META INTERNATIONAL: Eradicating Dust Dangers

/Report by Greg Niederhaus Next year marks four full decades of innovative production for META INTERNATIONAL, as they continue to pump out machinery for woodworking. The company specializes mainly in sanding and anti pollution technology; though initially their craft was the production of custom molds and dies for heavy duty presses. Some of the fifteen engineers running the R&D department actually developed their skills with META in that particularly tricky realm, and now apply their years of hands-on wisdom to the OEM and ODM development of solutions for major machinery suppliers across the world. Over the years META has accumulated numerous patents in Taiwan, the USA, Germany, Canada and the UK. We will look more closely at some of the innovations that META has come up with a little later. Quality, Quality, Quality This is the slogan at META. When asked about the Q.C. system in the factory, president of the company Mr. James Lin said, "In many factories the workers are worried about meeting their output quotas, so they let tiny little flaws slip by. Not at META. We have zero tolerance for flaws." This is why META's extraction systems rank among top suppliers in the world, and actually surpass the performance requirements of TÜV CE, CSA and OSHA. Yet while the company offers a comprehensive assortment of extractors ranging from portable 1 hp models for woodworkers on the go to heavy duty industrial multi - stage cyclone units with 25 hp of muscle, there is more. Downdraft tables, air filters and all the accessories, an impressive line of oscillating belt sanders with sanding drums, copy shapers and mobile table saw bases are available. Striking a Balance Later the company delved into the production of sanding equipment. Horizontal & vertical stroke sanders, belt and disc sanders, oscillating edge belt sanders, spindle sanders and various combinations of these in a single unit are among their arsenal. We actually got our hands on the machines and they proved to be a woodworker's dream to operate. The flexibility and ergonomics of the stroke sander promised to yield works of magic, and the combination of grunt, precision and versatility of the oscillating edge/ drum sander proved it to be a machine packed with solutions. One could say that META became expert at creating dust, yet it's that very thing that gets in the way of producing increasingly precise machinery. So naturally, the aim broadened towards striking a balance, and META set its sights on how to deal with dust. Dangers of Dust For woodworkers, one of the best parts of the job can be the scents that different wood species emit. Unfortunately, the smell of the wood is the very thing that can kill us. Made aware of the hazards that come with wood dust, most would probably cringe to reflect on the different species that they've inhaled over the years. If natural wood dust is carcinogenic, consider the ramifications of composites like MDF or other chemically treated artificial wood substitutes. OSHA takes this reality very seriously. It states plainly on its web site, "Exposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects, including dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer. The respiratory effects of wood dust exposure include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chronic bronchitis." Apparently wood dust is like asbestos, in that the lungs have no way to get rid of it. Being that for many shops, clearing up dust is done by blowing it into the corner with compressed air and scooping it into the bin, there are a lot of guys out there that are cutting their careers short. META makes it their business to eradicate the dangers. Liang Shao, Yang Duo The common question on the table these days is how to recover from recent global financial woes. What META saw as the answer years ago is what many companies are begrudgingly embracing now. In Mandarin the phrase goes "Liang shao, yang duo." Small batch wide variety production capacity is what is needed. "If you make your machines the same way as all the others, the only thing that will get you orders is having the lowest prices," says sales manager Harris Lin. "What we focus on more these days are the individual needs of our various clients, and how to design machines that make their brands unique. "With over 40 skilled workers busy in the factory and 15 engineers putting their heads together, META has the capacity to do just this. One example is a main component in the extractor systems namely, impellers. Different motors, be they squirrel cage, carbon brush or induction react to different fan configurations differently. One client required a special fan for a particular set up, and META's R&D team went to work. When they finally came up with the perfect impeller, in its wake was a stack of trial versions two stories tall waiting to be recycled. That's an example of the company's dedication. Filtering Way Beyond Safety Standards Respirable particles are defined as being less than 3 microns in diameter. In the United States, safety standards require that industry filters airborne particles down to 2 microns, and in Europe the standard is even stricter. META decided to outperform this parameter and go smaller, much smaller. The canister filters it employs free workplace air of particles as miniscule as 0.3 microns. This is one reason the company is certified with so many safety standard organizations. A typical problem with air filtration is that the efficacy of pleated filters dwindles with dust build up. More surface area provides better filtration, but as it gets caked in between the pleats, the build-up strains the motor and can bog down CFM, while eventually forcing dangerous particles through. It's not just dangerous; it can be costly. META's answer to this is a mechanical centrifugal system. A 120 degree turn of the patented hand wheel at the start of the day knocks debris from within the hard to reach crannies and lets each extraction session start off fresh, as if it were fit with a new pleated filter canister each time. Both airflow and efficiency are kept at maximum. The dust ends up in a disposable bag for quick disposal. Priority: Customization While most of the competition across the Straights fashion their machines after what others are already producing, META looks to the client for innovative inspiration. After all, they are the ones in direct contact with the end user. One example resulting from this angle are edge sanders that tilt 0 to 90 degrees for both edge and horizontal sanding. Another was a special anti - pollution system for a factory specialized in CNC milling of graphite. The dust resulting is a very light substance similar to lime powder. META engineered a one of a kind 3 stage cyclone. The first two use centrifugal force and the third incorporates a triple layered filter. They came in under budget and passed the savings on to the client. To this day, that client is completely satisfied. There's also a long list of custom designed details be they special adjustment handles, more aesthetic designs, mechanical disc brakes or contour drums mountable on idle rollers, all of which came about via customer request. Orders are on the rise for META INTERNATIONAL this year. They are revamping production with state of the art welding, lathing and milling equipment. As they look at new markets and meet new needs, META's niche in the woodworking sector (as well as other industries) is growing steady.
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