Dust Collection for MDF Dust

Advice on controlling fine dust produced while machining MDF on a CNC. January 14, 2013

What are you using for dust collection with your CNC? I have been cutting a bunch of MDF and the dust and table cleanup is driving me crazy, to the point I am thinking of telling the customer I am not interested.

I have a Disa/Dantherm 7.5 hp dust collector. Is this sufficient? The tech said it was when I bought the CNC, but I am wondering now. Is cleaning the table with compressed air a good idea, or is this fine dust hard on the CNC?

Also, we are left with lots of waste as we are machining door skins. Has anyone tried to chip MDF into sawdust or wood chips for easier disposal?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor M:
I knew of a house door plant that ran MDF panels in their paint grade doors. They only ran the panels at night because all the blow by in their dust system caused people to call the fire department thinking something was wrong. Point being, it is very hard to contain MDF and your dust system must not have near the get and go to pull the fine particles. I am also not a fan of launching dust all over the shop when blowing off the table, but if your system is leaving that much behind, I am not sure what you do. Make sure your bags are clean and get the maximum advantage of the suction you do have. Way back in the day our shop had a small 30hp system that we shut down every day at lunch to shake the bags, it made that much difference.

We use a hog for chipping solid wood edgings and it is 75hp and connected to our 125hp dust system. They make chippers for full size sheets that easily would handle MDF, but you are getting into the next level of infrastructure to handle it.

From contributor Y:
Make a little sweeping routine for your CNC to sweep its own table with the dust boot before you blow off the table. This has cut down on dust in my shop considerably. You can find something to do during the minute or 2 (stickers, edgeband) it takes for it to sweep.

From contributor B:
We just take an 18" push broom and pull it down the table as a quick sweep off when needed. We pull the dust to a central point at the Y0 end of the table where we can roll a trash can below the table edge. Fast and works great. Get a high quality horse hair push broom for better results.

From contributor P:
I went down to Rockler and bought a 4" expandable hose and a handle. The handle fits over the port for the dust shroud. When I need to clean off the spoil board, I take the handle off of the port and vacuum. It works pretty well.

From contributor I:
Post a picture of your dust shroud/boot on your CNC. Sometimes a brush is good for the bottom, other times a vinyl curtain is better. We use both on 2 different Thermwood CNCs. Each CNC has a 3 hp Blue Tornado cyclone system dedicated to it. On dedicated spoilboards it will capture 80-90% and we have a reverse pulse vac head on a 30+ gallon drum to clean the table. And we have a rotating filter system vac on our other CNC that will suck the hair off your arm.

We use a floor brush with wand that we get from local vac dealers to clean the table. Much faster and cleaner than using valuable CNC time to sweep it, in my opinion.

We cut 2 sided MDF core melamine and Baltic birch and have very little dust problem other than human error. Since we are almost always using an up/down shear diamond bit on the MDF melamine and a Vortex 3185 on the BB, it is difficult to ever get a 100% dust/chip free toolpath if you are moving along at 700IPM or more.

I would love to put a small tube that would direct a blast of air at the bit, but the ATC makes it difficult to secure it. It could be done, if I made the time. There is one tool called Aero something and it creates its own little vacuum, but it is expensive. Almost everyone that has it says it is great.