Acoustic Enclosures & Barriers for Industrial Equipment
Australia has many blessings and one is space. Thanks to this space, noise-producing industries such as mining and manufacturing rarely contend with the same levels of protest and planning objections they would face in more densely populated parts of the world, such as Europe. Most controversies here revolve around highways and traffic schemes rather than mining, industrial or service industries.
Nevertheless, noise is a non-trivial concern. According to research reported by the Australian Academy of Science, environmental noise is clearly linked to a whole range of health disorders, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment of children, stress disorders and tinnitus. The World Health Organization now ranks noise pollution second only to air pollution, pointing out that air pollution is declining while urban noise is rising. This is a growing problem for businesses that need to be close to the centres of population they serve.
Noise is not a simple matter, even to measure. Managing the effects on the external environment should consider local terrain and prevailing weather conditions, affecting it unpredictably, focusing different frequencies in different areas. A combination of reflections, reverberations and resonances can actually amplify it further from its source. That is a recipe for conflict with neighbours and local communities, while posing additional hazards for the company’s own workforce. It’s estimated that approximately 30% of the Australian workforce are likely exposed to loud noise at work.
One option is direct modification of machinery components, and occasionally there are pre-designed alternatives or add-ons available off-the-shelf. These are not generally of high enough acoustic performance to treat a significant noise issue. A typical scenario, unfortunately, is for a gradually expanding enterprise to reach the point when further noise is unacceptable – but reducing it would require extensive mitigation and impact the entire production capacity.
Another way to control noise at source is to construct an enclosure over the offending noise source. Acoustic enclosures can be designed and engineered in a wide scope of sizes and solutions. Designing effective enclosures around compressors, generators, turbines, engines and pumping equipment is complicated by the necessity of providing access, ventilation, cooling, feed lines, fuel and other ancillaries. These types of solutions are complex integrated systems requiring in depth design, engineering, manufacturing and acoustic experience – something IAC Acoustics Australia is able to offer with over 70 years plus of experience in this sector.
Providing employees and visitors with PPE such as earplugs or noise-cancelling ear muffs is sensible but can be limited in effectiveness and does not address the working environment. It also won’t do anything to shield the local neighbourhood. For that, the most cost-effective solution for external noise sources is usually an acoustic barrier. These can be purpose-designed for the specific problem and its acoustic environment – IAC Acoustics has a range of standard configurations, minimising costs.
Considering your outlay in materials and labour, it is never wise to embark blindly on implementing acoustic enclosures or barriers without knowing the likely ROI. Instead, it is worth starting by engaging an acoustic consultant to survey the problem, or preferably involve them in plant designs and expansion plans at the outset. Planning noise control measures and their installation is always likely to be substantially more cost-effective than trying to remediate problem equipment later.
That doesn’t mean that acoustic action plans have to entail long and expensive surveys followed by delays caused by development processes. On the contrary, skilled acoustic engineers will certainly shorten your development, deployment and adjustment timelines. Dispensing with the expertise you need to develop and deploy the most effective solution almost always leads to performance compromises and eventually to higher costs and greater long-term difficulties.
Appointing experienced acoustic engineers such as IAC Acoustics is the way to minimise costs and avoid potentially irremediable future obstacles to growth and legal issues, with bodies such as the EPA. With roots in the noise control industry stretching back decades, all that experience has gone into developing high-performance acoustic products such as highly effective Noise-Lock® panels and Moduline® acoustic enclosures. The design of these products is deliberately modular so that they are straightforward to size up or down for almost any kind of enclosure and building configuration, and of course, greatly accelerate deployment of the solution.
Noise-Lock® acoustic windows and doors interface with Noise-lock panels to ensure maximum overall acoustic performance. Similarly, they easily accommodate IAC Acoustics Quiet-Duct® and Conic-Flow® silencers and attenuators that solve problems with associated ventilation systems. By fitting all of these products as a combined solution, you can guarantee the optimal acoustic integrity of your problem facility or of an entire plant.
When your site is already operational, IAC Acoustics design team can swiftly provide Solidworks or AutoCAD modelling services to minimise deployment time and eliminate onsite integration and deployment problems, which of course ensures that the overall cost of your project is always minimised.
Modularity makes it far simpler to adjust your solution either in shape or in scale. For example, an IAC Acoustics Moduline® system makes it simple to take down and move a complete enclosure, or to modify it for new equipment, or to extend it when the scale of your operations needs to expand. It can also be moved or re-configured in response to new demands imposed by the surrounding environment or noise source and subsequently reassembled without any loss of its acoustic performance.
Typically, one of these “standard” products from IAC Acoustics can be expected to provide a noise reduction performance in the range of 40-70dB but we can also offer a bespoke service to design and supply panels and other products with higher performance when demanded by a more exacting situation or specialist application. The walls of an enclosure or panel can be single or double skin in construction, and fitted with acoustically engineered access doors and acoustically shielded windows, or with acoustic louvres where open ventilation is essential. The right combination of compatible products provides you with a complete envelope for your sound control problem that guarantees your ability to achieve a consistent and certifiable level of acoustic performance.
While reducing the noise generated in the first place, or containing it at source are usually the best solutions, there will still be circumstances in which protecting the operators is either a cost-effective alternative or a necessary addition within the overall plan of action.
Data centres provide a good example because their operators must often work within open-plan environments that are constantly high-volume due to the cumulative noise of server fans, clicking disk arrays, whistling air vents and whining generators. It is impractical to deal with a distributed noise problem of this kind by attempting to contain each individual noise contribution at its source, but to comply with health and safety legislation the personnel still have to be protected.
While ear protectors contribute some benefit, in these circumstances, personnel noise shelters offer the best solution. They not only provide effective reduction in noise while operators are performing duties that don’t require hands-on contact with the equipment, but also provide a space wherein they can communicate effectively with each other – often impossible out on the floor. The result is not only the protection of the worker from hearing loss, but also an improvement in their productivity.
Similar principles can be applied to the manufacturing and assembly sectors – shielded control booths are often needed for operators of particular pieces of machinery or at particular locations on manufacturing or assembly production lines. Larger shielded spaces or noise oasis, can provide safe places for employees and managers to confer or take essential rest periods, or to accommodate central control rooms.
As with other products, IAC Acoustics Noise Shelters and Sound Havens are modular and designed to comply with all H&S and fire regulations without further modification needed onsite.
Laboratory Tested Performance Ratings
A significant advantage of IAC Acoustics Moduline® panels and other patented components is that they have been laboratory tested in advance and certified to guarantee their published performance. Some of the standard tests include assessment of their Sound Transmission Class (STC) and Transmission Loss (TL) – which relate to their overall sound reducing ability and also assessment of their Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) and Sound Absorption Coefficient (α) which assess the sound absorption provided by their construction materials.
These scientific measures provide reassurance to architects, field engineers, H&S inspectors, union representatives and of course the end-users that the right degree of noise mitigation will be achieved.
Ad-hoc on-site modifications are always likely to degrade the performance of a noise solution, and it is therefore an enormous advantage to accommodate all of the customer’s access, service and maintenance requirements into the detailed design before the products are delivered. Pre-planning and modularity are the way to guarantee a superior enclosure.
Acoustic enclosures are also available in a wide range of finishes and the customer’s livery and branding can be applied on request – so even the cosmetics can be perfect before your products arrive.
Even though every customer’s noise problems are unique, tried and tested modular solutions such as IAC Acoustics Moduline® panels, installed by highly experienced engineers, are the way to achieve the solution you need.
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