Intelligent Compressed Air®: Common Compressor Room Mistakes, And How To Avoid Them

While we don’t sell, install, or service air compressors, EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products run on compressed air, so helping you get the most out of your compressed air system is important to us. Today, we’re starting where it all begins: the compressor room.

Some of the mistakes that are commonly made in the compressor room are by design, and others are operational. My colleague Tyler Daniel wrote a great blog on design considerations recently, so I’m going to focus on the operational aspects, which include maintenance…and maybe some minor design stuff:

  • Poor ventilation: Air compressors get hot. They’ve got a lot of moving parts, and many of those parts are moving under a great amount of force (pressure is literally defined as force per unit area), and at a high rate of speed. Add in the heat of compression (it takes energy to compress air, and that energy has to go somewhere, something another colleague, John Ball, explains here), to all that friction and you come up with a TREMENDOUS amount of heat. An industry thumbrule, in fact, states that over 2500 Btu/hr of heat is generated, PER HORSEPOWER, by a typical industrial air compressor. If the compressor room isn’t big enough, you’ll need an exhaust fan capable of removing all that heat.
  • Lack of filtration: Take a good, full breath in through your nose, right now. Did you smell anything unpleasant or irritating? I hope not…clean air is a “must” for your lungs (and the rest of your body), and the same is true for your air compressor (and the rest of your compressed air system). Keeping up with the maintenance on the intake filter is literally “starting where it all begins”…from the 1st paragraph.
  • Not removing moisture: Water & water vapor will have an adverse effect on many components of your compressed air system: it’ll cause rust in iron pipes, damage the seals in air cylinders, motors, tools, etc., and if you use it for blow off or conveying, it’ll contaminate your product. We’ve writtenagain and again…about the importance of dryers, and which type might be best for you.
  • Tolerating leaks: The compressor room is loud, so leaks are going to be pretty big before you can hear them. And to add insult to injury, the vibration of a running compressor makes the compressor room a prime location for them to occur. Even one small leak that you couldn’t hear in a quieter area will cost you over $100 over the course of the year, and maybe only take minutes to fix. Good news is, even if you can’t hear them, they ALL make an ultrasonic signature, and we’ve got something for that.
EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector “finds them all, big or small!”
  • Ignoring maintenance. If you don’t schedule planned maintenance, your equipment will schedule corrective maintenance for you…oftentimes at greater expense, and with no regard to your schedule.
    • Moving metal parts that make metal-to-metal contact (or that have very tight spacing tolerances) HAVE to be lubricated properly. If you run low on oil, or let it get dirty or emulsified, severe damage will follow. Keeping an eye on the oil level, and changing it (and the filter) at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals, is critical.
    • Emulsified or otherwise contaminated oil can damage seals, gaskets, and o-rings. That’s obviously a big problem for the compressor, and when it carries over into the header, it’s a big problem for pneumatic cylinders & tools as well. Periodic sampling & analysis of your oil can provide timely notice of issues that can be corrected before they become catastrophic failures.
    • Depending on the type of compressor, and its drive system, the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations may also include:
      • Checking coupling or belt alignment of the drive.
      • Checking bolts for loosening due to vibration (a “necessary evil”, especially with reciprocating compressors).
      • Adjusting the pistons to maintain valve plate clearance.
      • Tightening or replacing the mounts & vibration pads.

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, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Image courtesy of PEO ACWA Some rights reserved Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

EXAIR Case Study Library: Help Me Help You

EXAIR Corporation has a broad range of resources to aid in the selection of the right product for the right application:

If you’re a regular reader of EXAIR blogs, you’ve seen a number of “brags” on the successful implementation of just about all of our products. Another “more” part of our website is Applications, where you’ll find WAY more brief summaries of EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product successes than we can fit in our catalog. These come from conversations, emails, and oftentimes shared photos or videos between EXAIR Application Engineers and our customers. We get to write those up as examples of our products making things better. On the occasions where the customer is willing to work with us to quantify how MUCH better our products have made things, we’re able to do a Case Study. A typical Case Study involves collection of “before/after” data, quantifying the benefits of using EXAIR products. This can include, but is not necessarily limited to :

