A comprehensive guide to automatic dust extraction systems

Dust Collection

Have you ever been in your workshop and forgotten to open a dust extractor blast gate?

Yeah, we know you have. What about forgetting to turn the dust extractor on entirely?

Yep, us too.

Then of course, you realise that you only need to turn the table saw on for a couple of seconds. Do you really want to walk all the way across the workshop to open up that blast gate, turn on the dust extractor and then go through that entire process when you move on to the next station?

This is the problem that I've come across so many times in my woodworking career.

In this guide to how an automated dust extraction system can fix this – and many other problems – we use iVAC’s dust extraction system as an example (personally, I find it the best) but the information here corresponds to most automated dust extraction systems on the market.

What does an Automatic Dust Extractor System include?

The iVAC automated dust control system is made up of four very simple components:

  • The controller
  • The automated blast gates
  • The tool plus
  • The remote

When you install the iVAC system into your workshop, you'll have a completely automated extractor on and off system that follows you around to all the different workstations that you're working on at the time.

This is the case even if you have two or three people working in the workshop at one time - it's smart enough to be able to open and close the blast gates as you need them, when you need them, without you having to think about it ever again.

Dust control will become something that you don't even have to think about with the iVAC system, which is why we love it. You can set the system and then forget about it and the iVAC will do all the work for you.

How does an Automated Dust Extractor system work?

We have a YouTube video up as well as a display in our Melbourne store, so people can come in and get an idea of how it turns on and turns off.

When you turn on any of your power tools, there's an electrical current that runs through the cord and the Tool Plus receiver picks up that electrical current.

When it picks up the electrical current, it knows that the power tools have been turned on and this is where the beauty of the system comes in. By turning on your power tool, it opens the blast gate and it will also turn on the dust extractor.

Now you've got your blast gate open, you're using your power tool and you finish using your power tool, so you turn the power tool off again.

The blast gate automatically closes and the dust extractor is now turning off. But this is where it gets really smart.

Automatic dust extraction buying guide: Common dust extractor problems

While one of your blast gates closes, another will automatically open. One of the issues that you have with dust extractors is that there always needs to be air flowing through the system.

So the problem is if you have four blast gates and all of them are closed at the same time, there's no air flow going to your dust extractor and that can damage your dust extractor.

The iVAC is smart enough that the first blast gate that you assign in the system when all the other blast gates are closed, will remain open to allow air flow to your dust extractor if any of the other blast gates open up.

The system is smart enough to know that there's a blast gate open and there's air flowing to your dust extractor now. Normally it's set to 50 seconds and that means when you turn your power tool off, the blast gate will remain open for 50 seconds after the power tool has been turned off.

This is allowing the whole ducting to clear out before the blast gate will close again, so you don't get any clogging when you come back to turn your dust extractor back on again.

So, just to recap:

  • You've got the Tool Plus that you hook up to your power tool cord that sends a signal to the controller, then it also sends a signal to the blast gates to open or close as required.
  • You've got covers on the Tool Plus and also the blast gate, that's the way that you program the system to work you've got the controller and with the controller you can set up to four bands.

How many machines can an automatic dust extractor system run?

You can have four controllers in your workshop at any one time and each controller can control up to eight power tools at any one time.

If you're in a small workshop, you set your controller to band. There, you’ll have power tool one, power tool two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight.

If you have more than eight, all you need is a second controller and you set the second controller to be B1, B2 etc all the way up to eight.

Then you can go to band C and band D – D1, D2, etc – all the way through to eight.

This means you can have up to 32 different stations or tools in the one location with automated dust control all the way through your system.

Do I need an automatic dust extraction system?

Automated dust extraction systems are ideal for home workshop users, but systems like iVACs also work perfectly for commercial workshops, TAFEs, schools, men's sheds - anywhere where you've got multiple users that are going around a large workshop environment.

In these sort of workshops, it’s hard to always know whether the dust extractor is turned on or whether you've got somebody who's too busy (or lazy) to walk across the room.

This solves all of those problems - all you need to worry about is turning your power tool on and the dust extraction system will follow your every move.

What are Magnetic Switch Controllers on automatic dust extraction systems?

Magnetic Switch Controllers are the brain of the automatic dust extraction system. With iVAC, they’re called the iVAC Pro.

In the US market, dust extractors normally only have direct contact switches – in other words you plug your dust extractor into the then you plug it into the wall and then the iVAC Pro does the rest.

The problem with direct contact switches is if you ever lose power to the system when you gain power to the system again the system will automatically turn on.

In the Australian and UK markets, most of our extractors are fitted with an NVR or ‘no volt release’ switch. What that then means is that when you lose power to the dust extractor and power is restored to the dust extractor, the dust extractor won't turn back on - which is a great safety feature to have.

Now what iVAC have done, is they've developed the MSC for our markets and what you do is you wire the iVAC Pro into a magnetic NVR which most of the dust extractors in the Australian market are fitted with.

You bypass your old mechanical NVR and you plug your dust extractor directly into the magnetic MVR and then the current is controlled by the by the MSC.

When the signal from the MSC is received, to turn the dust extractor on it tells the switch to activate the dust extractor and vice versa, when you want to turn the dust extractor off, the signal is sent from the MSC and it controls the current flow.

The benefit of this is that when you lose power to the whole system, the MSC and the NVR switch that you see here will be completely reset. This means you need to reset the system and the dust extractor won't turn on automatically.

It may sound like a pain, but it means you've got a system that complies with all the Australian standards and is a completely safe system to install anywhere.

How to keep an industrial dust extractors running with an automatic dust extractor system

One of the issues that you have with industrial dust extractors is you can't turn them on and off all the time. iVAC have already thought about this and you can set the MSC to have a minimum runtime for your dust extractor, so it doesn't damage the motor.

So if you, for instance, are doing a series of test cuts where you're going to be turning the machine on and off, you can set a minimum run time of say five minutes.

Then your dust extractor will run for at least five minutes, which means you can turn your table saw on, do a test cut, turn it off adjust it so on and so forth and it won't damage the motor on your on your dust extractor.

A guide to remote controlled dust extraction

Now of course you don't always want to turn the system on and off by using a power tool.

You can automatically turn the system on and off with the remote, it's a simple case of just pressing on the remote button and your system will boot up and then you can press off again.

This is great if you're ever in a situation where you've got say three or four machines that you don't use frequently and you don't want to go down the path of having to install a range of different stations for those machines.

You can just have that set up in one area with one hose to service that area and you can turn the system on and off remotely.

The iVAC automated dust control system is exclusive to Timbecon in Australia. For more information, you can find the system here.


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