The Importance Of Air Compressor System Maintenance

 

It should go without saying, but proper operation of anything that has moving parts will depend on how well it’s maintained.  Compressed air systems are certainly no exception; in fact; they’re a critical example of the importance of proper maintenance, for two big reasons:

*Cost: compressed air, “the fourth utility,” is expensive to generate.  And it’s more expensive if it’s generated by a system that’s not operating as efficiently as it could.

*Reliability: Many industrial processes rely on clean or clean & dry air, at the right pressure, being readily available:

  • When a CNC machine trips offline in the middle of making a part because it loses air pressure, it has to be reset.  That means time that tight schedules may not afford, and maybe a wasted part.
  • The speed of pneumatic cylinders and tools are proportional to supply pressure.  Lower pressure means processes take longer.  Loss of pressure means they stop.
  • Dirt & debris in the supply lines will clog tight passages in air operated products.  It’ll foul and scratch cylinder bores.  And if you’re blowing off products to clean them, anything in your air flow is going to get on your products too.

Good news is, the preventive maintenance necessary to ensure optimal performance isn’t all that hard to perform.  If you drive a car, you’re already familiar with most of the basics:

*Filtration: air compressors don’t “make” compressed air, they compress air that already exists…this is called the atmosphere, and, technically, your air compressor is drawing from the very bottom of the “ocean” of air that blankets the planet.  Scientifically speaking, it’s filthy down here.  That’s why your compressor has an inlet/intake filter, and this is your first line of defense. If it’s dirty, your compressor is running harder, and costs you more to operate it.  If it’s damaged, you’re not only letting dirt into your system; you’re letting it foul & damage your compressor.  Just like a car’s intake air filter (which I replace every other time I change the oil,) you need to clean or replace your compressor’s intake air filter on a regular basis as well.

*Moisture removal: another common “impurity” here on the floor of the atmospheric “ocean” is water vapor, or humidity.  This causes rust in iron pipe supply lines (which is why we preach the importance of point-of-use filtration) and will also impact the operation of your compressed air tools & products.

  • Most industrial compressed air systems have a dryer to address this…refrigerated and desiccant are the two most popular types.  Refrigerant systems have coils & filters that need to be kept clean, and leaks are bad news not only for the dryer’s operation, but for the environment.  Desiccant systems almost always have some sort of regeneration cycle, but it’ll have to be replaced sooner or later.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on these.
  • Drain traps in your system collect trace amounts of moisture that even the best dryer systems miss.  These are typically float-operated, and work just fine until one sticks open (which…good news…you can usually hear quite well) or sticks closed (which…bad news…won’t make a sound.)  Check these regularly and, in conjunction with your dryers, will keep your air supply dry.

*Lubrication: the number one cause of rotating equipment failure is loss of lubrication.  Don’t let this happen to you:

  • A lot of today’s electric motors have sealed bearings.  If yours has grease fittings, though, use them per the manufacturer’s directions.  Either way, the first symptom of impending bearing failure is heat.  This is a GREAT way to use an infrared heat gun.  You’re still going to have to fix it, but if you know it’s coming, you at least get to say when.
  • Oil-free compressors have been around for years, and are very popular in industries where oil contamination is an unacceptable risk (paint makers, I’m looking at you.)  In oiled compressors, though, the oil not only lubricates the moving parts; it also serves as a seal, and heat removal medium for the compression cycle.  Change the oil as directed, with the exact type of oil the manufacturer calls out.  This is not only key to proper operation, but the validity of your warranty as well.

*Cooling:  the larger the system, the more likely there’s a cooler installed.  For systems with water-cooled heat exchangers, the water quality…and chemistry…is critical.  pH and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) should be checked regularly to determine if chemical additives, or flushing, are necessary.

*Belts & couplings: these transmit the power of the motor to the compressor, and you will not have compressed air without them, period.  Check their alignment, condition, and tension (belts only) as specified by the manufacturer.  Keeping spares on hand isn’t a bad idea either.

