Compressed Air and Pneumatic Systems

Compressed Air Pipe

Compressed air is used to operate pneumatic systems in a facility, and it can be segregated into three main sections; the supply side, the demand side, and the distribution system.  The supply side is the air compressor, after-cooler, dryer, and receiver tank that produce and treat the compressed air.  They are generally found in a compressor room.  The demand side is a collection of devices that will use the compressed air to do “work”.  These pneumatic components are generally scattered throughout the facility.  To connect the supply side to the demand side, a distribution system is required.  Distribution systems are pipes or tubes which carry compressed air from the air compressor to the pneumatic devices.  The three sections have to work together to make an effective and efficient system.

Compressed air is a clean utility that is used in many different ways, and it is much safer than electrical or hydraulic systems.  But most people think that compressed air is free, and it is most certainly not.  Because of the cost, compressed air is considered to be a fourth utility in manufacturing plants.  For an electrical motor to reduce a volume of air by compressing it, it takes roughly 1 horsepower (746 watts) to compress 4 cubic feet (113L) of air every minute to 125 PSI (8.5 bar).  With almost every manufacturing plant in the world utilizing air compressors larger than 1 horsepower, the amount of energy needed is extraordinary.

Let’s determine the energy cost to operate an air compressor by Equation 1:

Equation 1:

Cost = hp * 0.746 * hours * rate / (motor efficiency)

where:

Cost – US$

hp – horsepower of motor

0.746 – conversion KW/hp

hours – running time

rate – cost for electricity, US$/KWh

motor efficiency – average for an electric motor is 95%.

As an example, a manufacturing plant operates a 100 HP air compressor in their facility.  The cycle time for the air compressor is roughly 60%.  To calculate the hours of running time per year, I used 250 days/year at 16 hours/day.  So operating hours equal 250 * 16 * 0.60 = 2,400 hours per year.  The electrical rate for this facility is $0.10/KWh. With these factors, the annual cost to run the air compressor can be calculated by Equation 1:

Cost = 100hp * 0.746 KW/hp * 2,400hr * $0.10/KWh / 0.95 = $18,846 per year in electrical costs.

Filters and Regulator

If we look at the point-of-use or demand side, the compressed air is generally conditioned to be used to run and control the pneumatic system.  The basic units include filters, regulators, and lubricators.  The filters are used to remove any oil, water, vapor, and pipe scale to keep your pneumatic system clean.  They fall into different types and categories depending on the cleanliness level required.

Filter Separators are more of a coarse filtration which will capture liquid water, oil, and particulate.  The Oil Removal Filters are more of a fine filtration which can capture particles down to 0.03 micron.  They are also designed to “coalesce” the small liquid particles into larger droplets for gravity removal.  One other group is for removing oil vapor and smell.  This type of filter uses activated charcoal to adsorb the vapor for food and pharmaceutical industries.  Filters should be placed upstream of regulators.

Pressure Regulators change the pressure downstream for safety and control.  Pneumatic devices need both flow and pressure to work correctly.  The lubricator, which is placed after the Regulator, helps to add clean oil in a compressed air line.  Air tools, cylinders, and valves use the oil to keep seals from wearing with dynamic functions.  Once the compressed air is “ready” for use, then it is ready to do many applications.

For EXAIR, we manufacture products that use the compressed air safely, efficiently, and effectively.  EXAIR likes to use the 5-C’s; Coat, Clean, Cool, Convey and Conserve.  We have products that can do each part with 16 different product lines.  EXAIR has been manufacturing Intelligent Compressed Air Products since 1983.  Compressed air is an expensive system to operate pneumatic systems; but, with EXAIR products, you can save yourself much money.  If you need alternative ways to decrease electrical cost, improve safety, and increase productivity when using compressed air, an Application Engineer at EXAIR will be happy to help you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Preventative Maintenance for EXAIR Filters

Good engineering practice calls for point of use filtration and moisture removal, such as that provided by EXAIR Filter Separators.

I read a white paper from Parker Hannifin about compressed air filters.  The idea behind the paper was to remember your filter replacements.  Compressed air can be dirty with water, oil, pipe scale, etc.  As the filters capture the contamination, it will start to build pressure drop.  Remember, pressure drop is a waste of energy in your compressed air system.

