Compressor Control – A Way to Match Supply to Demand

Rarely does the compressed air demand match the supply of the compressor system. To keep the generation costs down and the system efficiency as high as possible Compressor Controls are utilized to maximize the system performance, taking into account system dynamics and storage. I will touch on several methods briefly, and leave the reader to delve deeper into any type of interest.

air compressor

  • Start/Stop – Most basic control –  to turn the compressor motor on and off, in response to a pressure signal (for reciprocating and rotary type compressors)
  • Load/Unload – Keeps the motor turning continuously, but unloads the compressor when a pressure level is achieved.  When the pressure drops to a set level, the compressor reloads (for reciprocating, rotary screw, and centrifugal type)
  • Modulating – Restricts the air coming into the compressor, as a way to reduce the compressor output to a specified minimum, at which point the compressor is unloaded (for lubricant-injected rotary screw and centrifugal)
  • Dual/Auto Dual – Dual Control has the ability to select between Start/Stop and Load /Unload control modes.  Automatic Dual Control adds the feature of an over-run timer, so that the motor is stopped after a certain period of time without a demand.
  • Variable Displacement (Slide Valve, Spiral Valve or Turn Valve) – Allows for gradual reduction of the compressor displacement while keeping the inlet pressure constant (for rotary screw)
  • Variable Displacement (Step Control Valves or Poppet Valves) – Similar effect as above, but instead of a gradual reduction, the change is step like (for lubricant injected rotary types)
  • Variable Speed – Use of a variable frequency AC drive or by switched reluctance DC drive to vary the speed of the motor turning the compressor. The speed at which the motor turns effects the output of the system.

In summary – the primary functions of the Compressor Controls are to match supply to demand, save energy, and protect the compressor (from overheating, over-pressure situations, and excessive amperage draw.) Other functions include safety (protecting the plant and personnel), and provide diagnostic information, related to maintenance and operation warnings.

If you would like to talk about compressed air or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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A Brief History of the Air Compressor

Essentially compressed air technology was first used with the knowledge of how to start a fire.  Humans learned that to get the fire started, blowing helped the process, healthy human lungs can generate approximately .02 to .08 bar or .3 to 1.2 PSI.

At the beginning of the metallurgical age (approximately 3000 B.C.) a higher volume of air than what human lungs could produce was required to the reach the temperatures required to melt and form metals such as copper, tin, lead, etc.  This need lead to the hand-operated bellows, the first mechanical air compressor.  Approximately 1500 years later the more efficient foot powered bellows was developed.

33007143764_131090c6bb_o.jpg

The foot powered bellows was followed by water powered bellows and was the mainstay for more than 2000 years.  However as blast furnaces came into being the need for compressed air increased.  This lead John Smeaton in 1762 to design a water wheel that powered a blowing cylinder and this began to replace bellows.  In 1776 John Wilkinson developed an efficient blasting machine and this was the beginning for mechanically powered air compressors.

As time progressed the idea of transmitting energy via compressed air became acceptable.  This idea was demonstrated around 1800 when the newly invented pneumatic rock drill was used to tunnel 80 miles under Mt. Cenis to connect Italy & France by rail.  This was an extraordinary feat for the time and garnered global interest.  This event perpetuated great interest into pneumatic powered devices  and brought us the air powered motors, clocks and even beer dispensers!

While compressed air is capable of transmitting energy long distances and performing tremendous work it also referred to as the 4th utility in industrial plants due to its cost.  We at EXAIR have been promoting compressed air conservation and safety using highly engineered products for 35 years!  Our products wring the maximum of energy out of every SCFM fed to them by using air entrainment and the Coanda effect.  Not only are we conserving your compressed air we offer products that are quiet and can’t be dead ended which prevents air embolisms.

If you are interested in discussing conserving compressed air and/or compressed air safety, I would enjoy hearing from you.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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A Review of Centrifugal Air Compressors

Over the last few months, my EXAIR colleagues and I have blogged about several different types of air compressor types including single and double acting reciprocating, rotary screw, sliding vane and rotary-scroll air compressors. You can click on the links above to check those out. Today, we will examine centrifugal air compressors.

The types of compressors that we have looked at to date have been of the Positive Displacement type.  For this type, an amount of air is drawn in and trapped in the compression area, and the volume in which it is held is mechanically reduced, resulting is rise in pressure as it approaches the discharge point.

types of compressors

The centrifugal air compressors fall under the Dynamic type. A dynamic compressor operates through the principle that a continuous flow of air has its velocity raised in an impeller rotating at a relatively high speed (can exceed 50,000 rpm.) The air has an increase in its kinetic energy (due to the rise in velocity) and then the kinetic energy is transformed to pressure energy in a diffuser and/or a volute chamber. The volute is a curved funnel that increases in area as it approaches the discharge port. The volute converts the kinetic energy into pressure by reducing speed while increasing pressure. About one half of the energy is developed in the impeller and the other half in the diffuser and volute.

