Rotary Air Compressors: How Do They Work?

Ingersoll Rand Rotary Screw Compressor

One thing that is found in virtually every industrial environment is an air compressor. Some uses for the compressed air generated are: powering pneumatic tools, packaging, automation equipment, conveyors, control systems, and various others. Pneumatic tools are favored because they tend to be smaller and more lightweight than electric tools, offer infinitely variable speed and torque, and can be safer than the hazards associated with electrical devices. In order to power these devices, compressed air must be generated.

There are two main categories of air compressors: positive-displacement and dynamic. In a positive-displacement type, a given quantity of air is trapped in a compression chamber. The volume of which it occupies is mechanically reduced (squished), causing a corresponding rise in pressure. In a dynamic compressor, velocity energy is imparted to continuously flowing air by a means of impellers rotating at a very high speed. The velocity energy is then converted into pressure energy. We’ve discussed the different styles of air compressors here on the EXAIR Blog in the past. Today I’d like to highlight the rotary compressors, one of the positive-displacement types of compressors.

Positive-displacement compressors are broken into two categories: reciprocating and rotary. The rotary compressors are available in lubricant-injected or lubricant-free varieties. Both styles utilize two inter-meshing rotors that have an inlet port at one end and a discharge port at the other. Air flows through the inlet port and is trapped between the lobes and the stator. As the rotation continues, the point inter-meshing begins to move along the length of the rotors. This reduces the space that is occupied by the air, resulting in an increase in pressure.

In the lubricant-injected varieties, the compression chamber is lubricated between the inter-meshing rotors and bearings. This lubricant protects the inter-meshing rotors and associated bearings. It eliminates most of the heat caused by compression and acts as a seal between the meshing rotors and between the rotor and stator. Some advantages of the lubricant-injected rotary compressor include a compact size, relatively low initial cost, vibration free operation, and simple routine maintenance (replacing lubricant and filter changes). Some drawbacks to this style of compressor include lower efficiency when compared with water-cooled reciprocating compressors, lubricant carry over must be removed from the air supply with a coalescing filter, and varying efficiency depending on the control mode used.

In the lubricant-free varieties, the inter-meshing rotors have very tight tolerances and are not allowed to touch. Since there is no fluid to remove the heat of compression, they typically have two stages of compression with an inter-cooler between and an after cooler after the second stage. Lubricant-free compressors are beneficial as they supply clean, oil-free compressed air. They are, however, more expensive and less efficient to operate than the lubricant-injected variety.

Each of these compressors can deliver air to your Intelligent Compressed Air Products. If you’re looking to reduce your compressed air consumption and increase the safety of your processes contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today. We’ll be happy to discuss the options with you and make sure you’re getting the most out of your compressed air usage.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD




Photo courtesy of Ingersoll Rand CC BY 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32093890

The Basics of Calculating Heat Load for Cooling Electrical Cabinets

Is your electrical cabinet overheating and causing expensive shut downs? As spring and summer approach, did your enclosures have seasonal overheating problems last year? Is your electrical cabinets AC Unit failing and breaking down? Then it may be time to consider EXAIR Cabinet Coolers Systems. These systems are compressed air powered cooling units designed to keep your cabinet cool in hot environments. Major benefits include no moving parts to wear out, UL listed to maintain the NEMA integrity of your enclosure (also CE compliant), they are simple and quick to install and they reliably turn on and off as needed (perfect for solving seasonal overheating).

Just one question then; how do you pick which Cabinet Cooler is best for your application? It’s time to bust out ye ole trusty calculator and crunch some numbers. Keep in mind that the following calculations use baselines of an Inlet air pressure of 100 psig (6.9 bar), compressed air temperature of 70F (22C), and a desired internal temp of 95F (35C). Changes in these values will change the outcome, but rest assured a Cabinet Cooler system will generally operate just fine with changes to these baselines.

How the EXAIR Cabinet Cooler System Works


Before we dig right into the math, keep in mind you can submit the following parameters to EXAIR and we will do the math for you. You can use our online Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide and receive a recommendation within 24 hours.

