Going Outside The Box With Vortex Tubes

Among EXAIR’s comprehensive line of Intelligent Compressed Air Products, the Vortex Tube stands out as a unique, and fascinating, solution for a variety of applications requiring a flow of cold air:

  • Cabinet Cooler Systems: clean, cold air to protect electrical and electronic components housed in an enclosure.  Installs in minutes; no moving parts; reliable & maintenance free.
  • Cold Gun Aircoolant Systems:  Direct, focused flow of cold air to replace messy coolant in machining, cutting, drilling, grinding, etc., applications.  Integral magnet base for quick & easy installation; single or dual outlet hose kits; standard or High Power to meet any need.  Optimized flow for maximum cooling and freeze prevention.
  • Adjustable Spot Cooler: Similar to the Cold Guns in many ways, but with variable performance for specific applications.  Cold air to -30°F (-34°C) on demand.
  • Mini Cooler: Similar to the Cold Guns and Adjustable Spot Coolers – magnetic base mounting and single or dual outlet hose kits, but more compact.  Lower flows for smaller jobs.

Then there are the Vortex Tubes themselves…at the heart of all of these products, but perfectly capable all on their own.  In fact, in certain situations, “plain old” Vortex Tubes have been used to do the exact same jobs as all of the above products.  They can even be customized, in and of themselves, to meet specific installation, operation, and/or performance needs:

  • High Temperatures: It should come as no surprise that cold air is often needed because a heat-sensitive item is located in a high heat environment.
    • Vortex Tubes come standard with plastic Generators and Buna o-rings, which are good for ambient temperatures up to 125°F (52°C).
    • High Temperature Vortex Tubes are fitted with brass Generators and Viton o-rings for environments where the temperature can reach 200°F (93°C).
High Temperature Vortex Tubes are suitable for use in environments up to 200F (93C).
  • Preset temperature & flow: Many times, the ability to adjust the performance of a Vortex Tube is a big benefit, but occasionally it’s a liability.
    • I know none of your co-workers are like this (nor are mine) but I’ve heard of people who think they “know better” and are prone to tampering with something that is (or WAS) working just fine, thank you very much.
    • Perhaps you actually DO know better, through experimentation and experience, the optimal performance setting for your application.  Let’s say, for example, you install Vortex Tubes on a line of your products, and a technician has to “dial it in” to a specific Cold Fraction.
    • Any Vortex Tube can be fitted with a drilled orifice (or “Hot Plug”) to replace  the Hot Valve, which presets performance to a specific, non-adjustable value.  If you know the Cold Fraction you need, it’s as easy as that.  If not, it’s as easy as getting a stock Vortex Tube, setting the Cold Fraction where you want it, securing the Hot Valve in position (piece of tape works just fine,) and sending it in.
Preset Vortex Tubes feature a fixed plug, replacing the Hot Valve shown in this picture.

If you’ve got any other specific requirements – special materials, fittings, custom flow/temperature parameters, etc., give me a call; let’s talk.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Is It Safe To Use Compressed Air?

Think about it…compressed air is, by definition, gas under pressure: potential (stored) energy.  This energy is intended to do work, like operation of pneumatic tools, actuation of pneumatic cylinders, debris removal with an air gun or blow off device, and (even though I haven’t done it in a while) my personal favorite:

High pressure compressed air is meticulously made, prepared, and stored to ensure the number of surfaces equals the number of dives.

Uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of stored energy (regardless of the source) are inherently dangerous, and great care must be taken to guard against such incidents.  This is accomplished, primarily, in three areas:

*Operation.  This might be the most prevalent, because it involves the greatest number of personnel (e.g., everyone) as well as the ways compressed air is used (e.g., all of them.)  It’s also the area where the most involved people (the operators) have the most control:

  • Personal protection.  Don’t even think about operating a compressed air device without eye protection.  Ever.  Hard stop.  Also, if the operation involves flying debris, a full face shield, long sleeves, gloves, etc. might be called for.  Hearing protection may be required as well…keep in mind, even if an engineered device (like any of EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products) generates a relatively low sound level, the impingement noise of the air flow hitting the object can reach dangerous levels.
  •  Personnel cleaning is prohibited.  The risk of injury to the eyes, respiratory system, and other parts is just too great to rely on personal protective equipment that’s designed for use while discharging compressed air AWAY from the body.  While this is expressly prohibited in certain situations, OSHA has long recognized it as good practice for all industries.
  • No horseplay.  ’nuff said.  Plenty of better ways to have fun at work.