Centrifugal Compressor
Centrifugal Compressor Components

The most common centrifugal air compressor has two to four stages to generate pressures of 100 to 150 PSIG.  A water cooled inter-cooler and separator between each stage removes condensation and cools the air prior to entering the next stage.

Some advantages of the Centrifugal Air Compressor-

  • Comes completely packaged fort plant air up to 1500 hp
  • As size increases, relative initial costs decrease
  • Provides lubricant-free air
  • No special foundation required

A few disadvantages-

  • Higher initial investment costs
  • Has specialized maintenance requirements
  • Requires unloading for operation at reduced operational capacities

EXAIR recommends consulting with a reputable air compressor dealer in your area, to fully review all of the parameters associated with the selection and installation of a compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about air compressors or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Rotary Scroll-Type Compressor

Over the last few months, my EXAIR colleagues and I have blogged about several different types of air compressor types including single and double acting reciprocating, rotary screw and sliding vane air compressors. You can click on the links above to check those out. Today, I will review the basics of the rotary scroll-type compressor.

The rotary scroll type compressor falls under the positive displacement-type, the same as the other types previously discussed.  A positive displacement type operates under the premise that a given quantity of air is taken in, trapped in a compression chamber and the physical space of the chamber is mechanically reduced.  When a given amount of air occupies a smaller volume, the pressure of the air increases.

Each of the previous positive displacement type compressors use a different mechanism for the reduction in size of the compression chamber. The rotary scroll uses two inter-meshing scrolls, that are spiral in shape. One of the scrolls is fixed, and does not move (in red).  The other scroll (in black) has an “orbit” type of motion, relative to the fixed scroll. In the below simulation, air would be drawn in from the left, and as it flows clockwise through the scroll, the area is reduced until the air is discharged at a high pressure at the center.

Two_moving_spirals_scroll_pump
How it Works- A fixed scroll (red), and an ‘orbiting’ scroll (black) work to compress the air

It is of note that the flow from start to finish is continuous, providing air delivery that is steady in pressure and flow, with little or no pulsation.

There is no metal to metal sliding contact, so lubrication is not needed.  A drawback to an oil free operation is that oil lubrication tends to reduce the heat of compression and without it, the efficiency of scroll compressors is less than that of lubricated types.

The advantages of the rotary scroll type compressor include:

  • Comes as a complete package
  • Comparatively efficient operation
  • Can be lubricant-free
  • Quiet operation
  • Air cooled

The main disadvantage:

  • A limited range of capacities is available, with low output flows

EXAIR recommends consulting with a reputable air compressor dealer in your area, to fully review all of the parameters associated with the selection and installation of a compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about compressed air or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Rotary Scroll GIF:  used from of Public Domain

Adjustable Spot Cooler Provides Needed Cooling In Sunglass Lens Manufacturing

A little while back, I worked with a large eyeglass manufacturer on a sunglass lens cooling application. In their setup, they were dry cutting film-coated lenses with a router and after the lenses are cut, they are passed through several different rinse cycles and inspected for scratches or other damage. They were seeing a high number of reject parts and determined that the heat being generated by the tooling, was causing the irregularities. In an effort to alleviate the condition, they used a section of open flexible tubing to blow compressed air at the bit, which helped a little, but they were still concerned with the amount of scrap material.

I recommended they use our Model # 3825 Adjustable Spot Cooler System in the process. The Adjustable Spot Cooler incorporates a Vortex Tube to provide a temperature drop from the incoming supply air temperature. Using the temperature control valve, the exhausting air temperature and flow can be adjusted to fit the application. The system includes a flexible hose to focus the cold air to the desired area until re-positioned. The system also features a magnetic base that allows for easy mounting. By incorporating the filter separator included in the system, they can remove any moisture and/or contaminants in the air supply, relieving any concern with contamination or damage to the part.

Model 3825 Adjustable Spot Cooler System

If you have a cooling application you’d like to discuss or for help selecting the best product to fit your need,  give me a call at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

 

sunglasses image courtesy of passer-by via creative common license.

 

Line Loss: What It Means To Your Compressed Air Supply Pipe, Tubing, And Hose

“Leave the gun. Take the canolli.”

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!”

