Intelligent Compressed Air: Maintaining an Efficient Compressor System

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The electrical costs associated with generating compressed air make it the most expensive utility in any industrial facility. In order to help offset these costs, it’s imperative that the system is operating as efficiently as possible. I’d like to take a moment to walk you through some of the ways that you can work towards making your compressed air system more efficient.

The first step you should take is to identify and fix any leaks within the distribution piping. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, up to 30% of all compressed air generated is lost through leaks. This ends up accounting for nearly 10% of your overall energy costs!! To put leaks in perspective, take a look at the graphic below from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems handbook.

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Compressed air leaks don’t just waste energy, but they can also contribute to other operating losses. If enough air is lost through leaks, this can also cause a drop in system pressure. This can affect the functionality of other compressed air operated equipment and processes. This pressure drop can affect the efficiency of the equipment causing it to cycle on/off more frequently or to not work properly. This can lead to anything from rejected products to increased running time. With an increase in running time, there’s also the need for more frequent maintenance and unscheduled downtime.

You can perform a compressed air audit in your facility using an EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector. If you’d prefer someone come in and do this for you, there are several companies that offer energy audit services where this will be a focal point of the process.

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EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Speaking of maintenance, proper compressor maintenance is also critical to the overall efficiency of the system. Like all industrial equipment, a proper maintenance schedule is required in order to ensure things are operating at peak efficiency. Inadequate compressor maintenance can have a significant impact on energy consumption via lower compressor efficiency. A regular preventative maintenance schedule is required in order to keep things in good shape. The compressor, heat exchanger surfaces, lubricant, lubricant filter, air inlet filter, and dryer all need to be maintained. This can be done yourself or through a reputable compressor dealer. The costs associated with these services are outweighed in the improved reliability and performance of the compressor. A well-maintained system will not cause unexpected shutdowns and will also cost less to operate.

The manner in which you use your compressed air at the point of use should also be evaluated. Inefficient, homemade solutions are thought to be a cheap and quick solution. Unfortunately, the costs to supply these inefficient solutions with compressed air can quickly outweigh the costs of an engineered solution. An engineered compressed air nozzle such as EXAIR’s line of Super Air Nozzles are designed to utilize the coanda effect. Free, ambient air from the environment is entrained into the airflow along with the supplied compressed air. This maximizes the force and flow of the nozzle while keeping compressed air usage to a minimum.

Another method of making your compressed air system more efficient is actually quite simple: regulating the supply pressure. By installing pressure regulators at the point of use for each of your various point of use devices, you can reduce the consumption simply by reducing the pressure. This can’t be done for everything, but I’d be willing to bet that several tasks could be accomplished with the same level of efficiency at a reduced pressure. Most shop air runs at around 80-90 psig, but for general blowoff applications you can often get by operating at a lower pressure. Another simple, but often overlooked, method is to simply shut off the compressed air supply when not in use. If you haven’t yet performed an audit to identify compressed air leaks this is even more of a no-brainer. When operators go to lunch or during breaks, what’s stopping you from just simply turning a valve to shut off the supply of air? It seems simple and minute, but each step goes a long way towards reducing your overall air consumption and ultimately your energy costs.

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

 

Image taken from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems Handbook, 2nd Edition

Gen4 Super Ion Air Wipe Removes Static on Bottling Line

Just recently I worked with our Distributor in Argentina on an application for a manufacturer of bottled water. Once the bottles are filled, a protective security seal is placed along the top of the bottle. This serves two purposes, it prevents any form of tampering as well as keeps the cap of the bottle clean throughout the rest of the manufacturing process. Since most people drink directly from the bottle, this area needs to remain clean and not be exposed to contamination later on in the process.

Their problem was that static was building up on this plastic which caused an improper seal on the cap of the bottle. Further down the processing line, the bottles can be exposed to water that contaminates the bottles. They had to implement an inspection process as it was not acceptable to allow any contaminated bottles to leave the plant. Without a solution, they were losing time due to the necessary inspection as bottles were being rejected at a rate of almost 30%.