*Design.  This one usually has the advantage of being traceable to a small number of people, and is also the one that’s most likely to be documented.  This is where it starts…if the system is designed to fail, it doesn’t matter how much care the operators take:

  • Supply lines, fittings, and hoses must be rated for use with compressed air, up to and exceeding the maximum discharge pressure of the air compressor.
  • This goes for any tools, blow off devices, components, etc., serviced by the air system.  The only thing worse than a component failing is a component failing in your hand.
  • Shut off valves should be located as close as practical to point(s) of operation.  This allows you to quickly secure the flow of compressed air to a failed component, hose, etc., and prevent further damage or risk of injury.
  • Hoses shouldn’t be run across the floor, where they can become a trip hazard or subject to damage from stepping on them.   This is a surefire way to find out the value of shut off valves (see above.)

*Product specification.  Or, more simply put, using the right tool for the job.  A broader discussion could include efficiency and performance, but we’ll stay within the confines of safety for the purposes of this blog:

  • Be mindful of dead end pressure.  Blow off devices, especially hand held ones like air guns, are oftentimes fitted with a simple open-end discharge.  If this is pushed into a part of the body, the pressurized air can break the skin and cause an air embolism.  This is a serious injury, and can be fatal if it reaches the heart, lungs, or brain.
    • This is a key consideration to OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), which limits the downstream pressure when compressed air is used for cleaning to 30psi.
    • EXAIR products are compliant with this Standard by design…there’s always a relief path for the air pressure; they can’t be dead ended.
Because the compressed air exits through a series of holes, recessed between a ring of fins, any attempt to block the air flow will simply send it in another direction.
  • Harmful sound levels are a consideration as well.  As stated above, hearing protection is required in many cases, but sound levels can be mitigated through the use of engineered products.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, as a result of their high entrainment, generate a boundary layer of air flow that leads to dramatically lower sound levels than a similar-sized open end blow off device.

If you’d like to explore ways to make your compressed air system safer, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Sanitary Flange Line Vacs for Bulk Conveying

Piping systems have been a hallmark of human civilization for almost as long as people have been living in community with each other. Evidence of complex earthen pipe systems, with flanged fittings & asphalt sealants, date to 2700 BC. These were used for crop irrigation, potable water distribution, and wastewater removal in ancient civilizations from the Mediterranean to the Far East.

Over the centuries, new ways to use pipe led to new ways to make pipe.  Scientists and engineers figured out ways to make pipe stronger, lighter, cheaper, and in a variety of materials.  One of the more recent milestones is the development of sanitary piping and fittings.  The stringent cleanliness controls in certain industries (food and pharmaceutical, I’m looking at you) require highly corrosion resistant materials of construction.  The inside & outside surfaces of the pipe have to be finely finished so that they can be thoroughly and positively cleaned, with no crevices, “nooks & crannies,” etc., for material to gather or cling.  And since regular cleaning & sterilization is performed, the fittings must be able to be made & unmade in a manner that still provides for positive sealing when the system is restored to operation.

EXAIR Line Vac Air Operated Conveyors have always been well suited for applications like this.  With their open, unobstructed throats and smooth bores, they’re intuitively easy to clean, by design.  And we’ve made them, for years, in Type 316 Stainless Steel – the preferred material of construction for many food and pharmaceutical applications.  Many users in these industries were able to install them in sanitary piping systems by welding the flanges on our Stainless Steel Line Vacs, or by installing adapters on our Threaded Stainless Steel Line Vacs.

In the spring of 2017, EXAIR released the Sanitary Flange Line Vac with those same users in mind – eliminating the need to weld or thread flanges onto existing products.  They feature the same conveyance power as our Stainless Steel Line Vacs, and can even be modified to meet Heavy Duty Line Vac performance, if needed.  There are four sizes: 1-1/2″, 2″, 2-1/2″, and 3″…which covers the most popular size range of sanitary pipe systems.