  • Compressed air consumption
  • Noise level
  • Safety (OSHA compliance)
  • Performance improvements
  • Product durability/longevity

At last count, there are over forty entries in our Case Study Library. You can search these by Product, or by Application…depending on what, specifically, you’d like to know. Registration (free and easy) is required to access our Case Studies…if you’re already registered & signed in, you can read the details on any of them. For your immediate viewing, though, here are the pertinent details on just a few:

“Before/After” photos of this efficient and quiet upgrade.
  • More durable and efficient Safety Air Guns: This customer’s main concern was the durability of the air gun they were using. This was a situation where they sent one in for Efficiency Lab testing (that’s one of the ways we can help collect “before” data for a Case Study). I did this one, and the customer’s air gun’s trigger BROKE WHILE I WAS TESTING IT. In addition to providing a more durable product (a Model 1310 Heavy Duty Safety Air Gun, specifically), it also reduced the compressed air consumption from 63.5 SCFM to 14 SCFM, and the sound level dropped from 89.9dBA to just 74dBA.
EXAIR Safety Air Guns: rugged construction, quiet & efficient performance.
Static charge from simple contact between this injection molded plastic part & the mold caused defects in a subsequent metallic coating process (left,) which were eliminated after an EXAIR Super Ion Air Knife was installed (right.)

So, back to the title of this blog…how can you “help me help you” with a Case Study? Let’s start with that 2nd part. Upon successful completion of a Case Study, I can “help you” with a credit on the order you placed for the EXAIR product(s) that replaced what you were using before, or a discount on a subsequent order…if, for example you got a Super Ion Air Knife to try out on one of your headlight making machines, and it worked so good you want to put them on the other nine machines (true story).

The “help me” part is pretty easy too. If you have instrumentation (air flow meters, sound level meters, etc.) to gather the “before” data, we can use that for the Case Study. If you don’t, we do. You can send the subject devices in for Efficiency Lab testing…our engineering staff will use calibrated test equipment to work up a detailed performance profile on what you send in. It’s a free service we offer to anyone who wants this data, in fact, and Efficiency Lab testing has no effect on the credits or discounts we offer for participation in a Case Study.

I also “help you” (and “help me”) by keeping your name, and your company’s name, off the Case Study. That way, if your process or product is proprietary in nature, we don’t risk sharing your hard earned success with your competition. We also don’t run afoul of the authorities, like this one last Case Study I’m going to share, where a machine shop was blowing off parts they make for the military that are classified in nature. They had crimped copper tubing pointed at the cutting tool, and it worked…it was just loud and wasteful. They zipped the crimped ends off and installed Model 1100 Super Air Nozzles with a simple compression fitting. Had the photo below shown the machined part in the lathe chuck, “we’re ALL going to prison” according to the customer:

One well-cropped photo made for a great Case Study, and nobody had to go to prison. THAT was a good deal.

This one, by the way, saved 2.7 SCFM per nozzle (over $840.00 a year in compressed air savings), and reduced the sound level from 96dBA to only 76dBA.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products have been making things better for compressed air users for almost forty years. If you’d like to find out how MUCH better we can make things for you, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

“It’s Not Rocket Science”, or How Compressed Air Has Straightforward Applications In Aerospace

On the submarine I served on, many of us used math, specific to our jobs. Torpedo (and missile) fire control, navigation, reactor operations…even meal cooking…involved certain formulas to accomplish particular tasks. One formula we all knew and kept near & dear to our hearts, though, was:

Number of surfaces = Number of dives

And those who fly aircraft and spacecraft, in – and out of – the atmosphere, have a similar formula:

Number of landings = Number of takeoffs

While this certainly requires a great deal of skill of the operators (as does diving and surfacing a submarine), it also takes a great deal of technical acumen in the engineering and construction of those aircraft & spacecraft (and warships). Terms like “aircraft grade” inspire a high degree of confidence in the integrity of materials, and rightly so – the quality standards that manufacturers and suppliers are held accountable to are stringent and inviolate. That’s why aerospace professionals need reliable, durable, and effective equipment to do their jobs.