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The recommended solution was to install a Model 8164 4″ Gen4 Super Ion Air Wipe just prior to the point in the process where the seal was applied. The plastic material passed through the center of the Super Ion Air Wipe which neutralized the static charge on the material. Without a charge, the seal was applied correctly and they were able to eliminate the need of a manual inspection. After installation, the reject rate dropped to 0%!!

The Gen4 Super Ion Air Wipe provides a uniform 360° ionized airstream and is available in both 2” and 4” ID sizes. Its clam-shell design makes it easy to clamp around a part for neutralizing static electricity and contaminants. The high volume, high velocity airflow attaches itself to the surface and wipes it down with static eliminating ions. The airflow stays attached to the surface and is effective up to 15’ away from where it’s mounted. It’s lightweight and easy to mount using the ¼-20 tapped holes on the back or can also be held into place with just rigid pipe.

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As the temperatures begin to decline, so does the humidity in the air. Drier air results in an increase in static problems. Get ahead of it this year and check out EXAIR’s wide line of various Static Elimination products, all available to ship same-day from stock!

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

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.15(a) – Occupational Noise Exposure Limits

Hearing loss due to high noise levels is a common problem in many industrial facilities. Without the use of proper PPE, hearing loss can occur quickly. This is a serious concern as hearing loss is permanent and once the damage is done there’s no way to reverse it. Due to this risk, OSHA strictly enforces standard 29 CFR-1910.95(a).

This directive discusses the effects of noise and limits exposure based on the dBA. The table below indicates the maximum allowable exposure time to different noise levels. Sound levels that exceed these levels should first be addressed by proper engineering controls such as isolating the source of the sound from personnel or replacing the cause of the sound with something like an engineered compressed air nozzle. When such controls aren’t feasible, proper PPE must be worn to protect the operator.

OSHA Chart

Hearing loss can occur in as little as 30 minutes when exposed to sound levels 110 dBA or greater. Operators have a tendency not to use PPE as directed, if an OSHA inspector comes to your facility and notices that the sound levels exceed the maximum allowable level without protection hefty fines will be soon to follow. In this example from the United States Department of Labor, a company was fined a total of $143,000 for failing to protect their employees.

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Model 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter

In order to identify the places or processes in your facility that are causing the problems, you’ll need a tool to measure the sound level. EXAIR’s easy to use Digital Sound Level Meter allows you to measure and monitor the sound level pressure in a wide variety of industrial environments. The source of the loud noise can then be identified and isolated so that corrective action can be taken. For compressed air related noise, EXAIR manufactures a wide variety of engineered compressed air products that can reduce the sound level dramatically. In many cases, EXAIR products are capable of reducing noise levels by as much as 10 dBA. Since the dBA scale is logarithmic, this equates to cutting the sound level in half!

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Drilled pipes and open ended tubes are the common culprit for excessive noise levels. Replacing them with an engineered solution often eliminates the need for hearing protection.

If there’s processes within your facility that are above these limits and you’d like to eliminate relying on proper PPE, give an Application Engineer a call. We’ll help walk you through the selection process and make sure that when the OSHA inspector comes knocking you’re prepared!

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

NFL is Back! But So is Static……

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View of Paul Brown Stadium

I awoke on Sunday with a bit more pep in my step. It’s been a long and dreary past 7 months (8 or more months for unlucky fans like me), but this day marked another early season NFL Sunday. Wives across the U.S. were collectively rolling their eyes as their husbands perched themselves comfortably on the couch, cold beer in hand, glued to the television screen from dawn ‘til dusk. It’s an exciting time for many, especially us Bengals fans, as the season is ripe with hope and cautious optimism. Fantasy leagues are in full swing, and my apologies to any of you who elected to draft Le’Veon Bell with your 1st pick this year….. However, with the arrival of football season, there is  an unwelcome guest that begins to rear its ugly head: static electricity.

As summer ends and moves towards fall and winter, the air becomes much drier. And because moisture in the air can mitigate some static charge, the dry air allows more static to be present. You may be familiar with the unpleasant shock you get from the door knob after walking across a carpeted surface. While this type of shock doesn’t generally cause any sort of problems, in many industrial processes this static electricity can cause a wide range of different issues. These may manifest simply as nuisance shocks to the operator similar to the door knob example, but it can also cause problems with finish quality, materials jamming/tearing, sheet feeding problems, product clinging to itself or rollers, and dust clinging to product.