There are two areas where we want to find the amount of heat that is being generated in the environment; this would be the internal heat and the external heat. First, calculate the square feet exposed to the air while ignoring the top. This is just a simple surface are calculation that ignores one side.

(Height x Width x 2) + (Height x Depth x 2) + (Depth x Width) = Surface Area Exposed

Next, determine the maximum temperature differential between the maximum surrounding temperature (max external temp) and the desired Internal temperature. Majority of cases the industrial standard for optimal operation of electronics will work, this value is 95F (35C).


Max External Temp – Max Internal Temp Desired = Delta T of External Temp

Now that we have the difference between how hot the outside can get and the max, we want the inside to be, we can look at the Temperature Conversion Table which is below and also provided in EXAIR’s Cabinet Cooler System catalog section for you. If your Temperature Differential falls between two values on the table simply plug the values into the interpolation formula.

Once you have the conversion factor for either Btu/hr/ft2, multiply the Surface Area Exposed by the conversion factor to get the amount of heat being generated for the max external temperature. Keep this value as it will be used later.

Surface Area Exposed x Conversion Factor = External Heat Load

Now we will be looking at the heat generated by the internal components. If you already know the entire Watts lost for the internal components simply take the total sum and multiply by the conversion factor to get the heat generated. This conversion factor will be 3.41 which converts Watts to Btu/hr. If you do not know your watts lost simply use the current external temperature and the current internal temperature to find out. Calculating the Internal Heat Load is the same process as calculating your External Heat Load just using different numbers. Don’t forget if the value for your Delta T does not fall on the Temperature conversion chart use simple Interpolation.

Current Internal Temp – Current External Temp = Delta T of Internal Temperature
Surface Area Exposed x Conversion Factor = Internal Heat Load

Having determined both the Internal Heat Load and the External Heat Load simply add them together to get your Total Heat Load. At This point if fans are present or solar loading is present add in those cooling and heating values as well. Now, with the Total Heat Load match the value to the closet cooling capacity in the NEMA rating and kit that you want. If the external temperature is between 125F to 200F you will be looking at our High Temperature models denoted by an “HT” at the start of the part number.

From right to left: Small NEMA 12, Large NEMA 12, Large NEMA 4X

If you have any questions about compressed air systems or want more information on any of EXAIR’s products, give us a call, we have a team of Application Engineers ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Convective Heat Transfer: How Do We Use It?

Vortex Tubes have been studied for decades, close to a century. These phenoms of physics and the theory behind them have been discussed on this blog before. Many customers gravitate toward Vortex Tubes when needing parts and processes cooled. The fact of the matter is there is still more to be discussed on how to correctly select the which product may be needed in your application. The reason being, area, temperatures, and air flow volumes play a large role in choosing the best product for cooling. The tendency is to say, well I need to cool this down as far as possible so I need the coldest air possible which leads to the assumption that a Vortex Tube will be the right solution. That isn’t always the best option and we are going to discuss how to best determine which will be needed for your application. The first step, is to call, chat, or email an Application Engineer so that we can learn about your application and assist with the implementation of the Vortex Tube or other cooling product for you. You may also want to try and take some initial readings of temperatures. The temperatures that would help to determine how much cooling is going to be needed are listed below:
  • Part temperature
  • Part dimensions
  • Part material
  • Ambient environment temperature
  • Compressed air temperature
  • Compressed air line size
  • Amount of time desired to cool the part: Lastly desired temperature

With these bits of information, we use cooling equations to help determine what temperature and volume of air will best suit your needs to generate the cooling required. One of the equations we will sometimes use is the Forced or Assisted Convective Heat Transfer. Why do we use convective heat transfer rather than Natural Heat Transfer? Well, the air from EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products® is always moving so it is a forced or assisted movement to the surface of the part. Thus, the need for Convective Heat Transfer.
Calculation of convection is shown below: q = hc A dT Where: q = Heat transferred per unit of time. (Watts, BTU/hr) A = Heat transfer area of the surface (m2 , ft2) hc= Convective heat transfer coefficient of the process (W/(m2°C), BTU/(ft2 h °F) dT = Temperature difference between the surface and the bulk fluid (compressed air in this case) (°C, °F)