Optimal performance of your compressed air products literally starts with your compressor system.  Proper preventive maintenance is key to maximizing it.  Sooner or later, you’re going to have to shut down any system to replace a moving (or wear) part.  With a sound preventive maintenance plan in place, you have a good chance of getting to say when.

If you’d like to talk about other ways to optimize the performance of your compressed air system,  give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
Find us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

 

Image courtesy of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet, Creative Commons License 

Reversible Drum Vac Empties Sumps For Demolition Company

A demolition company was looking for a way to remove the liquid from sumps and tanks in the industrial buildings they were contracted to provide their service upon. The liquids in question were mainly coolant and oil that had been left behind when the machinery was removed…anything that could be re-used was already gone; this was the “bitter dregs,” as it were.  Since these buildings are about to be demolished, electricity is rarely available.

They had a pumping system that ran off a diesel engine that they COULD take with them, but they ALWAYS had a large mobile air compressor for the pneumatic tools used in other processes in the demolition of the building. Since they had steel drums in abundance, the Reversible Drum Vac Systems sounded very attractive to them, so they got a Model 6295 Deluxe High Lift Reversible Drum Vac System for 55 Gallon Drum to try out.

The High Lift Reversible Drum Vac System converts a drum and dolly into a mobile pumping system.

Now, instead of committing an additional truck (and driver) to getting the diesel engine driven pumping system to the site, they simply move the Reversible Drum Vac pump unit from 55 gallon drum to 55 gallon drum as they’re filled. Once the drums are returned to their facility, they switch the the Reversible Drum Vac to the “empty drum” configuration, and use it to pump the liquid out into their recycling tanks, where they await collection and processing by their waste handling service.  Even when they have to use a number of drums, the High Lift Reversible Drum Vac Systems still streamline the process over the use of the diesel engine pumping system.

If you’d like to find out more about our Industrial Vacuums, or any of our compressed air operated products, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
Find us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Trouble Identifying an EXAIR part? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

3240VT

EXAIR Model 3240H Vortex Tube with Hot Muffler Installed

 

Not a day goes by that we don’t receive a call from a customer that is having trouble identifying an EXAIR part. Due to the robust nature of our Vortex Tubes, they can be installed in applications for several years without any maintenance. When the time comes to expand that line, the labels may have worn off, the unit may be covered in grime or oil, or the personnel that originally ordered the product may no longer be with the company. In any case, one of the Application Engineers here at EXAIR will certainly be able to help!

I recently received an e-mail from a gentlemen in Indonesia who was suffering from that very problem. They had a Model 3240 Vortex Tube installed in a camera cooling application near a boiler. The engineer who designed the project was no longer with the company and they could not determine a Model number or when they had purchased it. They saw the EXAIR sticker, along with our contact information, and reached out for help. Vortex Tube’s come in different sizes, based on the available compressed air supply as well as the level of refrigeration needed. They’re available in (3) different sizes as well as Vortex Tubes for max refrigeration (R style generators) and Vortex Tubes for a maximum cold temperature (C style generators). In order to identify the Model number, you must look on the shoulder of the Vortex Tube generator. On it, there will be a stamp that indicates the generator style that is installed. In this case, the customer stated that there was a “40-R”, indicating to me that he had our Model 3240 Vortex Tube.

Our team of highly trained Application Engineers is here ready to assist you with any needs you may have regarding EXAIR products. With a little bit of investigative work, a quick discussion about the dimensions or a photo; we’re able to identify any of our products. If you’re considering expanding a current line into other parts of your facility, or perhaps adding a new location and need help identifying your EXAIR products; give an Application Engineer a call and we’ll be sure you get the right products on order!

