Dear Joe,
We are running an overhead monorail and have two banks of overhead lights in our inspection area. We have tried using a bank of vertical lights, but I am looking to get the best overall lighting setup for a variety of part shapes and configurations.

Dear Joe,

We are running an overhead monorail and have two banks of overhead lights in our inspection area. We have tried using a bank of vertical lights, but I am looking to get the best overall lighting setup for a variety of part shapes and configurations. I am also concerned about the heat generated from the lights for our employees. I tried searching online for light tunnels and inspection lighting but haven't come up with anything. Can you point me to any good websites or articles?

Joy Manning, Grand Rapids, MI

Dear Joy,

I have seen really good inspection areas at a number of manufacturers; the best areas use a multitude of lamps. When a high density of light is needed (measured in lumens) without significant heat generation, most people choose fluorescent lamps. They are relatively energy-efficient and come in a variety of colors ranging from warm or neutral to cool or daylight. The lighting typical for the environment in which your product is used will dictate which color is best for your inspection area. (Daylight would probably be best for an automotive trim application.) McMaster Carr provides a good explanation of its fluorescent lamps on page 632 of its online catalog, located at www.mcmaster.com. GE also has an informative website for calculating commercial lighting needs, located at www.gelighting.com/na/business_lighting/education_resources/tools_software/toolkit/.

As for finding a light tunnel to exactly fit your needs, I would rely on your local maintenance people or fabrication shop instead of an off-the-shelf solution. Your inspection area is probably unique in design and dimensions and will be best served with a custom lighting system. I would calculate the number of lumens you need to deliver to the part surfaces and then determine how many lamps will deliver this amount of light. The distance of the light to the part will also impact how many lamps are needed. The lamps should be close enough to provide the required amount of light, but far enough away to be unobtrusive.

Good luck, and let me know how things turn out.

Dear Joe,

I work for a company that staffs employees for an industrial plant that coats automotive parts using e-coat, and I am wondering what effects this process might have on pregnancy. The plant has a lot of black dust on the ground, boxes and anything else lying around. You can definitely smell an odor from the paint as well. I am actually only in the plant for up to an hour per day, so I don't know whether that is long enough for me to be concerned. I am not currently pregnant, but I would like to know of any possible risks beforehand. No one in the plant wears any type of mask or breathing device, so I am assuming this isn't an issue, but I would feel much better with a final answer. I have tried several other means to figure this out, but have constantly come to a roadblock. Can you help?

A Concerned Employee

Dear Concerned,

It's wise to ask questions about exposure to industrial materials, especially if you are in your childbearing years. Industrial suppliers have a system to notify their customers of the handling requirements of their materials. The lynchpin of this system is the material safety data sheet (MSDS). A well written MSDS will contain a wealth of safety and environmental information, including hazardous components, personal protective equipment recommendations, possible decompostion products, exposure limits and disposal strictures.

All suppliers must provide MSDSs to their customers for any materials purchased. Most companies have a specific person who keeps the MSDSs on file. By law these documents are to be available to all employees. You should determine who keeps these on file and ask to review the ones pertaining to the materials currently being used in your plant, preferably with a safety professional.

Ask Joe Powder is a regular feature of Finishing Today magazine. Please send your questions toaskjoepowder@yahoo.com.