EXAIR Corporation has been providing this kind of equipment to the aerospace industry (and others) since 1983. Here are some examples of the applications we’ve worked with “steely eyed missile men” to solve:

  • A jet engine manufacturer makes a titanium assembly consisting of a honeycomb shaped extrusion bonded to a rigid sheet. The cells of the honeycomb are only 1/8” wide, and 3/8” deep. After fabrication, they’re washed & rinsed, and the tiny cells tend to hold water. They would invert & tap the assembly to try to get the water out, but that wasn’t always effective and occasionally led to damaging the assembly. To reduce the chance of damage (and loss) of an assembly, they built a cleaning station, using EXAIR Model HP1125 2” High Power Super Air Nozzles and Model 9040 Foot Pedals, for hands-free control of the high force blow out of the honeycomb cells. The results were increased production, decreased defects, and lower labor costs.
  • A machine shop makes composite material parts for the aerospace industry. Static charge would build up, causing the shavings to cling to most of the surfaces inside the machine. The vacuum system was unable to overcome the force of the static charge to remove it, so they called EXAIR. Our expertise in static elimination led to the specification of a Model 8494 Gen4 Stay Set Ion Air Jet System to direct ionized air onto the tool during cutting. This eliminated the static as it was generated on the shavings, allowing the vacuum system to perform as advertised. Not only did it make for a cleaner work station, the air flow provided cooling for the cutting tool, improving performance & extending life.
  • If a company works with metal parts, there’s a decent chance they operate a welding machine, and those things make smoke & fumes that, at best, are a nuisance, and at worst, are toxic. An airplane repair shop that has to weld in tight spaces needed a convenient, portable, compact way to evacuate the welding smoke and fumes. They chose a Model 120024 4” Super Air Amplifier. They’re capable of pulling in over 700 SCFM, and with a sound level of only 73dBA and lightweight aluminum construction, they’re an ideal fit for this application.
  • Certain satellites have components whose batteries must be fully charged to ensure that everything works just right. Because of the heat that charging generates, they couldn’t be charged with the spacecraft on the launch pad without cooling. Conventional methods of providing cold air (refrigerant based or cold water chillers) are too bulky, so they instead use a Model 3230 Medium Vortex Tube, capable of providing 2,000 Btu/hr worth of cooling air flow. This enables them to charge the battery until just prior to launch, making sure the batteries are as fully charged as possible, prior to deployment.
  • While the lion’s share of Vortex Tube applications involve the use of their cold flow, a number of folks do use the hot air flow, with great success. A major material supplier to the aircraft & aerospace industry makes a flexible, porous strand of material that, after fabrication, passes through a wash tank prior to cutting to size. They wanted to speed up the drying time, but it was impractical to use electrically powered hot air blowers or heat guns. By using an EXAIR Model 3275 Large Vortex Tube set to a 70% Cold Fraction, they’re able to blow a little over 22 SCFM of 220°F air onto the strand, which effectively dries it to their specification, quickly & safely.
These are some of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products used in the aerospace industry.

Exacting jobs call for safe, efficient, and reliable tools. Even if your job “isn’t rocket science”, the value of the right tool cannot be stressed enough. If you use – or want to use – compressed air for such a task, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

“Math Wall” image courtesy of João Trindade, Creative Commons License

What’s So Great About Compressed Air?

Compressed air is commonly known as “the fourth utility” – along with electricity, water, and gas – due to its ubiquitous use in modern industry. But…why? If you compare the power required to make it, versus the work you can get out of it, it’s abysmally inefficient. And, while it won’t electrocute you, drown you, or blow you up (like the “first three” utilities, respectively), purposely depressurizing a compressed air line comes with its own particular set of risk factors.