Tyler Daniel

Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

E-mail: tylerdaniel@exair.com

Super Air Knife Replaces Homemade Manifold

I recently worked on an application with a manufacturer who was having issues with their labeling process. The sticker label is applied to the side of their container by a print roller and then passes by a 6” homemade manifold system with 3 nozzles to help permanently affix it n(see below). They were experiencing irregularities/air bubbles in the label and realized they were getting an uneven airflow which was stronger at each end nozzle but the middle nozzle had very little flow. They were operating at around 80 PSIG and previously tried to lower the pressure but the label would start peeling off. If they increased the pressure they were experiencing tearing and ripping in certain areas of the label. Another issue was the loud noise level. They were having to stop the line and turn off the air so an operator could manually replace the label. They emailed me a picture of the manifold and asked if EXAIR could improve their process.

Homemade Manifold

After reviewing the picture and further discussing their application, I recommended using one of our 6” Aluminum Super Air Knives. The Super Air Knife , with a 40:1 amplification rate (surrounding ambient air to compressed air), provides a high velocity laminar sheet of airflow the entire length of the knife. By continuing to operate at 80 PSIG, the Super Air Knife will produce a velocity of 11,800 feet per minute (6” away from target object) and consume only 17.4 SCFM (2.9 SCFM per inch of knife) with a low noise level of only 69 dBA.

SAK

By replacing the manifold, the customer was able to improve their process, decrease their air consumption and increase their personnel’s safety.

If you are experiencing a similar issue or need help with a different compressed air application, please give us a call.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

This is a common question from callers who are inquiring about the use of our products. Oftentimes, they’re going to be using significantly less air than they’re using right now, considering the low compressed air consumption rates of our engineered Intelligent Compressed Air Products. Sometimes, though, we have the opportunity to talk to someone at a small commercial or home operation, where they may have limitations on compressed air supply. While a Model 6084 2″ Aluminum Line Vac would do GREAT at conveying wood pellets from a storage bin to the furnace room (this is a very common call from folks who are taking advantage of high efficiency wood burning stoves for home heating,) they won’t convey more than a few pounds at a time with the compressed air being generated & stored by a typical home-use air compressor.

Limitations, of course, aren’t always a “stopper.” I just had the pleasure of talking to a Reversible Drum Vac user who simply needed some guidance on refurbishing his unit…it wasn’t performing as well as when it was new. Luckily, we have a solution for that, and it won’t cost you anything but about 10 minutes and some dish soap (or mild degreasing agent of your choice.)  Here’s a short video that shows you how it’s done:

https://blog.exair.com/2011/07/05/how-to-rebuild-your-reversible-drum-vac/

So, this got my caller “back in business” – conservation business, that is.  He operates a small garage, and recycles his waste oil.  The Reversible Drum Vac is used to clean up spills and empty drain pans into a central drum, which he then transfers to his main recycling tank.

This is all done with his shop’s small air compressor.  Even though it only produces about 8 SCFM @100psig, it has a 60 gallon tank, which allows the Reversible Drum Vac to operate for about 2 minutes…plenty of time to empty a drain pan or vacuum up some spills, and just enough to pump out the drum, even if it’s full to the top!

Sometimes a small air compressor is a “stopper;” sometimes it’s not.  If you’d like to discuss a potential compressed air product application, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
Find us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

 

Extra Shims Give Super Air Knives A Boost

The EXAIR Super Air Knife is the most efficient and quietest compressed air blow off knife on the market. We know this because we’ve tested them, and our competitors’ offerings, for performance, using the same instruments, controls, and procedures. We’re not going to publish data that we can’t back up, and that’s a fact.

We will use the same precision calibrated equipment, by the way, to test your existing products for savings comparison in our Efficiency Lab service.

We will use the same precision calibrated equipment, by the way, to test your existing products for savings comparison in our Efficiency Lab service.

They’re also ideally suited to a wide variety of applications – they come in lengths from 3 inches to 9 feet long (and can actually be coupled together for uninterrupted air flows of even longer lengths,) a variety of materials for just about any environment, and changing performance is as easy as “dialing in” a regulator, or, for gross adjustments, installing a different (or additional) shim.