“This EXAIR 42 inch Super Air Knife has ¼ NPT ports, but the Installation and Operation Instructions recommend feeding it with, at a minimum, a ¾ inch pipe…”

If you’re a movie buff like me, you probably recognize 75% of those quotes from famous movies. The OTHER one, dear reader, is from a production that strikes at the heart of this blog, and we’ll watch it soon enough. But first…

It is indeed a common question, especially with our Air Knives: if they have 1/4 NPT ports, why is such a large infeed supply pipe needed?  It all comes down to friction, which slows the velocity of the fluid all by itself, and also causes turbulence, which further hampers the flow.  This means you won’t have as much pressure at the end of the line as you do at the start, and the longer the line, the greater this drop will be.

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

If you want to do the math, here’s the empirical formula.  Like all good scientific work, it’s in metric units, so you may have to use some unit conversions, which I’ve put below, in blue (you’re welcome):

dp = 7.57 q1.85 L 104 / (d5 p)

where:

dp = pressure drop (kg/cm2) 1 kg/cm2=14.22psi

q = air volume flow at atmospheric conditions (FAD, or ‘free air delivery’) (m3/min) 1 m3/min = 35.31 CFM

L = length of pipe (m) 1m = 3.28ft

d = inside diameter of pipe (mm) 1mm = 0.039”

p = initial pressure – abs (kg/cm2) 1 kg/cm2=14.22psi

Let’s solve a problem:  What’s the pressure drop going to be from a header @80psig, through 10ft of 1″ pipe, feeding a Model 110084 84″ Aluminum Super Air Knife (243.6 SCFM compressed air consumption @80psig)…so…

q = 243.6 SCFM, or 6.9 m3/min

L = 10ft, or 3.0 m

d = 1″, or 25.6 mm

p = 80psig, or 94.7psia, or 6.7 kg/cm2

1.5 psi is a perfectly acceptable drop…but what if the pipe was actually 50 feet long?

Again, 1.5 psi isn’t bad at all.  8.2 psi, however, is going to be noticeable.  That’s why we’re going to recommend a 1-1/4″ pipe for this length (d=1.25″, or 32.1 mm):

I’m feeling much better now!  Oh, I said we were going to watch a movie earlier…here it is:

If you have questions about compressed air, we’re eager to hear them.   Call us.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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About Sliding Vane Air Compressors

Over the last few months, my EXAIR colleagues have blogged about several different types of air compressor types including single and double acting reciprocating and rotary screw. (You can select the links above to check those out.) Today I will review the basics of the sliding vane type, specifically the oil/lubricant injected sliding vane compressor.

The lubricant injected sliding vane compressor falls under the positive displacement-type, the same as the other types previously discussed.  A positive displacement type operates under the premise that a given quantity of air is taken in, trapped in a compression chamber and the physical space of the chamber is mechanically reduced.  When a given amount of air occupies a smaller volume, the pressure of the air increases.

Each of the previous positive displacement type compressors use a different mechanism for the reduction in size of the compression chamber.  The single and double acting reciprocating use a piston that cycles up and down to reduce the compression chamber size. The rotary screw uses two inter-meshing rotors, where the compression chamber volume reduces as the air approaches the discharge end.  For the lubricant sliding vane type, the basic design is shown below.

Sliding Vane2
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

The compressor consist of an external housing or stator, and the internal circular rotor, which is eccentrically offset.  The rotor has radially positioned (and occasionally offset) slots in which vanes reside.  As the rotor rotates, the centrifugal forces on the vanes cause them to move outwards and contact the inner surface of the stator bore.  This creates the compression areas, formed by the vanes, rotor surface and the stator bore.  Because the rotor is eccentrically offset, the volume of the compression area reduces as the distance between the rotor surface and the stator reduces.  As the rotor turns counterclockwise, the vanes are pushed back into the rotor slots, all the while in contact with the stator surface.  The shrinking of the compression area leads to the increase in air pressure.

Oil is injected into compression chamber to act as a lubricant, to assist is sealing, and to help to remove some of the heat of compression.

The advantages of the lubricant sliding vane compressor type is very similar to the lubricant injected rotary screw.  A few key advantages include:

  • Compact size
  • Relatively low initial cost
  • Vibration free operation- no special foundation needed
  • Routine maintenance includes basic lubricant and filter changes

A few of the disadvantages include:

  • Lubricant gets into the compressed air stream, requires an air/lubricant separation system
  • Requires periodic lubricant change and disposal
  • Less efficient than rotary screw type
  • Not as flexible as rotary screw in terms of capacity control in meeting changing demands

EXAIR recommends consulting with a reputable air compressor dealer in your area, to fully review all of the parameters associated with the selection and installation of a compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about compressed air or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
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Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

 

Diagram:  used from Compressed Air Challenge Handbook