The Importance Of Properly Sized Compressed Air Supply Lines

EXAIR Corporation manufactures a variety of engineered compressed air products that have been solving myriad applications in industry for almost 37 years now.  In order for them to function properly, though, they have to be supplied with enough compressed air flow, which means the compressed air supply lines have to be adequately sized.

A 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe can handle a maximum flow capacity of 18 SCFM, so it’s good for a Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (uses 14 SCFM @80psig) or a Model 110006 6″ Super Air Knife (uses 17.4 SCFM @80psig,) but it’s going to starve anything requiring much more air than those products.  Since compressed air consumption of devices like EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products is directly proportional to inlet pressure, we can use the flow capacity of the pipe, the upstream air pressure, and the known consumption of the EXAIR product to calculate the inlet pressure of a starved product.  This will give us an idea of its performance as well.

Let’s use a 12″ Super Air Knife, with the 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe as an example.  The ratio formula is:

(P2 ÷ P1) C1 = C2, where:

P2 – absolute pressure we’re solving for*

P1 – absolute pressure for our published compressed air consumption, or C1*

C1 – known value of compressed air consumption at supply pressure P1

C2 – compressed air consumption at supply pressure P2

*gauge pressure plus 14.7psi atmospheric pressure

This is the typical formula we use, since we’re normally solving for compressed air consumption at a certain supply pressure, but, rearranged to solve for inlet pressure assuming the consumption will be the capacity of the supply line in question:

(C2 P1) ÷ C1 = P2

[18 SCFM X (80psig + 14.7psia)] ÷ 34.8 SCFM = 49psia – 14.7psia = 34.3psig inlet pressure to the 12″ Super Air Knife.

From the Super Air Knife performance chart…

This table is found on page 22 of EXAIR Catalog #32.

…we can extrapolate that the performance of a 12″ Super Air Knife, supplied with a 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe, will perform just under the parameters of one supplied at 40psig:

  • Air velocity less than 7,000 fpm, as compared to 11,800 fpm*
  • Force @6″ from target of 13.2oz total, instead of 30oz*
  • *Performance values for a 12″ length supplied with an adequately sized supply line, allowing for 80psig at the inlet to the Air Knife.

Qualitatively speaking, if you hold your hand in front of an adequately supplied Super Air Knife, it’ll feel an awful lot like sticking your hand out the window of a moving car at 50 miles an hour.  If it’s being supplied with the 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe, though, it’s going to feel more like a desk fan on high speed.

The type of supply line is important too.  A 1/4″ pipe has an ID of about 3/8″ (0.363″, to be exact) but a 1/4″ hose has an ID of only…you guessed it…1/4″.  Let’s say you have 20 feet of 1/4″ hose instead, which will handle only 7 SCFM of compressed air flow capacity:

[7 SCFM X (80psig + 14.7psia)] ÷ 34.8 SCFM = 19psia – 14.7psia = 4.3psig inlet pressure to the 12″ Super Air Knife.

Our Super Air Knife performance chart doesn’t go that low, but, qualitatively, that’s going to generate a light breeze coming out of the Super Air Knife.  This is why, for good performance, it’s important to follow the recommendations in the Installation Guide:

This table comes directly from the Installation & Operation Instructions for the Super Air Knife.
All Installation Guides for EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products contain recommended air supply line sizes for this very reason.  If you have any questions, though, about proper compressed air supply, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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