As the title of this blog suggests, a larger shim gap will give you higher flow and force from your Air Knife. Honestly, the 0.002″ shim that comes pre-installed in all of our Air Knives is perfectly suitable for most blow off applications, and appropriate air supply conditions are the first thing you should check for before going with thicker shims, but if you do indeed need a boost, a thicker shim will indeed give you one…here’s a video to show you how it’s done:

Keep in mind that appropriate air supply is going to be important here as well…by increasing the shim gap, you’re increasing the amount of compressed air flow required.  This means that you may need a larger diameter of infeed pipe to carry that much air, and/or you may have to plumb that air to additional ports on the Super Air Knife.

This is from the Installation & Operation Guide that ships with your Super Air Knife. It's also available from our PDF Library (registration required.)

This is from the Installation & Operation Guide that ships with your Super Air Knife. It’s also available from our PDF Library (registration required.)

For most cases, we can use the above data to determine how to properly supply a Super Air Knife with additional shims.  For example, let’s look at a 12″ Super Air Knife:

*With a 0.002″ shim, you’ll need a 3/8″ pipe, assuming infeed length of 10ft or less, to pass the 34.8 SCFM that this unit will consume when supplied @80psig.

*By installing a 0.004″ shim, you’re doubling the air consumption, which means it’ll consume the same amount as a unit twice this length…we can see from the chart, then, that a 24″ Super Air Knife will need a 1/2″ infeed pipe.

*Also, since you’re using the same amount of air as the 24″ Super Air Knife, the 12″ unit should be treated like the 24″ one, and plumbed to (2) inlets at opposite ends of the knife (see “Compressed Air Supply” notes above.)

This is just one simple case for a small unit. If you’d like to discuss altering the performance of your Super Air Knife, give us a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
Find us on the Web http://www.exair.com/28/home.htm
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Oil And Water Don’t Mix, But Oil And Air Sure Do

Do you have oil in your compressed air system? It may be there on purpose…air operated tools require it, and there are a number of devices on the market that provide a precise amount of oil to keep the moving parts in these tools well lubricated and properly operating.

If it’s not there on purpose, it’s not necessarily a problem, though, and it’s hardly uncommon. Many air compressors are oil lubricated, which means there’s oil being pumped at a constant rate, directly towards the piston rings, and a little bit is always going to end up in the air. As the rings wear, even more makes it past…this is impossible to prevent, but, with proper maintenance, it’s kept to a very minimal amount. There are, of course, oil-less compressor designs, which can eliminate this entirely, but they’ve been known to carry a little heavier price tag. Some situations, though, make them worth every penny.

Trace amounts of oil like this don’t affect a lot of compressed air applications, including the performance of most of our products. There are times, however, when oil needs to be addressed…for instance:

*Blow off prior to painting or coating. Even trace amounts of oil on a surface to be painted can cause big problems.
*Electrical enclosure cooling. Oil won’t affect the heat removal performance of an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler System, but it can indeed cause serious issues with electrical/electronic components and devices if it’s present in the cold air that’s blowing on them.
*Air operated conveyors. Likewise, oil won’t hurt the performance of a Line Vac, but keep in mind that anything in the air supply will get on the material or product you’re conveying.
*Static Eliminators. Here’s a situation where oil in the air WILL have an effect on product performance…the emitter points of your EXAIR Static Eliminator need to be kept clean (including oil free) for proper operation. And, again, anything in your air is going to get onto your product.

This is where proper filtration comes in: properly installed downstream of a Filter Separator, EXAIR’s coalescing Oil Removal Filters take out even trace amounts of oil from the air flow, ensuring your process doesn’t see anything but clean, dry air.

EXAIR Model 9027 Oil Removal Filter, installed between Model 9004 Filter Separator and 9008 Pressure Regulator, using our Modular Coupling Kits

EXAIR Model 9027 Oil Removal Filter, installed between Model 9004 Automatic Drain Filter Separator and 9008 Pressure Regulator, using our Modular Coupling Kits.

Again, oil in your air isn’t always a problem. If you have questions about your application, though, give us a call…if it IS a problem, we’ve got a solution.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
Find us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

%d bloggers like this: