All you need to know about fume extraction in the workplace

Fume extraction in the workplace can often be an area that is overlooked, even in large production facilities where there is lots of air ventilation. This guide to fume extraction systems will help you fully understand the benefits of fume extraction, the types of fume equipment, and the potential hazards of toxic particles in the working environment. Those particles that are being generated pollute the air inside, leading to health and safety hazards, including human inhalation, and potentially damaging any expensive equipment. Fume extraction systems are a logical solution to this problem. 

Why do you need fume extraction?  

Fume extraction systems are used to filter and extract toxic particles and dust in the workplace. Most companies will be under strict health and safety guidelines from their governing bodies to implement such systems. A fume extractor is like an air filter that sucks in contaminated air within the environment and then returns the clean air which passes through a filter. After the filtration, all the toxic and dust particles are then trapped within the filter. Fume extraction is typically used in the following applications:  

  • Soldering/Rework – applications can produce harmful particles and gases  
  • Lead-free alloys – flux fumes require ventilation  
  • Laser – etching and engraving can produce harmful VOC compounds  
  • MEK/Acetone/Formaldehyde – chemical compositions should not be inhaled  

Types of applications that require fume extraction  

Soldering/Rework: Over the last 10 years or so, we have significantly been moving away from lead soldering and opting for friendlier lead-free soldering; however, this creates more fumes. The temperature needed to create a good solder joint using lead-free solder is much higher, causing a stronger reaction to the flux, creating more solder smoke with a greater number of toxic particles.  

Sometimes there can be a big misconception that lead-free solder is a much healthier eco-friendly option for soldering, but as stated before it is completely the opposite despite having no lead. Whilst it is better for the environment, it is much worse for the operator.  

Lead-free soldering produces up to 250% more particles between 0.5-1 micron in diameter, the size which is most dangerous to inhale. Additionally, to these particles, solder smoke can contain isocyanates, aldehydes, and other nasty substances. Would you really want to be breathing all this?

Laser Engraving and Marking: Large industrial lasers can also generate harmful fumes when using several materials in the manufacturing process. These fumes are known collectively as Laser Generated Air Contaminants (LGACs). LGACs commonly fall into two categories: particles and gases. Whether the application is cutting, engraving, or marking, the laser catalyses the material, and volatile organic compound (VOC) gases are formed as the material melts or burns. Because these gases are toxic and could spread quickly, these fumes must be removed. Most laser systems these days will be supplied with or have their own proprietary fume extraction system.  

When using plastic such as Polyethylene, it produces formaldehyde and is a noxious VOC and known carcinogen. It can cause asthma attacks and allergies and some rare cases of cancer.  

Materials such as ceramics, glass and wood release microscopic particles that may irritate the lungs, skin, nose, and eyes.  

Chemical Cleaning / Etching: Acetone, MEK, sulfuric acids, and silicone-based conformal coatings and even certain types of paint can be respiratory irritants. Formaldehyde found in flooring and some building materials is a known carcinogen and is one of a few chemicals that can be measured for pollutants.  

What do filters do?  

Fume extraction filters come in three distinct stages of a filtration system. After hazardous substances get captured by the filter system, it enters the first filter stage, which is where large particles become trapped in the medium or fine dust particles using a pre-filter. The air then moves onto stage two filters, where much smaller particles become trapped in an EPA or HEPA particle filter. The final stage three filter is for gases, removing gases, odours, adhesive and solvent fumes. The result of a 3-stage tier system is that clean air is recirculated back into the workplace, free of any toxins or harmful particles.  

Depending on the workplace and the type of application, you will need to select a fume extraction system to suit; not all applicants will require a 3-stage filtration system.

How to choose the right filter  

All sorts of solvents and chemicals will always be supplied with an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) sheet and should always be read. A MSDS is a document that lusts all information relating to that material’s health and safety. Mostly they will list all the chemical compounds found within the material and offer guidance on usage and handling. In some countries where we use hazardous substances within the workplace, an employer must legally provide the employee with information, instruction and, in some cases, training where employees may be exposed to substances. This would be a challenging task without the use of an MSDS.  

Choosing the right filter should always start with the MSDS; it will have all the information listed to indicate the type of particles in the workplace after use. 

Volume extraction vs Tip extraction  

There are two types of fume extraction systems: 
Volume extraction and tip extraction. Volume extraction is best where coverage over a wide area is required, such as the following applications:  

  • Hand soldering  
  • Soldering machines, robotics, or solder baths  
  • Adhesive and chemical  
  • Microscopic solder  
  • Cleaning room  

Weller Volume Extraction

Zero Smog TL Kit 1 with Funnel Nozzle

Volume extraction unit for up to 1 workplace. Low noise, portable, easy filter replacement, quick and simple installation.

Zero Smog TL Kit 2 with Funnel Nozzle

Volume extraction unit for up to 2 workplaces. Low noise, portable, easy filter replacement, quick and simple installation.

Zero Smog EL Kit 1 with Funnel

Volume extraction unit for up to 2 workplaces. Maximum turbine extraction rate of 150m/h, an ideal filtration solution for light duty volume extraction applications.

Zero Smog TL Kit 1 with Funnel and free filter set

Volume extraction unit for up to 2 workplaces. Low noise, portable, easy filter replacement, quick and simple installation.

Tip extraction is used to extract fumes right at the source; this is typically used for home or light industrial use where there are far few toxic fumes being produced. Tip extraction is used in the following application:  

  • Hand soldering  
  • Rework  
  • Robotic  
  • Microscopic  

Tip Extraction

F12 Weller Filter System

Filter unit with two inlets for two soldering irons. High-vacuum system driven by compressed air.

FE4000 Weller Filter System

Line voltage fume extraction unit designed to run with one or two soldering irons. Does not require a compressed air supply.

Types of fume extraction systems  

Portable – these extractors can easily be transported where needed due to the set of wheels mounted at the bottom.  

Benchtop – the most common type of system for most hobbyists and individual use  

RND Solder fume extractor with active coal filter

Built-in high efficiency, low noise, brushless mini fan. Easy to replace carbon filter that absorbs noxious flux and lead fumes.

RND Solder fume extractor

Built-in high efficiency, low noise, brushless mini fan. Easy to replace carbon filter that absorbs noxious flux and lead fumes.

Enclosed extractors – this type of extraction system is integrated into the work area itself. They can also be mounted on shelves just above the work area or anywhere else.  

Wall-mounted extractors –  as the name suggests, are mounted on the wall, usually just above the work area where the fume extraction takes place. They can also be moved around slightly from side to side.  

Stand-mounted – the extractors for this type of system are mounted to the floor on a stand. In most cases, they are permanently attached to the ground; otherwise, they can also be moved around from time to time.  


Efficient fume extraction systems will create a healthy workplace whilst keeping the workers safe from harmful substances in the air. Do not forget to make full use of the MSDS; this should be your first port of call when looking at fume extraction systems and informing your employees of the types of substances they may encounter. The type of extraction should be based on your application use and environment you work in. 

Previous Post

The Rise of the QR Code

Next Post

How technology is impacting healthcare

Related Posts