Indoor Welding at Lambeau Field Expansion Requires Portable Weld Fume Extraction For Cleanliness, Operator Comfort
FILTAIR® 130 portable fume extractors eliminate airborne weld fume to simplify cleanup and improve the environment for welding in confined areas.
Reader’s note: This is the second in a series of articles detailing the expansion of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. — home to the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. Miller and Hobart Brothers have been named as the Official Welding Equipment Provider for the Lambeau Field Expansion by the Green Bay Packers. Through a partnership with Miron Construction Co., Inc. — the Official Provider of Construction Services for the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field — Miller and Hobart Brothers have worked to bring the latest in welding technology to the site. Stay tuned to MillerWelds.com/Lambeau for more articles, photos and videos through the rest of the year.
Read the first article in the series, on transitioning to Flux-Cored welding, by clicking here:
In this article, we’ll look at steel column reinforcement that took place in existing indoor conditions and how Miron Construction Co., Inc. used a fleet of FILTAIR® 130 portable fume extractors to help keep the airborne weld fume particulate to a minimum. Fume extraction in this application helped in two key ways: it helped keep the area cleaner by removing airborne particulate at the source of the weld, and it substantially improved the environment for the welder, making it easier to see and breathe in the confined work environment.
Steel Reinforcements Call for Extensive Welding
Miron Construction began work on reinforcing existing steel structures at Lambeau Field in September 2011. Work ramped up in January as the regular season ended and crews were able to remove the old scoreboards. The North End Zone construction revolved around the addition of a massive elevator shaft for six new elevators, the new party deck that sits on top the stadium roof, and the new Mitsubishi Diamond Vision Video Board.
The work in the South End Zone is even more extensive: to support the structures for the new video board and the new seating, an additional bay was added to the existing bowl and seven new levels were built on top of the existing three levels. This is where the majority of the added seating will be, as well as indoor shops and concessions. It also required major reinforcement of the existing steel columns.
This reinforcement included extending base plates and adding plating and bar stock to the existing columns. New plating and bar stock were required to support the additional structure and required extensive amounts of welding. The area where this posed the greatest challenge was at the base of the existing structure. Many of the existing steel support beams and columns ran through the heart of the stadium’s locker rooms and press facilities, as well as other indoor areas.
Miron Construction was challenged with reinforcing dozens of these columns without disturbing the existing state of the rooms and hallways. Exposing the columns involved removing and wheeling tons of block and concrete out of the building. Hallways were covered in protective plastic, and each column had a protective plastic enclosure built around it to keep dust to a minimum. Once the columns were exposed, the steel and welding equipment were brought in to begin the reinforcement. Each column received two new 2.5-inch steel plates going up on opposite sides of the column and new two-inch plate steel at the base of each column.
The protective enclosure and the tight surroundings of the columns created an environment that didn’t let the weld fume escape. This kept the outer area clean, as intended, but also left the welder inside the confined area where the fume built up. This is not ideal for breathing, and also poses welding visibility issues. Miron Construction relied on a fleet of ten FILTAIR 130 portable fume extractors to help eliminate the welding fume from the confined area and improve the work environment for the welder.
“When you strike an arc and start burning, the smoke would just hang there in the air without the fume extraction,” says Scott Pospychalla, an ironworker working with Miron Construction Co., Inc. “By having the smoke extraction right next to where you’re welding, it pulls those fumes away so you can actually see your weld a lot better.”
The Benefit of Portable Fume Extraction
Fume extraction isn’t used extensively in construction applications. Most structural welding occurs outdoors, and portable fume extractors in the past have been large and cumbersome, and have featured filter media that typically had to be replaced at the end of the day. The systems were fairly inefficient and large, whereas newer technology like the FILTAIR 130 weighs only 46 pounds and take up as much as 50 percent less floor space compared to other portable weld fume extraction solutions.
“The size on these newer machines compared to the older ones are very compact,” says Jake Wirkuty, ironworker, Miron Construction Co., Inc. “They’re very easy to get around. They’re not so clumsy, and they’re definitely about half the weight.”
“It’s a compact unit, it’s easy to move around,” says Pospychalla. “Put the wheels on it and you can move around wherever you need a lot easier.”
The high-vacuum system features an Accu-Rated™ airflow of 132 cubic feet per minute (CFM). The unit connects to a connection hose with a flexible funnel nozzle outfitted with a magnet that allows the ironworkers to position the fume extraction nozzle immediately next to the weld joint. This ensures that the fume is captured at the source before it ever enters the welder’s breathing space1. An important consideration when selecting a fume extraction system for this application is the filter media. Filters are rated on a MERV scale, which measures filter efficiency based on particle count. MERV ratings range from 1-16, with 16 being the best at filtering small particles like those found in weld fumes. The FilTek™ XL filter found in the FILTAIR 130 is rated at MERV 16 and captures up to 95 percent of weld fumes, including the smallest weld fume particles (.3 to 1 micron) that can be inhaled or ingested into the blood stream.
“They’ve been doing an excellent job of filtering out our air, especially with the guys having to breathe the air in those enclosures,” says Wirkuty.
One of the biggest benefits in terms of efficiency is filter life. The FILTAIR 130 uses only one high-performance filter versus up to three in other portable units. The surface-loading filter is manually cleanable with dry compressed air, and an easy-to-remove particulate bin makes removing the collected material easy.
“With these units, it’s relatively simple to clean out the filters,” says Wirkuty. “We’ve been cleaning them out about once a day, and that’s with one or two guys welding steady. And it’s nice that you don’t have to take out a paper filter and replace it. That you can just blow these out, empty the dust catch and plug it back in and go (is a benefit).”
With this design, it is estimated that filter life can be extended by as much as 8 times longer than most conventional filters. As the Lambeau project saw ten of these being used in rather intense circumstances, the savings add up.
“I think there’s a very good potential in the long-term savings for these filters that you don’t have to keep replacing them once or twice a day, just blow out and you can keep going.”
1 Have a certified industrial hygienist test the air in your facility to determine equipment requirements and ensure adequate protection from contaminants.
Welding indoors and in confined spaces required fume extraction for workers to see clearly and to keep the indoor areas clean.
The column reinforcement affected hallways and rooms running through the heart of the stadium, including locker rooms and the press rooms.
Welding inside the wall of the south end zone at Lambeau Field.
The new south end zone structure rises above the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field.