Of course, benefits outweigh inefficiencies and risks in many things most of us do every day. Over half of the energy released in your car’s engine goes to heat & friction, instead of turning the wheels. Insurance companies say the typical American driver has a 77% chance of getting into an automobile accident EVERY YEAR, and that most of us will be in up to THREE traffic accidents in our lifetimes. Looking at the number of fellow commuters I saw on my way to work this morning, it’s clear, though, that most of us are ready to accept that inefficiency and risk. And that’s not so surprising, considering they’re mitigated greatly by ever improving technology in fuel efficiency, and safety.

It’s, of course, the same with compressed air use, and the “first three” utilities as well: regulation, training, and engineering lower the aforementioned risks to broadly accepted levels. These disciplines also provide for the most efficient use, in spite of the inherent inefficiencies (no engine is 100% efficient) – getting the most out of what you have is “the name of the game”. So, how does all of this apply to industrial use of compressed air?

SAFETY

  • Regulation: In the United States, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) limits the nozzle pressure or or opening of a gun, pipe, cleaning lance, etc., when used for cleaning to 30psi, to protect against dead-ending such a device against your skin, which can cause a deadly condition known as an air embolism. This same directive mandates “effective chip guarding” to keep the blown off debris from hitting the operator. EXAIR Corporation has been in the business of making engineered compressed air products that comply with this directive for almost forty years now.
  • Training: There are companies whose sole purpose is to train & certify personnel in both the management, and operation, of industrial equipment in a safe manner. At EXAIR Corporation, our Safety Manager maintains certification from such an agency, which qualifies him to conduct regular training to ensure safe operation of tools, equipment, and chemicals used in the manufacture of our engineered compressed air products.
  • Engineering: In the “Hierarchy of Controls” established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), “Engineering Controls” is considered to be less effective than “Elimination” or “Substitution” of the hazard, but more effective than “Administrative Controls” or “Personal Protective Equipment”. THAT’S why EXAIR Corporation has been doing what we do – and why we’re so successful at it – for all this time.
For more on this, I can’t recommend my colleague Jordan Shouse’s recent blog on the subject highly enough. Go read it now…this blog will wait.

EFFICIENCY

  • Regulation: Since the energy crisis of the 1970’s, the United States Department of Energy has implemented numerous initiatives directed at improving energy efficiency. If you’ve ever shopped for a home appliance, you’re likely familiar with EnergyStar ratings. They have a similar program for commercial and industrial air compressors. While they’re not a government body with powers to mandate regulations, the Compressed Air Challenge membership consists of manufacturers & distributors, users, research & development agencies, energy efficiency organizations, and utilities, with key focus on providing direction for the most efficient operation of compressed air systems…from generation to point of use.
  • Training: Speaking of the Compressed Air Challenge, they, and other organizations like the Compressed Air & Gas Institute (CAGI) conduct formal training sessions, in addition to the documented direction I mentioned above. CAGI also has a personnel certification program for those interested in developing credibility and confidence by demonstrating knowledge, understanding, and expertise in the design & operation of compressed air equipment. You can even get a cool logo to put on your business cards and in your signature line.
  • Engineering: While there are multiple avenues to engineer SAFE compressed air products, not all of them are necessarily efficient as well. At EXAIR Corporation, we set ourselves above the fray by maintaining focus on safety AND efficiency. In their discussion of controls that I mentioned above, NIOSH has this to add on the subject of Engineering Controls: “The initial cost of engineering controls can be higher than the cost of administrative controls or PPE, but over the longer term, operating costs are frequently lower, and in some instances, can provide a cost savings in other areas of the process.” (emphasis mine)

To answer the question I posed in this blog’s title, there are many considerations that make compressed air great to use…among them are:

  • Pneumatic tools are lighter, cheaper, more mobile, and lower maintenance than their electrical counterparts. The risk of electrocution is also avoided.
  • Compressed air distribution systems are easier and less costly to install than electrical grids or natural gas lines.
  • Compressed air doesn’t lose energy over distance like steam.
  • Compressed air leaks, while potentially costly, don’t present an inherent safety risk to plant personnel like gas leaks or electrical “leaks” (aka electrocution hazards).

Add in safety and efficiency, and THAT’S what’s so great about compressed air. If you’d like to find out how EXAIR Corporation can help YOU get the most out of our compressed air use, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook