Controlling dust is a circumstantial business – there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. The dust extractor used by a one-man trade operation is bound to be different from that used by an industrial user. Step forward the DC Tromb 400 from Dustcontrol UK. Compared to the normal portable vacuums I use on site, it is a monster, weighing in at about 50Kgs all up. It stands over 1.5 m tall on its huge back puncture-proof wheels, and the rear handle is definitely needed to trundle it around. That being said, it is quite a controllable monster. I made a point of wheeling it about to photograph it, and when I was using it to clean up some ready-prepared detritus. One person can move it and control it easily, and the braked front wheels allow it to be held stationary when needed. Even moving up and down stairs, the DC Tromb 400 is easily a one-person job, and it will fit comfortably through a standard-sized doorframe.
The intended end users for this machine are definitely at the more dangerous silica-dust-based top-end of the market – think floor grinders and concrete grinders – where near perfect dust extraction is not only desirable, but necessary. The DC Tromb 400 will cope with the dust from a floor grinder, with a working width of 500mm or a large electric cut-off saw.
To cope with these dangerous dusts the machine has to be enormously powerful, with suction enough to whip away the dust particles, as well as having the ancillary features to protect users from leakage etc. The joints in hoses, dust gates and so on need to be perfect. The 115-volt DC Tromb 400 I was loaned has a 2680W motor that is remarkably quiet in operation – a mere 70dB(A) – quieter than some small portable machines I have used.
The flow rate of air through the 75mm diameter inlet is 330m3/hr - that's enough to give you a bit of pause for thought if you hold your hand over the end! How to explain a big love bite on your hand?
The next big item to consider is the corrugated anti-static hose that is sometimes overlooked in terms of importance, but is, in fact, key to the overall performance of the machine. With an outside diameter of 60mm it is wide enough to pull in the quite large pieces of debris that might be generated when cleaning up around concrete cutting or grinding sites, or most likely when cleaning up on a general building site. The machine end of the hose has a generous rubber fitting that can be pushed far onto the inlet spout so that the dust and air seal is perfect. At the other end is a ribbed spout that will not only fit the cleaning head supplied, but a range of other accessories too. The hose is quite heavy because it is heavy duty and resists kinking and even the odd clumsy foot that stands on it. But it is very flexible and stretchy to reach into quite small gaps.
We are quite used to the common use of plastic to make the body of many small dust extraction machines, but the DC Tromb 400 is solidly made from welded sheet steel with a tubular steel frame to support it. It looks as though the whole machine would be able to take a few knocks and still be able to function, and since this could be a hire machine, it needs to be solidly built to be ‘hire-proof’.
Ease of use is a big factor in making effective use of dust extraction. It is no use collecting all the dust and then raising even more dust as you attempt to empty the machine. The variant of the Tromb 400 I used has a simple and effective system of emptying the dust bag. Debris and dust is collected into what looks like a clear plastic shopping bag with handles. To remove the bag, a tight strap around the base of the machine needs to be loosened and the bag released and tied-off for safety. The new bag can be eased on and the handles hung over the small hooks on each side of the base. The strap is then pulled tight against a rubber sealing ring on the body to ensure a dust-free seal.
For collecting wood dust and shavings and concrete dust, Dustcontrol recommends a pre-separator that not only allows much larger amounts of dust and chippings to be collected, but also protects the filters from clogging with fine dust, thus extending their service life.
There are other variants that can be used to optimise the dust collection and ease of use of the Dustcontrol range of machines, so potential clients need to ask which ones are available.
Accessing the filters is easy - simply unclip the top of the main body and the round hepa filter can be removed, revealing the conical main filter underneath. Such is the quality of filter protection on the Tromb, the hepa filter looked clean despite being a well-used demo machine. One of the factors in maintaining a dust extractor is how often the expensive filters need to be replaced, and it is a fact that Dustcontrol can save you money – for example, the average life of one of its hepa filters is around 12 months. Filter cleaning is also helped by the semi-automatic cleaning system provided – simple to use and very quick – and it means that there is no messy and potentially unsafe filter cleaning required onsite.
The thing that most first time users will notice is that the DC Tromb 400 has amazing suction power. I am willing to bet that if you attached the heavy-duty floor cleaning attachment and ran it down the average garden path you would collect a lot more than you bargained for – even down to pebbles and stones upwards of 25mm in size. I managed to create a dust-free concrete floor in my workshop with a couple of passes of the rugged cast alloy head cleaning tool, and it would be the same when cleaning up the floor on a building site. The cyclone-based suction and filtration provided by its class H extraction rating puts it into the top range of safe dust collection, and end users should consider this when purchasing – better to go to the top than to end up having to repurchase as needs change. The cyclone system also means that suction power remains consistent for longer. All portable Dustcontrol UK machines are H class rated – it might make choice easier?
So, I still think that the DC Tromb 400 is a monster compared to some of the machines I have used, but it is a well-mannered monster that is easy to move around, has phenomenal suction performance, and, with its H class rating, will remove dangerous silica dust from the worksite. For your own lung safety it should be on your shortlist.
Aimed at: Professionals who need excellent dust control and collection.
Pros: H Class as standard, and robust construction for a long working life.