While the sanitary piping systems are certainly most often found in those cleanliness-critical food & pharma type applications, other users incorporate them because of the smooth, continuous bore of the pipe and fittings, as opposed to a threaded pipe system, where the OD of the pipe threads into the ID of the fittings, causing a “step” in the throughput.  Because sanitary fittings mate via face-to-face flange seals, this eliminates that “step” which can make for a catch-point for certain items.  It’s for this very reason that a popular ammunition manufacturer uses sanitary pipe systems to convey shell casings…because they tumble with such turbulence in the air flow, they are especially prone to hanging up on any kind of catch-point.  So, they use sanitary piping & fittings, long radius elbows, and EXAIR Model 161150-316 1-1/2″ Sanitary Flange Line Vacs.

Air conveying of certain items, like these ammo shell casings, can be prone to clogging or jamming in systems where pipe, hose, and/or fittings are inserted into each other, creating catch-points.

EXAIR has a wide selection of engineered compressed air products that are “textbook” solutions for certain applications, but also make perfect sense for use in places you might not have thought of.  If you have a bulk material conveyance operation you’d like to discuss, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Shells photo courtesy of hydropeek  Creative Commons License

Return On Investment: Does It Matter, And How Much?

I have a friend who participates in a process known as “extreme couponing.” She has multiple subscriptions to the Sunday edition of our major newspaper, and a couple of local papers that also have coupon inserts. When I see her at the grocery store, she’s got two 4″ binders full of baseball card holders, all stuffed with multiples of clipped coupons, organized by store aisle. The insane amount of money saved is a big factor in her being able to be a stay-at-home mother, which is something else she’s pretty good at.

If you get stuck at step one…or even two…extreme couponing may not be for you!

Now, extreme couponing isn’t for everyone. Even beginners to the process can buy a year’s worth of paper towels for next to nothing. However, that may take up so much room in their house that they need to rent a storage facility for other belongings that folks like you and me simply keep in the garage or basement. It also takes a LOT of time and effort to do it right – as well as discipline. Saving half (or more) on a truckload of stuff you don’t need (or will never use) is a waste of money, time, and space. In fact, I know people who have abandoned extreme couponing for those very reasons…the “return on investment” just isn’t there.

That’s the deal in industry too.  Anyone tasked with finding and exploiting efficiencies – or finding and eliminating inefficiencies – is going to be looking at return on investment.  Like extreme couponing, though, it has to make sense in all aspects of the operation.  For example:

*An OEM taking advantage of a quantity discount for components or subassemblies has to not only have the storage space available, but also has to consider the turnover rate…it costs money to keep product on the shelf.

*A machine shop considering a tooling upgrade has to compare the cost difference with the increased performance and/or lifespan of the “new and improved” product.  A tool that costs 10% more but lasts twice as long is probably a good deal.  A tool that costs twice as much but lasts 10% longer might not provide the “bang for the buck.”

*Any facility, before switching a service or utility provider, will “run the numbers” on promotional rates, contract terms, etc. before making a commitment.

Unlike extreme couponing, EXAIR makes it easy – and beneficial – to evaluate the return on investment:

*Our catalog (if you don’t have the latest, get it here) has complete performance & operational data on all of our products.  This is great if you know what you want it to do.

*If you’re not quite sure, our catalog also has a good number of actual application write-ups for most of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products.  You may be able to find something that’s similar to what you want to do, and further inform your selection from there.

*Once you’ve chosen a product, you can use the Calculator Library on our website to determine actual dollar cost savings associated with replacing a current compressed air powered device with an EXAIR product.

*Application Engineers are available to discuss your application and/or product selection via phone, email, or Live Chat.

*No matter how detailed the discussion, and how confident a plan we may make, the age-old saying about how it “looked good on paper” proves itself every now and again.  When this happens, all catalog products are covered by our 30 Day Unconditional Guarantee.  If you’re not satisfied for any reason within 30 days of purchase, we’ll arrange return for full credit.

*Let’s assume that we’re pretty good at this (because we are) and it actually DOES work out (because it usually does) – we can calculate your new (and improved) operating costs and compare them with the cost of your previous devices.  If you don’t have the instrumentation (flow meters, sound level meters, etc.,) this is a free service we provide in our Efficiency Lab.  Send it in, and we’ll do a full performance test & issue a comprehensive report, all at no charge.  And if you qualify for a Case Study, we can even save you some money on your next order.  Contact me for more details if you’re interested.

