How to Manage Condensate in Your Compressed Air System

If you operate an air compressor, you’re drawing water vapor into your compressed air system.  Factors like climate control (or lack thereof,) and humidity will dictate how much.  If (or more to the point, when) it condenses, it becomes an issue that must be addressed.  There are several types of dryer systems to choose from, usually when you buy your compressor…we’ve covered those in a number of blogs.  Some of these can leave a little more water vapor than others, but remain popular and effective, when considering the cost, and cost of operation, of the different types.

So, how do you handle the condensate that the dryer doesn’t remove?

  • Receivers, or storage tanks (like EXAIR Model 9500-60, shown to the right,) are commonly used for several reasons:
    • By providing an intermediate storage of compressed air close to the point of use, fluctuations across the system won’t adversely affect an application that needs a constant flow and pressure.
    • This also can keep the air compressor from cycling rapidly, which leads to wear & tear, and additional maintenance headaches.
    • When fitted with a condensate drain (more on those in a minute,) they can serve as a wet receiver.  Condensate collects in the bottom and is manually, or automatically emptied.
  • Condensate drains, while popularly installed on receivers, are oftentimes found throughout larger systems where the vapor is prone to condense (intercoolers, aftercoolers, filters and dryers) and where the condensation can be particularly problematic (drip legs or adjacent to points of use.) There are a couple of options to choose from, each with their own pros & cons:
    • Manual drains are self explanatory: they’re ball valves; cycled periodically by operators.  Pros: cheap & simple.  Cons: easy to blow down too often or for too long, which wastes compressed air.  It’s also just as easy to blow down not often enough, or not long enough, which doesn’t solve the condensate problem.
    • Timer drains are self explanatory too: they cycle when the timer tells them to. Pros: still fairly cheap, and no attention is required.  Cons: they’re going to open periodically (per the timer setting) whether there’s condensate or not.
    • Demand, or “zero loss” drains collect condensate until their reservoir is full, then they discharge the water.  Pros: “zero loss” means just that…they only actuate when condensate is present, and they stop before any compressed air gets out.  Cons: higher purchase price, more moving parts equals potential maintenance concerns.
  • The “last line of defense” (literally) is point-of-use condensate removal.  This is done with products like EXAIR Automatic Drain Filter Separators.  They’re installed close to compressed air operated devices & products, oftentimes just upstream of the pressure regulator and/or flow controls…the particulate filter protects against debris in these devices, and the centrifugal element “spins” any last remaining moisture from the compressed air flow before it gets used.
Good engineering practice calls for point of use filtration and moisture removal, such as that provided by EXAIR Filter Separators.

Efficient and safe use of your compressed air includes maintaining the quality of your compressed air.  If you’d like to find out more about how EXAIR Corporation can help you get the most out of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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How to Install A Super Air Knife – From the Basic to the Creative

Occasionally, a caller will ask if we offer installation services for our products. They’re usually very pleased to learn that there’s not all that much to it.

Any of our Super Air Knives can use our Model 9060 Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems (shown below; one on a 12″, and four on a 108″ length) for easy installation and precise aiming.

The 9060 Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems are perfect for simple, fast installation and positioning.

Shorter lengths, like the Model 110006 6″ Aluminum Super Air Knife (below, left,) can be adequately supported by air supply piping.  We don’t recommend that with longer lengths (due to overhung load concerns) but even a Model 110018 18″ Aluminum Super Air Knife (below, middle,) can be supported by the supply pipe in a vertical position.  We even stock our 3″ Aluminum Super Air Knives with Stay Set Hoses & Magnetic Bases (below, right.)

Just a few more popular ways to install a Super Air Knife.

The Super Air Knife also has a series of 1/4″-20 tapped holes, 2″ apart, along the bottom of the body.  These are often used for installation & mounting as well, and we’ve seen some creative methods, for sure:

Yes, that’s a door hinge. No, it wasn’t my idea, but I kind of wish it was.

EXAIR Super Air Knives come in lengths from 3 inches to 9 feet long.  We stock them in aluminum, 303SS, 316SS, and PVDF.  If you need a custom length or material, though, we do those too.  We can even talk about the best way to mount it.  Call me.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Durable, Versatile, and Efficient – EXAIR Soft Grip Safety Air Gun

As compressed air technology advanced through the 20th Century, its uses multiplied.  Pneumatic cylinders became common for rolling and forming presses.  The convenience and portability of powerful pneumatic hand held tools spread in assembly and manufacturing facilities.  Along the way, operators also found that an open-ended compressed air line could be used for quick and easy blow off in a number of applications. There were, however, some pretty risky safety issues associated with this.

