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A Practical Guide to Dental Lab Suction Design

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While there are many aspects to designing an efficient dental lab, proper suction design for dust collection is often overlooked. Keeping your work stations and lab area clean are extremely important and without adequate dust collection, your lab can quickly become a dusty mess.

This guide will provide insights on how to choose the best suction design setup for your lab.

How to choose the ideal dust collector for your lab or work area?

There are a few key starting points when it comes to designing proper dental lab suction.  At the core is the dust collector itself.  There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing the ideal unit for your lab, however, your choice can be easily narrowed by answering following questions.

How many dental lab workstations require active suction at once?

For any properly plumbed suction system, one of the most important factors is how many workstations will be running at once.  The more workstations that require active suction, the more power you’ll need from the dust collector.

Keep in mind that the number of at once or active stations is not the same as the total number of stations. The reason this is important is because with proper valve setup, you can lower your costs and need for additional dust collection units.

Since this guide is focused on larger setups, we’ll assume your best option will be a multi-station or centralized dust collector.  Centralized dust collectors are engineered to provide optimal suction for multiple work-stations and when setup properly, offer the best per-station value.

For example, the Vaniman V-Six can power up to six active work stations at once or even 3-4 dental mills making it great for many lab setups out there.

What type of material will be collected?

Most centralized and multi-station dust collection units can handle just about any material as they generally have HEPA filtration. There is one exception to this; Zirconia.

Zirconia is not only extremely hazardous to your health but also extremely difficult to collect. This is primarily due to the particle structure of the dust itself.  Zirconia in particular is extremely fine and due to this reason a dental mill should get enough suction for one and half or even two stations to properly collect the material.

Selecting the proper valves

Now that you have an idea of how many and what kind of dust collector you’ll need your next step to be determine which valves are best for your workstations.  To ensure the system stay sealed, you’ll need valves to open and close the suction flow to each of the workstations. If you don’t use valves, you essentially have a leak in your system which will kill off the available suction to all the other workstations.

There are primarily two types of valves you can use at each workstation.

Manual Valves

Just like the name implies manual valves require the technician to manually operate the valve to open and close suction to that particular station.

You can often find manual valves as an add-on feature for certain workstation accessories or you can even make them yourself if you’re looking to cut your costs even further.  These valves are often inexpensive regardless of where you get them.

The key drawback to manual valves is that they do not power on the dust collector.  This could be an issue if the power switch for your dust collector is in another room or far away from the station itself.

Smart Valves

Smart valves act to open and close suction to each workstation but also have the added benefit of turning the dust collector on and off.  This is quite useful with multiple people working at once or if you have your stations spread across different rooms.

The Vaniman smart system of valves uses a pneumatic mechanism to adequately open and close suction to each area.

The only drawback to using a smart valve is the additional air lines you’ll need to connect to the system. Other than that, it’s a simple flick of the switch to open suction to that station and turn the dust collector on all at once.

Optimizing suction air flow and pipe selection

It may seem counter-intuitive but flow is a major concern when designed a proper suction system.  Use too small of a pipe to your workstations and your suction will be limited (think of using a stir-straw to sip on a milk-shake), go too big and the farthest stations from the dust collector won’t get and power.

This is often an issue with many labs as you’ll find some work-stations not getting enough suction when other station are open and other suction related issues.

The goal should be to provide an equal amount of suction to each station regardless of which or how many stations are in use.

Take for example, a six station setup with all the stations next to each in a line. If you run the same size trunk line (the main supply pipe) and “T” off to each station using the same sized piping, station six will receive a large majority of the suction while station number one–all the way at the end will be left with little to no suction.

The answer here isn’t to get a bigger dust collector, it’s simply to neck-down your pipes in the right areas so the suction can be equally distributed.

Let’s take a look at this same six station setup.  If we decrease our trunk line from 3″ to 2.5″ after station 2 then again down to 2″ after station 4 we’ll be able to equally distribute the suction better since the stations further away from the dust collector use smaller piping which balances out the air flow in the system.

Of course each dental lab will have its own unique design and approach but the concept is the same- maintain a proper balance throughout the system.

It’s important to note that the bench design you choose will also play a big role in plumbing your system.  Benches or workstations that are able to have modifications are usually best and offer you flexibility when setting up equipment.

Need more help?

If you’re in need of lab suction design ask your rep to use the Vaniman Design Center.  We offer this free design service where one of our staff will help you design your lab suction system and provide you with detailed diagrams and descriptions of everything you’ll need to complete your custom setup.

Simple reach out to your rep or visit our Design Center page  for more info.

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