Keys to an Efficient Compressed Air System

How do I make our compressed air system efficient?

This is a critical question which plagues facilities maintenance, engineering, and operational personnel.  There are concerns over what is most important, how to approach efficiency implementation, and available products/services to assist in implementation.  In order to address these concerns (and others), we must first look at what a compressed air system is designed to do and the common disruptions which lead to inefficiency.

The primary object of a compressed air system is to transport the compressed air from its point of production (the compressors) to its point of use (applications) in sufficient quantity and quality, and at adequate pressure for proper operation of air-driven devices.[1]  In order for a compressed air system to do so, the compressed air must be able to reach its intended destination in proper volume and pressure.  And, in order to do this, pressure drops due to improper plumbing must be eliminated, and compressed air leakage must be eliminated/kept to a minimum.

But, before these can be properly addressed, we must create a pressure profile to determine baseline operating pressures and system needs.  After developing a pressure profile and creating a target system operating pressure, we can move on to the items mentioned above – plumbing and leaks.

Proper plumbing and leakage elimination

The transportation of the compressed air happens primarily via piping, fittings, valves, and hoses – each of which must be properly sized for the compressed air-driven device at the point of use.  If the compressed air piping/plumbing is undersized, increased system (main line) pressures will be needed, which in-turn create an unnecessary increase in energy costs.

In addition to the increased energy costs mentioned above, operating the system at a higher pressure will cause all end use devices to consume more air and leakage rates to increase.  This increase is referred to as artificial demand, and can consume as much as 30% of the compressed air in an inefficient compressed air system.[2]

But, artificial demand isn’t limited to increased consumption due to higher system pressures.  Leaks in the compressed air system place a tremendous strain on maintaining proper pressures and end-use performance.  The more leaks in the system, the higher the main line pressure must be to provide proper pressure and flow to end use devices.  So, if we can reduce leakage in the system, we can reduce the overall system pressure, significantly reducing energy cost.

 

How to implement solutions

Understanding the impact of an efficient compressed air system is only half of the equation.  The other half comes down to implementation of the solutions mentioned above.  In order to maintain the desired system pressure we must have proper plumbing in place, reduce leaks, and perhaps most importantly, take advantage of engineered solutions for point-of-use compressed air demand.

The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector being used to check for leaks

Once proper plumbing is confirmed and no artificial demands are occurring due to elevated system pressures, leaks in the system should be addressed.  Compressed air leaks are common at connection points and can be found using an ultrasonic noise sensing device such as our Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD).  The ULD will reduce the ultrasonic sound to an audible level, allowing you to tag leaks and repair them.  We have a video showing the function and use of the ULD here, and an excellent writeup about the financial impact of finding and fixing leaks here.

The EXAIR catalog – full of engineered solutions for point-of-use compressed air products.

With proper plumbing in place and leaks fixed, we can now turn our attention to the biggest use of compressed air within the system – the intended point of use.  This is the end point in the compressed air system where the air is designed to be used.  This can be for blow off purposes, cleaning, conveying, cooling, or even static elimination.

These points of use are what we at EXAIR have spent the last 34 years engineering and perfecting.  We’ve developed designs which maximize the use of compressed air, reduce consumption to absolute minimums, and add safety for effected personnel.  All of our products meet OSHA dead end pressure requirements and are manufactured to RoHS, CE, UL, and REACH compliance.

If you’re interested in maximizing the efficiency of your compressed air system, contact one of our Application Engineers.  We’ll help walk you through the pressure profile, leak detection, and point-of-use engineered solutions.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

 

[1] Compressed Air Handbook, Compressed Air & Gas Institute, pg. 204

[2] Energy Tips – Compressed Air, U.S. Department of Energy

Super Air Knife Plumbing Kit Allows Installation In Tight Quarters

I recently had the pleasure of helping a long-time user of our Super Air Knives with a challenging application. They already use quite a few of our Model 110012SS 12″ Stainless Steel Super Air Knives to clean & dry their nonwoven material as it’s being rolled for packaging. They like them because they’re quiet and efficient, but also because they’re durable…this particular product off-gasses a mildly corrosive vapor, which used to corrode other equipment in the area. Not only does the Stainless Steel Super Air Knife resist corrosion itself, the air flow keeps these vapors contained. Two birds, one stone.