In December of 1970, the Occupational Safety & Health Act became the law of the land, and in 1971, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was created.  Among the many hazards in workplaces they targeted was compressed air use for cleaning.  The primary concerns were:

  • An open ended blow off could inadvertently be dead ended onto a person’s body, and if the pressure were high enough, it could break the skin and cause a deadly condition called an air embolism.  So they limited the outlet pressure to 30psi.
  • Blowing something off with air can (and usually does) result in airborne particulate traveling at a high velocity that can imbed in your skin or in your eye.  So they mandated the use of proper chip guarding, protective clothing, and eye protection.

This is where the history of the safety air gun begins.  Through the 1970’s & 1980’s, engineers rolled out product after product conforming with these new safety standards, sometimes looking for economy, sometimes efficiency…and occasionally, both.

It’s not hard to make a blow off nozzle that complies with OSHA’s dead end pressure requirement; you just need to provide a path for the air to escape in case the nozzle end is blocked.  Cross drilled nozzles (shown at right) are simple, cheap, and OSHA compliant, but they’re also loud & inefficient.

EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzles not only protect against injury from dead ended high pressure air, their engineered design also makes them quiet, and efficient.  They are commonly installed on the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun.  Along with our Chip Shields (shown at right) and your personal protective equipment, you get OSHA compliance, AND lower air consumption & noise levels.

With the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun, you also get a diverse range of options to suit the specific needs of numerous applications:

If you’re looking for a hand held blow off device, your choices are many.  If you’re looking for a quiet, efficient, safe, and versatile one, your choice is easy:  the EXAIR Soft Grip Safety Air GunCall me and we’ll figure out which one you need.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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What’s So Great About The VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun?

Well, for one thing, it’s won ANOTHER award…in addition to the 2018 Plant Engineering Product of the Year (Silver Award, Compressed Air Category) for 2018, it’s now won the 2019 Industrial Safety & Hygiene Reader’s Choice Award.

But we didn’t need awards to tell us how great they are.  EXAIR Corporation has 35 years of continuously improving experience in the design, engineering, and manufacture of quiet, safe, and efficient compressed air products for industry.  The VariBlast Compact Safety Air Guns are just another innovation that’s come to fruition, courtesy of the knowledge, experience, and dedication to quality from our R&D Engineering & Production departments.

Whatever your needs are, EXAIR has a Safety Air Gun for you.

But you don’t have to take OUR word for it: a satisfied customer base has proven the VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun‘s success:  We offer a 30 Day Unconditional Guarantee on any catalog product.  That means you can put it through its paces for up to a month…if it’s not going to work out, for any reason, we’ll arrange return for full credit.  Of the dozens of VariBlast Safety Air Guns we’ve sold every month for the last two years or so, we have not had one returned.  Not. One.  To which I say: no wonder…check it out:

If you’re looking for an economical, efficient, quiet, variable flow, handheld blow off solution, look no further than the VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun…just another award winning Intelligent Compressed Air Product, brought to you by EXAIR.  To the readers of Industrial Safety & Hygiene Magazine…thanks for noticing!

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Compressed Air – The Fourth Utility

Industrial use of compressed air dates to the middle of the 19th century.  European engineers developed & used compressed air operated drills in the construction of the Mont Cenis Tunnel in 1861.  This type of machinery had typically been steam-powered, but you needed a fire to boil the water.  Since steam loses energy when piped over long distances, that means you’d need a fire in the tunnel shaft, and that’s not good for the miners.  Electric powered products were not a viable option…they weren’t developed to the scale needed for this, and generation & distribution were not up to the task back then.

Compressed air made the most sense, because it COULD be generated locally, outside the shaft, and plumbed in to the tools without energy loss (much of the energy from steam is lost when it condenses…and compressed air doesn’t condense.)  The Mont Cenis Tunnel project was a big deal in the advancement of industrial compressed air applications.  It was originally estimated to take 25 years, but, largely due to the success of the air operated drills, it was completed in only 14 years.  This got the attention of mining industry folks in America, where coal mining was growing exponentially in the late 1800’s.

The need for bigger & better machinery and tools kept pace with the growth in industry overall throughout this time, and even to the present day.  As the distribution grid spread to just about everywhere, electricity became the principal method of providing power.  Natural gas remains popular for especially large machinery, heating, and, in fact, for electric power generation.

Water has always been key to just about any human endeavor, from agriculture, to chemical production, to cleaning…which is universal to any industry.  Like electricity and natural gas, its distribution grid was also vital to industrial growth & production.

As the “fourth utility,” as it’s become known, compressed air is unique in that it’s customarily generated on site.  This gives control to the consumer, which is great, because they can decide how much they want to make, based on how much they want to use.  And, because many applications that can use compressed air can also be addressed through other means (more on that in a minute,) the powers-that-be can decide which one makes the most sense, big-picture-wise.

Here are some common industrial applications that can be handled pneumatically, or otherwise:

  • EXAIR is the industry leader in point-of-use compressed air product applications. Try us, you’ll see.

    Moving product from one place to another: air operated conveyors (like EXAIR Line Vacs) or electric powered belt/auger/bucket conveyors.