The convective heat transfer coefficient for air flow is able to be approximated down to hc = 10.45 – v + 10 v1/2

Where: hc = Heat transfer coefficient (kCal/m2 h °C) v = relative speed between the surface of the object and the air (m/s)

This example is limited to velocities and there are different heat transfer methods, so this will give a ballpark calculation that will tell us if we have a shot at a providing a solution.  The chart below is also useful to see the Convective Heat Transfer, it can be a little tricky to read as the units for each axis are just enough to make you think of TRON light cycles. Rather than stare at this and try to find the hidden picture, contact an Application Engineer, we’ve got this figured out. convective_heat_transfer_chart

1 – Convective Heat Transfer Chart
Again, you don’t have to figure any of this out on your own. The first step to approach a cooling application is to reach out to an Application Engineer, we deal with these types of applications and equations regularly and can help you determine what the best approach is going to be.
Brian Farno Application Engineer BrianFarno@EXAIR.com @EXAIR_BF
1 – Engineering ToolBox, (2003). Convective Heat Transfer. [online] Available at: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/convective-heat-transfer-d_430.html [02/10/2021]

The Soft Grip Super Air Scraper for Cleaning Tanks

A transport company was in the business of moving food product like powdered milk, sugar, salt, gluten, etc. to different Food and Beverage industries.  The tanks ranged from 1,700 to 2,200 cubic feet (47 to 61 cubic meters) in volume.  Because of condensation that can occur, some of the powdered materials would solidify on the sides of the tanks.  They found it occurring more often with the powdered milk.  So, they created a cleaning mechanism to use compressed air and an open pipe to clean the residue after each stop (reference above).  They realized quickly that with this type of cleaning nozzle was not safe and not efficient.  They could only scrape roughly 1” (25mm) at a time.  The noise level was too loud, the compressed air usage was too high, and the time to clean the tank was too long.  They contacted EXAIR to see if we could improve on their process.

Model 1144 Super Scraper Nozzle

The answer to the problem was the EXAIR Super Air Scraper.  This product uses a nozzle that combines a scraping blade with our 2” Flat Super Air Nozzle.  It uses the mechanical force of a blade with the force of compressed air to remove stubborn sticky materials.  The 3” (76mm) wide corrosion-resistant steel scraper is robust and durable, and they can be easily sharpened or replaced when worn.  To add flexibility to the Super Air Scraper, a shim set can be used to increase the blowing force.  This combination of the nozzle and the scraper is an effective and powerful way to remove material with compressed air.

Soft Grip Super Air Scraper

To get pressurized air to this patent-pending nozzle, EXAIR attached the Super Air Scraper to our Soft Grip Air Gun.  The Soft Grip Air Gun has an ergonomic soft handle and a full-grip trigger for hours of use without fatigue.   We include different extensions for hard-to-reach applications ranging from 6” (152mm) to 72” (1,829mm) in length.  With extensions that are 36” (914mm) and longer, EXAIR installs an additional foam grip sleeve.  This gives more leverage for scraping material at a distance like at the floor level.  Chip Shields can also be added to prevent blow-back on the users.

Scrape off, and blow away, stubborn debris with the Model 1244-48 Soft Grip Super Air Scraper.

For the company above, this was the perfect tool to improve their process.  I recommended the model 1244-48 Soft Grip Super Air Scraper which had a great length to reach the tank areas and a foam grip to comfortably force the blade under the powder residue.  With the compressed air, it helped to keep the area clean during scraping and aided with the areas that were really stuck.  With the 1” (25mm) pipe as compared to the 3” (76mm) blade, the cleaning for each tank was cut in half the time.  Also, with the open pipe, they were using roughly 150 SCFM of compressed air.  The model 1244-48 was able to cut this amount down to 22 SCFM at 80 PSIG.  This was a huge cost savings.  And as a bonus, the noise level was lessened from 100 dBA to 77 dBA; a much safer way to protect any hearing damage.

To give some other areas for the Soft Grip Super Air Scraper, they can be used for removing gasket material, tape, caulk, adhesives, paint, labels, and much more.  If you have a sticky situation at your facility, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be happy to discuss it with you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb