Article reprinted from: Autobody News
For decades, auto body shops across the industry have faced a quiet and sometimes unrecognized choice in regard to dust extraction, according to Nick Oberle, application engineer specialist in the 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division.
“To get the maximum benefits of dust extraction, body shops needed to sacrifice their overall productivity,” said Oberle. “Net abrasives, which capture more than 95% of the dust they create, often don’t deliver the cut and life of traditional abrasives, which have poorer dust capture.”
As a result of this challenge, 3M introduced a solution, 3M™ Cubitron™ II Net Abrasives.
Oberle explained 3M™ Cubitron™ II Net Abrasives use the company’s patented Precision Shaped Grain mineral to power the new discs. Each micro replicated grain is a sharp triangle he said cuts through material easier than traditional abrasive grains.
“The Cubitron™ II Net family of abrasives cuts twice as fast and lasts twice as long as other net abrasive families and captures more than 95% of the dust they create,” said Oberle, who tested the new discs against the competition.
Oberle says the reception has been great.
“It’s exciting when you introduce a never-before-seen product and then watch technicians embrace it in their shops and quickly realize its many benefits,” he said.
Dust extraction is required in many countries across the globe. Five years ago, Oberle and the 3M engineering team began researching potential regulation changes to abrasives and dust extraction in the U.S.
“When you look at global regulations, the United States is far more lenient than Europe,” said Oberle. “The last time the U.S. rewrote any type of regulation around particulates in the air was in the early 1970s.”
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), airborne shop dust “…may contain hazardous substances, such as lead and chromium from surface coatings and abrasives from sanding discs, that are harmful to the lungs and nervous system of workers.”
“Technicians are not going to notice a negative health effect the next day, but over time, dust could cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, cancer and neural toxicity,” said Oberle. “Getting dust away from the tech, from a human perspective, is important to 3M.”
NIOSH recommends what it calls “ventilated sanders” for auto body shops “…because they have been shown to be effective in reducing total dust concentrations during the sanding of body filling compounds … ventilated sanders have cut total dust concentrations to one-tenth the levels produced using unventilated sanders.”
Currently, dust capture is not a requirement in most of the U.S.
“The moment that changes, there is going to be a very quick shift in the market to create dust extraction products,” said Oberle.
Even without regulation, interest in dust extraction in the U.S. has been growing at the same time as the drive for reduced cycle times and greater shop efficiencies. Oberle said dust capture helps reduce loading, which can rob abrasives of their cutting power and shorten their life. In addition, less dust in the air can help reduce the risk of rework caused by dust settling into fresh paint.
“The market is becoming more interested in dust extraction,” said Oberle. “3M is ready to satisfy that interest today.”
In 2016, 3M partnered with Festool to develop dust extraction for the auto body industry. Oberle said the 90-year-old company has a long track record of creating high-quality, dependable products. Festool was a pioneer in dust extraction tools and today, Oberle said it only sells sanders equipped for dust capture.
“3M™ Net Abrasives allow Festool tools to achieve their maximum dust capture potential, which is great news for shops,” said Oberle.
The family of net abrasives is offered in 3-, 5-, 6- and 8-inch discs as well as 70-, 80- and 115-mm sheet rolls. The 3M™ Hookit™ hook-and-loop attachment allows unused portions of the abrasive to be used on a future job. The open net abrasive pattern means these net abrasives work with self-generating vacuum sanders, central vac systems and portable dust extractors.
Overall, Oberle said the goal is to remove dust at the source.
“3M™ Cubitron™ II Net Abrasives can help lead to less in-air dust-related contaminants, less rework and cleanup time, improved cycle time, process efficiency and technician mobility within the body shop,” he said.