  • Force and motion: pneumatic, or hydraulic cylinders.
  • Cleaning: Compressed air blow off devices (like EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products) or electric powered blowers…or brooms, brushes, and dustpans.
  • Rotary or impact tools: pneumatic or electric.
  • Cooling: Compressed air operated Vortex Tubes, or refrigerant based chillers, or chilled water.

The fact that there are four major utilities proves that there’s usually more than one solution to an application.  The challenge is, which one makes the most sense?  If you need help with data or recommendations from a compressed air industry expert, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Adjustable E-Vac Saves Coolant

Many EXAIR Corporation blogs could use this formula as the title:

[EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Productsaves  [valuable commodity in customer’s facility]

Popular examples might be:

But how exactly does an Adjustable E-Vac Vacuum Generator save coolant?  Isn’t that what the Chip Trapper Systems do?  (It is, and that’s been covered extensively here, here, and-my personal favorite-here.)

Our E-Vac Vacuum Generators are probably most commonly used in pick-and-place applications, in conjunction with our Vacuum Cups.

From a lightweight manual operation to an automated system with large or heavy objects, the EXAIR E-Vac Vacuum Generators can solve the application.

The Adjustable E-Vacs, however, have a unique feature – a relatively large throat diameter – that makes them well suited for suctioning up liquids.  And I recently had the pleasure of helping a caller with just such an application.  They make machinery for the automotive industry, and in one particular operation, coolant gets left behind in ‘pockets’ of a particularly unwieldy piece.  They can drain most of it at the machine, but what gets left behind in these pockets makes a real mess as it goes to the next fabrication point, and, although it’s a small amount in each pocket, it adds up to a finite amount of wasted coolant.  It’s not practical to use an electric shop vacuum, but an operator could easily use a handheld device to suck up these little puddles.

Enter the Adjustable E-Vac…with the wide throat diameter I mentioned above and compact design, they were able to install a short suction hose (via a threaded push-in connector) to the vacuum port, and a little longer discharge hose to the exhaust port, and they have a quick and easy, portable, maneuverable coolant transfer system.  Here’s a short video I made in the Demo Room, once upon a time, showing how it works:

Saving air.  Saving coolant.  Saving money and time, one compressed air application at a time.  If you have one you’d like to discuss, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Engineered Air Nozzles vs. Commercial vs. Open Air Line

How much does your compressed air cost?  If you don’t know, there are some handy tools, like this one, that will help you calculate it precisely.  For estimating purposes, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that compressed air costs about $0.25 per 1,000 Standard Cubic Feet of mass to generate.  Again, this is an estimate based on different electric power consumption costs from around the country, varying efficiencies of different types & sizes of air compressors, etc., so, as the automobile folks say, “your mileage may vary.”

Regardless of whether you calculate it exactly or just estimate it, it’s going to come as no surprise that it isn’t cheap.  That’s why efficient use HAS to be taken seriously.  Luckily, there are steps you can take (six, specifically, see below,) that can help.

Step 3, dear reader, is the subject of today’s blog.

This is a common inquiry here at EXAIR Corporation.  It’s not hard to find a blog about them -like this one, or this one, or even this one.  Before we go any further….yes, this is ANOTHER one.

I recently had the pleasure of helping a caller who was using the male ends of pneumatic quick connect fittings to blow off steel tubes:

Cheap and easy…but loud & wasteful. Don’t let this happen to you.

They were operating these, for the most part, 24/7, as their production was continuous, although there were actually spaces between product at times.  They were using over 74 SCFM…that’s 750,000 Standard Cubic Feet of compressed air PER WEEK, or over 39 MILLION SCF per year…over $9,700.00* in generation cost.  After a brief discussion, they ordered & installed two Model 1101 Super Air Nozzles, which threaded right in to their existing fittings:

This was a “slam dunk” – no system modification was even required.

Not only were the Super Air Nozzles markedly quieter (sound level went from 90dBA to 72dBA,) air consumption was reduced to just 20.90 SCFM…a 72% reduction, which translates to an annual cost savings of over $7,000.00*.  But wait…there’s more.

See, that was just “step 3” – they also installed a solenoid valve in the supply line, actuated from their process control.  This turns off the compressed air in between cycles, roughly estimated at about half the time.  This gets them additional savings of almost $1,400.00* per year.  But wait (again)…there’s STILL more.

This is one of five lines that were (mis)using the pneumatic fittings.  With the dramatic improvements of the first line, they ordered Super Air Nozzles for the remaining four.  So, to recap…an investment of $440.00 (2019 List Price for the Model 1101 is $44.00,) plus their solenoid valves, they’re saving almost $42,000.00* per year in compressed air generation costs.

*using the DoE thumbrule of $0.25/1,000 SCF referenced in the first paragraph.

Engineered compressed air products like the Super Air Nozzles are a clear winner all day, every day, over any open-end type device.  If you’d like to find out how much EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products can save you, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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