimised pressure rating across the entire ducting system will almost always eliminated snakeskins and general blockages.

"Having the right design is vital. Beware of fly-by-nighters interested in a quick buck. Our organisation has been around for 22 years - it is important to check the credibility of your designer," Mr Short said.

"Ducting is not just a product anymore; it is a sophisticated general engineering task. The product itself is undergoing technological design developments to provide trouble-free performance as much as possible.

"But without the right design, engineering and implementation the product can only do half its job.

"If you truly want to eliminate snake skinning and other types of blockages, you have to choose the right product, engineer the right system and physical configuration to run this product well, and maintain channels of technical support to ensure that upkeep is at its best.

"We use and recommend a network of tried and tested technical partners that have credibility.

"Ducting is not just about the lowest quote (which appeals to the number crunchers), it's not even just about the ability of the company installing it, it is all about the ongoing costs of running, maintaining and ensuring that system has less downtime than anyone else's."

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