The aerospace industry has a high demand for high quality materials and can often be the leading users of high-quality materials. Since these sort of materials are typically very expensive it should be no surprise that manufacturers of aerospace parts are always looking for ways to gain efficiency within their processes. Today’s blog offers insight into how one aerospace company optimized its performance.
A manufacturer of passenger plane interiors contacted us looking to improve their feed of material in and out of presses. They manufactured aircraft plywood and struggled with a hands-free way to help “float” the sheets during loading and unloading. They also spent a good amount of time waiting for the sheet to cool enough to handle for removal. These presses opened a minimal amount and were pressing the layers of the sheet together and then needed to be slid out of the press and moved on to the next process. The operators would use a handheld blowgun to try and blow under the sheet to move and adjust its positioning however they were then left with only one hand to do the positioning which became cumbersome. After the sheet was pressed they would blow with the same gun again and attempt to cool down the handling location and then drag it back out of the press. This was not a safe or efficient method to handle these sheets.
To improve the process this manufacturer installed a Super Air Knife. The opening on the press was 6′ wide, so they used a 72″ Super Air Knife w/ Plumbing Kit Installed Kit on one press as a test run. The knife was fed from a line that was outfitted with a solenoid valve that tied into a sensor already existing on their press so the air would only be fired when called for by the operator. While the knife did consume more air per minute of operation they were able to reduce the overall time air was being used for loading because the operator now had both hands to work with the sheet.
Once the process was completed and the press opened the knife would turn on again to cool the sheet, then within a few seconds, the operator would reach in and again be able to easily float the sheet out. This was all made possible by the low profile design of the Super Air Knife not inhibiting the range of motion the operators had and not having to block the limited work envelope they had at the machine.
With this test machine improving production time, operator satisfaction, and enabling safer machine operation the company elected to implement a program installing the 72″ Super Air Knives on each one of their presses. If you would like to discuss any point of use compressed air application that needs improvement or isn’t as safe or efficient as you would like in your facility, contact an Application Engineer.
EXAIR’s Super Air Knives are the ideal fit for any application requiring a laminar “curtain” of air for blowoff purposes. The high-velocity airflow does an excellent job of cleaning off surfaces, cooling, and drying in a wide variety of applications throughout industry. These products are engineered to provide a consistent and reliable force across the full length of the knife, ensuring repeatable performance in any application.
I recently worked with a customer who manufactures a variety of bread products. In one application, they were using slotted pipes connected to a blower to clean sesame seeds off of trays after baking. The cut pipes seemed like a simple and economical solution since they had the materials there in the facility already, but the homemade blower-knives were lacking in force necessary to clean the trays.
When the tray wasn’t fully cleaned, residual seeds would stick to the bottom of the next loaves and burn leaving an unacceptable product for their customers. The solution was to implement a manual step of scraping off the trays which required a dedicated operator to perform this single operation. The plant runs 24/7, leading the customer to hire 3 new personnel strictly for cleaning the trays all day long.
Recent staffing difficulties due to COVID-19 led management to seek out areas where they could enhance their production efficiency and identified an opportunity in this application. EXAIR’s compressed air operated Super Air Knives provide a hard-hitting curtain of air that is very effective at cleaning. The (2) slotted pipes were replaced with (2) Model 110024SS stainless steel Super Air Knives and plumbed into their existing compressed air system.
Immediately, the higher force provided by the Super Air Knives displayed the ability to completely clean the trays and eliminate the need for dedicated operators for this part of the process. This allowed them to shift personnel to areas in the facility in desperate need of help, while still solving the problem of rejected bread loaves due to residual seeds.
If you have an application in your facility that is in need of an efficiency makeover, give us a call. Our team of experienced Application Engineers is ready to help evaluate your process and make any necessary recommendations.
A plastic company produced many kinds of films and sheets. They were having issues with one particular film, an OPS (Polystyrene) film which was 0.012” (300 microns) thick and 30” (762mm) wide. As the material was extruded into a flat sheet, they would run it over a cold roll drum (Reference photo above). The cold drum is a large cylinder that has chilled water running through it. To keep the sheet on the surface of the cold drum, they used a blower air knife system. With the blower air knife, they were having variation in thickness as well as stretch marks. They heard about the EXAIR Super Air Knife, and they wanted me to do a comparison. I was glad to compare the EXAIR 110230 30” Super Air Knife Kit to their blower-type air knife system.
“Stretch” marks on the plastic film:
Blower System – Hot air is generated by the blower system. When the hot air hits the cool surface, it would cause an uneven hardening of the material, causing stretch marks.
Super Air Knife – It has a 40:1 amplification ratio. That means that 40 parts of the ambient air is entrained with 1 part of compressed air. Being that the ambient air is much cooler than the hot air from the blower system, it actually aides in cooling. There is no thermal shock to the sheet material, and hardening is consistent and faster.
An even force across the plastic film:
Blower System – Their design had one 4” (102mm) line feeding into the side of the blower air knife. This would cause two issues for an even force. As the velocity of the air hits the opposite side of the knife, the closed end, a turbulent air flow is developed. Also, there would be a slight negative pressures at the entrance caused by the velocity of the air entering. This chaotic turbulent flow caused an uneven force on the surface of the film.
Super Air Knife – The flow that is delivered from the Super Air Knife is laminar. This means that the force and velocity is consistent across the entire length, even on the target. With this even force, the film was held evenly and securely on the cold drum. With a filter, shim set, and regulator that is included in the kit, the force can be easily adjusted to the perfect requirement.
Blower System – Preventative maintenance is a requirement. The blower filters have to be changed regularly, and the mechanical and electrical components have to be checked. This requires downtime to the system. In addition to this, blower motors are mechanical devices. The bearings will wear and the motor will fail. If a mechanical failure does occur, the downtime can cost days of operation. These items should be checked quarterly as a PM which increases the cost of ownership.
Super Air Knife – No moving parts to wear out. The only maintenance would be to change the compressed air filter once a year. There is no worry about catastrophic failure.
Blower System – With the blower motor and turbulent air flow, the system makes a lot of noise. They have a sound level near 93 dBA which would need PPE for nearby operators.
Super Air Knife – These units are very quiet. At a pressure of 100 PSIG (6.9 bar), the sound level is only 72 dBA. No additional cost for PPE or the constant nagging disturbance of loud noises.
Blower System – The foot print of the blower is large and it takes up much floor space. The 4” (102mm) duct has to be ran to an oversized air knife (Reference photo below). With the turbulent flow, the blower air knife has to be mounted close to the film surface. So, it can make it difficult to optimize the placement.
Super Air Knife – With the compact design, the Super Air Knife has a large force in a small package. The model 110230 Super Air Knife has a footprint of 1 ¾” X 1 ½” X 30” long (44 X 38 X 762mm respectively) with only two ¼” NPT compressed air lines feeding it. The force measurement is the same from 3” (76mm) to 12” (305mm) away from the surface; giving flexibility in placement.
When it comes to using the EXAIR Super Air Knives, it has many benefits over the blower-type air knives. We can even include the initial purchase price in which the Super Air Knife would be about 1/10 the cost, and the company was able to increase production with a cooler blowing device. They were delighted to remove the large blower-type system and replace it with a simple Super Air Knife. If you would like to discuss the advantages of the Super Air Knife against a blower system, an EXAIR Application Engineer will be happy to assist.