They have a new product…same kind of material, but much wider…that needed to be blown off, and the identified the Model 110060SS 60″ Stainless Steel Super Air Knife as a “no-brainer” solution. Thing is, it had to be a pretty even air flow across the length, and a 60″ Super Air Knife has to get air to four ports across its length for optimal performance. And, they wanted to install it at a point where it would serve not only as a blow off, but as a vapor barrier, just like the 12″ Super Air Knives they’re already so fond of. The space was a little limited, though, so they opted for the Model 110060SSPKI 60″ Stainless Steel Super Air Knife with Plumbing Kit Installed, which allowed them to simply run an air supply line to both ends.

EXAIR SS Super Air Knives can be ordered with a Plumbing Kit installed, or you can easily install a Plumbing Kit on your existing Super Air Knife.

If you want to find out more about an engineered solution for your compressed air application – cleaning, drying, vapor barrier, or all of the above – give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Super Blast Safety Air Guns: Powerful & OSHA Compliant

1213-12

Model 1213-12 Super Blast Safety Air Gun w/ 12 nozzle cluster

In some applications the force from a Heavy Duty, Soft Grip, VariBlast, or Precision Safety Air Gun may not be quite enough to get the job done. Not to worry! EXAIR’s Super Blast Safety Air Guns use our Super Air Nozzle Clusters and Large Super Air Nozzles and turn them into a handheld gun with the same strong blowing force.

The Super Blast Safety Air Guns are comfortable to hold with a soft foam grip. They’re safe to operate with all of the Super Blast Safety Air Guns incorporating EXAIR’s OSHA compliant nozzles and clusters. In addition, they also have a spring-loaded manual valve that will automatically shut off the compressed air if accidentally dropped.

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Model 1218 Super Blast Safety Air Gun

The Super Blast Safety Air Gun is available with nine different styles of nozzle at the end. They are able to achieve a blowing force of anywhere from 3.2 lbs all the way up to 23 lbs when measured 12” away from the nozzle at an operating pressure of 80 psig. All while still adhering to OSHA directive 1910.242(b)!! Each of the Super Blast Safety Air Guns is also available with a 1’, 3’, or 6’ extension for hard to reach areas that still require a maximum blowing force. When compared to the same sized open-pipe blowoffs, the Super Blast Safety Air Guns represent a significant savings in air consumption.

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Super Blast w/ Back Blow Nozzle

In addition to the standard Super Blast Safety Air Guns, EXAIR’s 1008SS 1” NPT Back Blow Nozzle is also available as a Super Blast Gun. With a 360° airflow pattern, this gun is the ideal choice when trying to remove debris from large pipe diameters or deep channels.

If you have an application in your facility that requires a seriously strong blast of compressed air, give us a call. Our team of Application Engineers is ready to assist you in determining the appropriately sized Super Blast Safety Air Gun for your needs.

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

High Vacuum (Non-porous) and Low Vacuum (Porous) E-Vacs: Vacuum Generator Overview

In-Line E-Vac

With the amount of energy in compressed air, EXAIR can manipulate it by design for a variety of applications. One way that we can do this is by creating a vacuum pressure by the Venturi effect. By increasing the velocity of air through a constricted area, a low pressure, or vacuum, is created. Unlike a mechanical vacuum pump, the E-Vac does not have any moving parts or motors to wear. This maintenance free device uses only compressed air to generate a powerful vacuum pressure in a very compact and lightweight design. They can create vacuum levels up to 27” Hg (91 kPa) where complete vacuum is at 29.92” Hg (101.4 kPa). With our single stage systems, we can generate different vacuum levels and flows to create the optimal vacuum generation for your application.

Have you ever placed your hand over the hose of a vacuum? You can feel the maximum amount of vacuum pressure on your hand. The maximum vacuum pressure value is only at the condition of zero air flow. When you remove your hand from the hose, you change the vacuum pressure to a much lower value, but now you have the maximum amount of air flow. Like the E-Vacs, EXAIR has designed the product to either give you the maximum vacuum pressure or the maximum vacuum air flow. EXAIR separates these two vacuum generators as High Vacuum and Low Vacuum.

