Hats off to HVAC&R

Next time someone asks for an example of HVAC&R in our lives, you can now point to an Australian icon – the Akubra hat.

Akubra recently installed a JetSpray humidification system from Condair to humidify its forming area. This contributes to the finish on the rabbit fur felt during the manufacturing process, and helps ensure the long-lasting quality for which the the Akubra brand is renowned.

“The key to hat making is forming the cone, and this is done in the forming machine,” says Akubra’s General Manager Operations, Ron Palin. “Here, the fur is sucked onto a large revolving cone and, as it rotates, hot water is sprayed onto the fur. This interlocks the fibres in each direction. It is critical to maintain the relative humidity at 70 per cent in the forming room to prevent any imperfections in the felt during this process, faults which will only show up later in the finishing process stages.

“The Condair JetSpray is maintaining the ideal humidity in Akubra’s forming room. This significantly reduces imperfections in the felt, helping to deliver the highest efficiency and quality throughout the hat-making process.”

Akubra engaged Condair to design and supply a low-energy humidification system for installation in the large forming room area. This had to be undertaken with limited disruption to manufacturing and while maintaining the ideal humidity of 70 per cent RH. Condair was chosen because of its proven track record of supplying large industrial humidification projects in Australia and worldwide.

The Condair JetSpray system was selected and installed at the manufacturing plant in Kempsey, NSW. This incorporates 18 nozzles, each capable of introducing 3.5L of moisture per hour into the atmosphere.

A wall-mounted JetSpray control panel regulates a supply of compressed air and water, which is provided to the nozzle lines. Each nozzle combines the air and water to release extremely fine aerosols, with droplet sizes of just 7.5 microns, which rapidly evaporate into the air. The compressed air prevents any possibility of drips from the nozzles and makes the spray highly directional, thus preventing wetting on machinery, walls or the floor.

Akubra was founded in 1874 by Benjamin Dunkerley, who was from a family of cotton weavers and who had experience working as a milliner in England.

Akubra is now arguably the world’s greatest fur felt hat-making business. Each hat is handmade, with more than 70 pairs of hands touching each one before it is finished. The complete process takes more than a month to complete. Akubra hats have been sported by Prince Harry, Crocodile Dundee, the Australian Olympic team and Australian military.

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