While most discussions of pollution focus on CO2 emissions or very clear run-offs of chemicals, most operations create a number of other outputs that can be considered harmful. Light, noise, and even dust, for example. Transportation, logistics, mining, and other industries tend to generate a lot of dust during operations that spread to nearby areas. So how can the technologies of the 21st century, like smart manufacturing, help?
What exactly is Smart Manufacturing?
While precise definitions may vary, the core concept of smart manufacturing revolves around data and how the IoT and AI can interact with it. The goal is to manage a system that can quickly identify the safest and most efficient methods of doing, well, anything in a factory, plant, or other location. While the focus here is on dust levels, smart manufacturing can likely be used to manage inputs and outputs for a large variety of things in an operation.
These can be simple, like big data to identify the frequency of any prevalence of certain phenomena, or more integrated, like robotics, drones, and 3D printing. A more all-encompassing definition of smart manufacturing would be the use of digitalization in the construction and creation of tangible products, mining, or even transportation.
What is dust pollution?
The dust created by human interventions, like factories and mining, and nature, like sandstorms and fires, all can have negative effects on humans in their vicinity. Fine particles can end up in the lungs, causing respiratory and cardiovascular health problems in the long run. The materials and processes used in manufacturing end up creating large amounts of these particles.
Dust also creates other negative externalities, like soil erosion and reduced visibility. In nature, one can think of a sandstorm or volcanic ash. Generally, urban areas suffer more, as there is more density of dust, buildings, and less natural ventilation to disperse the particles. Some cities already employ dust filtration systems and encourage businesses to implement dust controls and emission limits.
What can smart manufacturing help with?
Smart technologies can enhance dust measurement and filtration systems. This can allow companies to better understand where exactly the fine particles are coming from and where more systems should be focused. Similarly, these systems can better measure when filters need to be changed and when the filters can be switched off to help with both maintenance and energy costs.
Robotics can help by utilizing more precise movements that disrupt the environment less and produce less dust as a side effect. 3D printing can help reduce logistical strain which in turn can help keep dust levels down. Smart manufacturing uses mostly closed systems, which will be less likely to disperse fine particles in the area. It can also model the precise amounts of fine particles produced to allow companies to scale their containment up or down accordingly.
Smart manufacturing does not have to start and end on a factory floor, it can also include housekeeping like robotic vacuum cleaners and smart waste disposal. These systems can help a facility manage its dust levels throughout the day-to-day cleaning and maintenance of an operation. Automated systems will also help keep costs down in the long run.
What companies should keep in mind?
The implementation of smart manufacturing does not really have a one-size-fits-all approach. The degree of automation and digitalization in an operation will differ from location to location since needs and possibilities are highly varied. An area at low risk of dust pollution will not need as intensive systems to monitor and measure. Not all operations cause as much dust. Industry leaders will need to assess their own companies and decide exactly how to proceed. But every company can benefit from knowing the technical possibilities of the field and developing a roadmap for the future.
Industry leaders can benefit from meeting and interacting with peers from around the world to share the best insights and experiences. Join key decision-makers at the Efficient Mining Operations Summit in Barcelona, Spain from May 4th to 5th to learn more. Visit future-bridge.eu or mining-events.com and follow us on our social media to keep track of other events about sustainability in the mining and metals industry.