Take Control of Your Noise

See how one company used insulated curtain walls to reduce noise levels by 20%.

Take Control of Your Noise

Case Study: Auto parts recycler uses the soundproofing Zoneworks acoustic curtain wall system to enclose heavy-duty grinder at processing operation, reduces noise level by 20 percent.

Employee safety and comfort is paramount for one of the nation's largest automobile parts recycling companies as is the need to keep a lid on costs wherever possible which is why the company recently used a Zoneworks insulated curtain wall system to enclose an all-too-noisy grinder at its Midwest recycling operation. The new enclosure has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in noise, creating a more comfortable and productive work environment as employees grind their way toward continued success.

Noise level deemed unacceptable

At the company's recycling operation, employees began grinding plastic bumpers inside a stand-alone, 9,000-square-foot facility called the grind house. Noise became an immediate issue that needed to be addressed.

The noise was caused by a heavy-duty grinder, which runs virtually non-stop five days per week. An employee continually feeds the grinder during each eight-hour shift while employees nearby strip the bumpers. Grinder noise was greatly amplified by the expansiveness and 18-foot-tall ceilings of the room where the grinder operates. To initially protect against grinder noise, which was recorded at 120 decibels (dB), people at the facility wore both earplugs and earmuffs. Although the ear protection was considered safe, verbal communication between employees inside the facility was virtually impossible with the grinder running.

The company's initial plan for noise reduction was to build a permanent wall around the grinder. Before starting the project, however, the company decided to explore other options for keeping noise to a manageable level hoping to avoid the high costs and delays associated with the construction of permanent walls.

Zoneworks curtain walls form sound-dampening enclosure

The company turned to Zoneworks for a solution. The local industry specialist recommended the company forego a permanent wall and instead enclose the grinder with a flexible Zoneworks reconfigurable fabric wall system.

Soon after, the company chose to tackle the noise issue with Zoneworks' SZ2 Insulated Curtain Walls. The SZ2 curtain wall is a sister product to Zoneworks' SZ Acoustic Curtain Walls, which deliver the highest level of noise protection in the company's product line.

Zoneworks' walls can be configured to fit virtually any interior space and don't require anywhere near the time it takes to build permanent walls. Each SZ2 curtain is constructed of durable, fire-retardant industrial fabric surrounding multiple layers of recyclable, anti-microbial polyester batting. Individual five-foot wide fabric panels of virtually any length are interconnected with hook and loop fasteners to form each continuous wall.

Employees of the auto recycling company installed the sound-dampening wall system around the grinder, which sits against a back wall in one corner of the facility. Two of the fabric curtain walls run the length of the grinder from front to back. They are attached to a concrete wall at the back of the grinder with screws and polyester nailing flaps. At the front-end of the grinder, Hook and loop fasteners secure the front of the enclosure to the two sides. The front wall also has an opening where bumpers are fed into the machine. Hook and loop fasteners tightly seal the cutout that serves as the grinder opening.

At the top of each wall, the Zoneworks curtains are attached to angle iron previously built above all three sides of the grinder. The weight of the curtains holds the bottom in place on all sides. Inside the enclosure, a 10-inch-diameter metal conduit routes the plastic chips from the side of the grinder to a hopper located outside the building.

Although new to the installation of fabric walls, three grind house employees installed the flexible enclosure in just over three days. To check the grinder for maintenance, employees simply pull back a part of the wall where it's attached with hook and loop fasteners to gain access.

Noise level reduced by 20 percent

With the fabric walls in place, the grinder is completely enclosed. Subsequent tests showed the sound level inside the grind house dropped from 120 dB to 96 dB, representing a 20 percent reduction in noise.

With grinder noise under control, employees working in the facility only need to wear earplugs and can more easily communicate with each other. Reduced noise also makes it easier for employees to concentrate, which serves to further the bumper recycling group's reputation for achieving a high level of productivity.

Above all, the Zoneworks curtain wall system creates an even safer environment for employees as they strive to meet the rising demand for the company's aftermarket bumpers. Company officials say there is little question they will take a close look at Zoneworks curtain walls as a cost-effective alternative to permanent walls for any number of environmental control needs at their facilities throughout North America.

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