In many painting applications, particularly in the automotive industry, dust and debris from the ambient environment can settle on the part prior to painting. Just blowing them off with a standard air gun won’t remove all of the particles if they’re statically charged. The static must be removed in order to remove it or it’ll cause imperfections in the finish after painting. This often results in a high amount of rejected parts that must be scrapped out. I recently visited with a company who handles the painting of small interior automotive parts. The parts are housed on shelves in a dusty environment. This dust settles on the parts while they’re waiting to be painted and just using an air gun alone wasn’t taking care of the problem. In this setup, they were rejecting nearly 60% of all painted parts after inspection.

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Automotive parts after painting

We brought with us a Model 8193 Gen4 Ion Air Gun to replace their regular compressed air gun. The Ion Air Gun is an ergonomic handheld gun that combines low air consumption along with an incredibly fast static decay rate. After taking a reading both before and after with a Model 7905 Static Meter, it was clear that the Ion Air Gun was the right tool for the job. The static eliminating ions were carried to the surface of the part which not only removed the static charge, but also the dust particles clinging to the surface. By replacing their two standard guns with Ion Air Guns, the reject rate was reduced to just under 10% after painting!!

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Model 8193 Gen4 Ion Air Gun

Break out your favorite football team’s gear and enjoy the cooler weather and activities that accompany the coming of Fall, but don’t let static wreak havoc in your processes. EXAIR has a wide range of solutions available that are designed to solve these problems. Give an Application Engineer a call and we’ll be happy to help recommend the best solution. And to all of my fellow Bengals fans out there, WHO DEY!

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

 

Bengals photo courtesy of  Nunya Biz via Flickr Creative Commons License

Heavy Duty Line Vac: A Powerful and Durable Pneumatic Conveyor

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EXAIR’s Line Vacs are an ideal solution for bulk conveying over long distances. With just a small amount of compressed air, the Line Vac generates vacuum on one end and high output flows on the other. The conveyance rate is easily adjustable by regulating the pressure supplied to the Line Vac. At higher input pressures the Line Vac will move more material, at lesser pressures the conveyance rate is also reduced.

The Heavy Duty Line Vac looks similar to the standard Line Vac, but packs a more powerful punch. Performance has been boosted with larger holes in the generator. This makes the Heavy Duty Line Vac ideal for heavier materials that must be conveyed over longer vertical and horizontal distances. Standard Line Vacs can also be drilled out to match the performance of a Heavy Duty. In addition to being a more powerful conveying system, the Heavy Duty Line Vac is also constructed of our proprietary hardened alloy steel blend. This material provides exceptionally strong abrasion resistance for applications requiring the transfer of materials such as crushed glass, steel shot, or dry sand.

Where a material such as aluminum or even stainless steel would quickly wear out, the Heavy Duty Line Vac will not. As with all of our stock products, the Heavy Duty Line Vac comes with EXAIR’s Built-To-Last 5 year warranty. We’ve tested these units here ourselves with a variety of different common abrasive materials. Check out the video below to see for yourself just how durable these Line Vacs are!

Just as the Standard Line Vacs, the Heavy Duty Line Vac can come with either smooth of NPT threaded connections to turn ordinary pipe into a powerful conveying system. With sizes from ¾ NPT up to 3” NPT, there’s a size from stock available suitable for your application. If you’re looking to move abrasive materials from one point to another in your shop, look no further than EXAIR’s Heavy Duty Line Vac. Reach out to an EXAIR Application Engineer for help in determining the most suitable sized Line Vac for your requirement.

Tyler Daniel

Application Engineer

E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com

Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Intelligent Compressed Air: Sliding-Vane Compressors

If you’re an active reader of the EXAIR blog, you’ve seen several posts over the last year about the various different types of air compressors. From the positive-displacement style of compressors (Rotary Scroll, Rotary Screw, Single and Double Acting Reciprocating Compressors,) as well as a review of a dynamic style (Centrifugal Compressors). In this blog, I’ll be discussing another of the positive-displacement variety: The Sliding-Vane Compressor.