Majority of EXAIR products use compressed air for cleaning, cooling, conveying, static elimination, coating and more.  To help keep them running efficiently, it is important to supply them with clean, dry, pressurized air.  EXAIR offers a line of Filter Separators and Oil Removal Filters to supply quality air to your equipment.  In this blog, I will explain the two types of filters that we carry and the maintenance requirements.  Filters and preventative measures can play an important part in your compressed air system.

Filter Separators are used to remove bulk liquid and contamination from the compressed air stream.  They utilize a 5-micron filter with a mechanical separation to help remove large amounts of dirt and water.  This type of filter would be considered the minimum requirement for filtration.  Most of the Filter Separators come with an auto-drain to automatically dispense the collection of oil and water.  EXAIR offers a variety of port sizes and flow ranges to meet your pneumatic flow requirement.  For maintenance, the filter elements should be changed once a year or when the pressure drop reaches 10 PSID (0.7 bar), whichever comes first.  I created a list in Table 1 below showing the correct replacement element kits for each model number.  And for any reason, if the bowl or internal components get damaged, we also have Rebuild Kits as well.  Just remember, the air quality is very important for longevity and functionality of your pneumatic systems and even for EXAIR products.

The Oil Removal Filters can make your compressed air even cleaner.  They work great at removing very small particles of dirt and oil.  They are made from glass fibers and can remove particles down to 0.03 micron.  They are designed to collect small particles and to coalesce the liquid particles into a large droplet for gravity to remove.  Because of the fine matrix, Oil Removal Filters are not great for bulk separation.  If you have a system with lots of oil and water, I would recommend to use the Filter Separator upstream of the Oil Removal Filter.  As with the Filter Separator, the filter element should be changed once a year or at a pressure drop of 10 PSID (0.7 bar).  EXAIR also offers a variety of port sizes and flow ranges.  Table 1 below shows the replacement Element Kits as well as the Rebuild Kits.  If the application requires very clean compressed air, the Oil Removal Filter should be used.

Table 1

By using EXAIR filters, they will clean your compressed air to prevent contamination on parts, performance issues, and premature failures.  As an ounce of prevention, you should add the replacement elements in stock and enter them in your preventative maintenance program.  With quality air, your pneumatic system and EXAIR products will provide you with effective, long-lasting performance without any maintenance downtime.  If you would like to discuss the correct type of filters to use in your application, you can speak with an Application Engineer.  We will be happy to help you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Video Blog: Importance of Point-of-Use Filtration

When operating any of your Intelligent Compressed Air Products, something that often gets overlooked is the importance of delivering clean, dry air to those point-of-use products. Many of our products have very tight orifices to help reduce the volume of compressed air they consume. In addition, most have no moving parts to wear out and require no maintenance. That is, unless you’re using unfiltered compressed air.

Rust and scale are commonly found within the distribution system inside your facility. Old iron pipe and receiver tanks are the common culprits. A common misconception is that the air is already filtered as it exits the compressor. While this may be true, there’s still places in the distribution system that can cause issues downstream.

To eliminate the hassle of taking things apart to periodically clean, EXAIR recommends installing a point-of-use filter for all of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products. Kits are available for purchase that come with a properly sized filter to ensure your air is sufficiently clean. To see how quickly debris can clog your products, check out my video below demonstrating the difference between dirty and clean air with a Model 110006 6″ Super Air Knife.

If you’ve already purchased and installed products without filters, it’s never to late to go back and install one. Contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today and we’ll be happy to help you determine the proper size for the volume of air you’re products need.

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

Video Blog: Filter/Separator and Pressure Regulator Mounting and Coupling Kit Installation

Using EXAIR mounting and coupling kits you can assemble EXAIR Filters and Regulators into one plug and play assembly. Follow along with the video posted below to complete this task!

If you need a deeper understanding about how EXAIR’s products can be applied and help your process or product, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to give you a clear understanding of the benefits when using our engineered compressed air products. We can also explain proper implementation of accessory items such as compressed air filters and regulators.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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