Free testing. Verifiable data. EXAIR Efficiency Lab.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Coupon Pile Stock Photos courtesy of Carol Pyles  Creative Common License

Standards, Compliance, And You. And EXAIR.

I’m pretty impressed with the number of safety features my car has. Aside from the literal lifesaving functions like seat belts and air bags, it’s got anti-lock brakes…if you’ve ever had to counter-steer out of a skid on an icy road, you will appreciate the value of this for sure.  Those are just some of the ones I’m keenly aware of – the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards comprise dozens of regulations in three categories: crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability.  None of these prevent me from operating my vehicle at an unsafe rate of speed…an expensive reality that an Ohio State Highway Patrolman dutifully reminded me of last Sunday afternoon.

Likewise, there are many regulations to ensure safety and prevent hazards of all kinds in industry, administered by a host of agencies that are either subordinates of, or accountable to, the federal government.  When you manufacture products that are used with high energy sources (compressed air or high voltage electricity,) a strong commitment to safety is not negotiable.  So, at EXAIR, we commit considerable resources towards the best engineering and manufacturing practices to make our products as safe as possible.  That includes compliance with a number of standards and certifications:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Their mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”  They are a regulatory body in the truest sense, in that they don’t offer certification or approval of products, processes, etc.; they publish guidelines and standards for manufacturers and users to comply with.  OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), for instance, limits the downstream pressure of a compressed air operated device used for cleaning purposes to 30psi. Now, you can regulate the supply pressure to meet this, but that also limits the effectiveness of the air flow generated.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products are all designed and manufactured to be in compliance with this standard, at any supply pressure.  Take, for example, our Super Air Nozzles:

Because none of our products can be dead-ended, there’s always a relief path preventing the downstream pressure from exceeding that level.

OSHA also has Standard 1910.95(a), that sets limits for maximum allowable noise exposure.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, with the exception of some our largest and most power Super Air Nozzles (which aren’t normally used in areas that don’t already require hearing protection anyway) meet the 8-hour exposure limits of this standard.

Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

CE marking indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold withing the European Economic Area.  Unlike OSHA standards, responsibility for CE marking falls solely with the seller of the product – a CE marked product has been tested and certified to have been made in such a way to meet safety & quality benchmarks specified for that type of product.  All EXAIR products that are defined under applicable directives have been tested according to these standards, and carry the CE mark.

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, is another standard borne from the European Union, and is geared towards public & workplace safety by restricting the use of hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic & electrical equipment.  Since its inception in 2006, similar standards have been vigorously adopted around the globe.  Electrical portions of EXAIR’s Static Eliminators, EFC Electronic Flow Controls, ETC Electronic Temperature Controls, Digital Flowmeters, Solenoid Valves, and Thermostats all comply with the RoHS Directive.

Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act doesn’t address a concern for product users, but rather a particularly troubling human rights issue – Conflict Minerals.  For almost two decades, trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been used by some very bad people to finance violent campaigns against their neighbors.  EXAIR thoroughly and systematically documents our supply chain compliance with this act.  We are proudly committed to our support for this effort to the world a better place for everyone…especially those in desperate circumstances beyond their control.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products have been successfully implemented into a variety of uses where application- or industry-specific standards are in force.  We’re happy to work with you to determine if our products meet those standards…or can be made to meet them.  If you’ve got such an application, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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The Case For The Flat Super Air Nozzles

What do you think of when someone says “air nozzle?” Is it a crimp or a “crush” on the end of a piece of tubing? Is it a device that attaches to the end of a pipe or a hose? If so, does it have engineered features that focus the stream, amplify the flow (through entrainment, perhaps,) reduce the noise level, or provide an element of safety?

If so…you’re right. Any of the above descriptions, strictly speaking, qualify as an “air nozzle,” in fact, just a plain open-ended pipe or tube meets the criteria. As long as it serves to discharge a stream of air towards a target, it’s an air nozzle.

Even the devices with those efficient, quiet, and safe engineered features come in a variety of styles, types, and models. Consider EXAIR’s product line of Air Nozzles and Jets…we have seventy-two distinct models, in a range of sizes, materials of construction, and performance.  That’s a LOT to choose from, and it doesn’t even take into account the products that can be fitted with different shims that, technically, make them a wholly different nozzle, performance-wise.  Which brings us, dear reader, to the focus of today’s blog: the Flat Super Air Nozzle.