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Air enters from the right, and as the compression chamber volume reduces due to counterclockwise rotation, the pressure increases until the air discharges to the left

In positive-displacement type compressors, a given quantity of air or gas is trapped in a compression chamber. The volume of this air is then mechanically reduced, causing an increase in pressure. A sliding-vane compressor will consist of a circular stator that is housed in a cylindrical rotor. The rotor then has radially positioned slots where the vanes reside. While the rotor turns on its axis, the vanes will slide out and contact the bore of the stator wall. This creates compression in these “cells”. An inlet port is positioned to allow the air flow into each cell, allowing the cells to reach their maximum volume before reaching the discharge port. After passing by the inlet port, the size of the cell is reduced as rotation continues and each vane is then pushed back into its original slot in the rotor.  Compression will continue until the cell reaches the discharge port. The most common form of sliding-vane compressor is the lubricant injected variety. In these compressors, a lubricant is injected into the compression chamber to act as a lubricant between the vanes and the stator wall, remove the heat of compression, as well as to provide a seal. Lubricant injected sliding-vane compressors are generally sold in the range of 10-200 HP, with capacities ranging from 40-800 acfm.

Advantages of a lubricant injected sliding-vane compressor include:

  • Compact size
  • Relatively low purchase cost
  • Vibration-free operation does not require special foundations
  • Routine maintenance includes lubricant and filter changes

Some of the disadvantages that come with this type of compressor:

  • Less efficient than the rotary screw type
  • Lubricant carryover into the delivered air will require proper maintenance of an oil-removal filtration system
  • Will require periodic lubricant changes

With the host of different options in compressor types available on the market, EXAIR recommends talking to a reputable air compressor dealer in your area to help determine the most suitable setup based on your requirements. Once your system is up and running, be sure to contact an EXAIR Application Engineer to make sure you’re using that compressed air efficiently and intelligently!

Tyler Daniel

Application Engineer

E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com

Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Diagram:  used from Compressed Air Challenge Handbook

Custom Products Designed Just for Your Application

Because EXAIR designs and manufactures our own products, if you need something a little different we can probably help. This is true throughout our entire product line, the following examples are of our Line Vac products.

Do you have an application that may not be best served by one of our stock Line Vac products? While we have quite a variety of both materials, sizes, and connection types sometimes a special application requires a special solution. For this reason,  EXAIR manufactures special Line Vacs suited EXACTLY for the type of application or environment that it’ll be operating in.

This special Miniature Line Vac was manufactured with barb fittings and designed for a manufacturer of integrated circuit chips. It was used to remove microscopic debris during the chip making process. It’s small overall footprint makes it ideal for applications requiring tight mounting conditions. It has also been used by other manufacturers to vacuum liquid and chips from small drilled holes. While the Line Vac isn’t typically suitable for liquids, the higher vacuum level associated with the smaller Line Vacs makes it a possibility.

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This next special Line Vac was used to convey fine powders or granulated materials from a hopper. While this is a pretty straight-forward application for a standard Line Vac, their material could sometimes be moist which would pack the tube and restrict the flow of material. The funnel-shaped design created a suction on the existing tube that permitted a continuous product flow.

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This flanged Line Vac was used to retrofit existing machinery to remove acidic vapors resulting from surface etching of a silicon wafer. Where this would typically be a nice fit for a Stainless Steel Air Amplifier, the existing exhaust piping was lengthy with many bends that would have caused back pressure on any Air Amplifiers. In this case, they needed the high velocity airflow from the directed nozzles of the Line Vac to overcome this downstream resistance.

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In addition to making Line Vacs in different shapes and sizes, we can also use special materials. In this instance, the special flanged Line Vac was manufactured out of PVDF (Polyvinylidene Flouride) due to its superior corrosive resistance. The Line Vac would be regularly exposed to a chloride wash that would corrode even stainless steel. It was also manufactured with special QF flanges to allow for easy assembly and removal of the conveying hoses for cleaning purposes.

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As you can see the sky is the limit when it comes to potential styles of Line Vacs. Don’t think just because you don’t find something you need in the catalog that EXAIR can’t do it! We’ll create special manufactured products for just about anything that you can find in the catalog, not just the Line Vacs. Whether it’s custom-length Super Air Knives or special Air Amplifiers we can make it happen. Reach out to an Application Engineer today for help designing a solution, just for YOU!

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