Flat nozzles are not unique to EXAIR…there are dozens of others on the market in a variety of sizes and materials.  What IS unique about EXAIR’s Flat Super Air Nozzles is their performance…

Efficiency: When a competitor’s flat nozzle was replaced with a Model 1122 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle, consumption was reduced from 31 SCFM to 21.8 SCFM.  Since the nozzle was operated 24/7, this resulted in a savings in compressed air cost of $3.31 per day…meaning the nozzle paid for itself in under three weeks.

EXAIR’s Flat Super Air Nozzles have been blowing away the competition since 2003.

Durability: Both our 1″ and 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzles are available in rugged Zinc Aluminum alloy, or heat & corrosion resistant Type 316 Stainless Steel.

Zinc aluminum models are perfect for general purpose blow offs (left,) while 316SS models are specified for food/pharma and high heat or corrosive environments (right.)

Versatility: A 0.015″ thick shim is installed in the Flat Super Air Nozzles.  These provide optimal performance in a wide variety of typical industrial and commercial blow off applications.  We also offer High Power versions, with a 0.025″ thick shim, for additional flow and force.  You can also experiment with other shims, from 0.005″ to 0.030″ in thickness, for customized applications.  These shims are all 316SS, and are available in sets, or individually.  The patented design of these shims, in fact, is key to their high efficiency, as explained in this video:

Ingenuity: While this EXAIR characteristic is not specific to the Flat Super Air Nozzles, our most recent ingenious development features them: the Super Air Scraper.  By combining a scraping blade with the 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle, we’ve turned our very popular Soft Grip Safety Air Gun into the perfect tool for easy removal of sticky or stubborn debris from most any flat surface.

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

EXAIR Flat Super Air Nozzles are Intelligent Compressed Air Products with a 15 year history of successfully solving all kinds of air blowing applications.  To find out more about how they can work for you, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Knowing Your Symbols Is Key To Understanding Your Drawings

There are all kinds of engineering drawings, used for all kinds of purposes:

  • Pipe fitters and millwrights use Plan & Elevation drawings to make sure fluid system flanges, elbows, tees, etc., line up with each other, and don’t run into anything.
  • Exploded view drawings help maintenance folks identify parts, and, when they need replaced, make sure the new ones go in the same way the old ones came out.
  • Fabrication and machining drawings (usually to scale) are used to ensure the part being made is the right size & shape, that mounting holes are in the right place, and that critical surfaces are as flat & smooth as they need to be.
  • Then there’s the Piping & Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID)…it depicts an overall view of a system, showing the flow (usually fluid or electricity) through that system’s components, giving the viewer an understanding of the operation, and expected results from said operation.  It should not be confused with its simpler cousin, the flow chart that is so dreaded by OTE-types (“Other Than Engineer”…you know who you are,) of which these are my favorite examples:
There’s a lot of “life lesson” in these two graphics.

The big difference between a flow chart and a P&ID is the symbols.  In fact, you can find ISO & ANSI standard symbols for many components you’ll find in fluid & electrical P&ID’s.  Some examples of symbols you might find in a compressed air system are:

Compressors:

The one on the left can be used for any air compressor. The others denote specific types of air compressor (from left:) Centrifugal, Diaphragm, Piston, Rotary, and Screw.

Air preparation & handling:

The symbols on the left denote the EXAIR products on the right: Automatic Drain Filter Separator, Oil Removal Filter, and Pressure Regulator

Instrumentation and control:

The symbols on top denote the EXAIR products below (left to right): Flowmeter, Pressure Gauge, and Solenoid Valve

Occasionally, we’re asked if there are standard ANSI or ISO symbols for any of our  engineered Intelligent Compressed Air Products…and there aren’t.  Perhaps one day they might make the cut, but for now, their standard convention is to choose a shape (user preference…you’re the one it’s gotta make sense to) and call it out by name.  It might look something like this:

From top left, and then down: Automatic Drain Filter Separator, Oil Removal Filter, Pressure Regulator, and Super Air Knife

Oh, and if you’ve ever got any questions about your compressed air system that you think looking at a drawing together could help us solve, you can send that drawing to us at techelp@exair.com, and one of us will be happy to help.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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