The high vacuum style is designed for non-porous products like glass, marble, and steel sheets. The low vacuum style is for porous products like cardboard, fabric, and plywood. Both types of vacuum generators are commonly used to pick and place parts, open bags, evacuate molds, and vacuum forming. They are easily adjusted by a regulator and a solenoid valve making the E-Vac very versatile. Even with no moving parts, these vacuum generators are quick to respond with very long cycle rates. The inline design makes them easy to install, so, you can begin using this vacuum product without much setup time. With the single stage design, it eliminates any vacuum fluctuation. I will go through both types of E-Vacs to explain the advantages in using these kinds of vacuum generators for different applications.

The High Vacuum Generator is used for non-porous products in pick and place applications as well as vacuum forming, clamping, and evacuation. This type of generator can create a vacuum pressure up to 27” Hg (91 kPa). In conjunction with the EXAIR vacuum cups, it allows for maximum holding capacity for heavy materials. We offer 7 different sizes ranging from 2 SCFM (65 SLPM) to 31 SCFM (872 SLPM) at 80 PSIG (5.5 Bar). They can be matched to the size and quantity of vacuum cups for increased efficiency as well as for improved cycle rates. If the surface of a rigid sheet is smooth or the application requires a high vacuum pressure, the High Vacuum E-Vac Generator would be the best product to use.

The Low Vacuum Generator is used for porous products as well as more delicate surfaces. This generator has a maximum vacuum pressure of 21” Hg (71 kPa). The design is such to allow for maximum air flow to make up any losses through the material or sealing area. With a regulator, you can control the maximum vacuum level to eliminate dimpling or disfiguring of the surface. Even with fabrics and rough surfaces, the Low Vacuum Generator can still pick up and hold the material. We offer 7 different sizes ranging from 1.5 SCFM (42.5 SLPM) to 17 SCFM (476 SLPM) at 80 PSIG (5.5 Bar). They can also be matched to the size and quantity of vacuum cups as well as to overcome any leakage. If the surface of the product being moved is rough or the surface is very delicate, the Low Vacuum E-Vac Generator would be the best product to use.

EXAIR created a video to show the difference between the E-Vacs as well as a demonstration.

Click Video

For experimentation with the E-Vacs and the vacuum cups, EXAIR offers kits for both types of generators. The standard kit includes four pairs of vacuum cups (matched to the size of the E-Vac), 10 feet (3 m) of poly line, and an assortment of fittings. For the Deluxe kit, it will include the same items in the standard kit, plus an automatic drain filter and a regulator. The E-Vacs are made of a durable 6061 aluminum, but if a different material is required for your application, EXAIR can review this request.

The EXAIR E-Vac offers an efficient, simple, and maintenance free solution to create vacuum. Whether lifting product horizontally or vertically, opening bags, aligning sheets or leak checking, the E-Vac ensures a flexible and reliable way to continuously keep your operation moving. As compared to an electric vacuum pump, these vacuum generators are much smaller, less expensive and much quieter. If you need help in sizing and selecting the correct model, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.

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

316 Stainless Steel Line Vac Conveys Cookies in Creamery

Cookies in need of pneumatic conveyance at creamery

An overseas ice cream manufacturer reached out to me recently with a request for assistance.  They were in search of a better means to transfer “inclusions” from a storage bin into the blending tanks of their creamery.  The “inclusions” in question, shown above, looked familiar.  I’ve found identical cookies stashed in my sons’ favorite places around the house, so I’m somewhat familiar with their transfer from one place to another.  Fortunately, in this application the cookie transfer is deliberate whereas it is always “magic” or “no one knows how it got there” when it happens at home.

Both solid cookies and crumbs (shown above) are conveyed.

Seeing as how this application involves the transfer of foodstuffs, we immediately explored a 316 grade stainless steel solution, and gathered the necessary data for determining the proper pneumatic conveyor (an EXAIR Line Vac).  Our Line Vacs utilize a high velocity airstream which travels along the ID of a conveyance tube to move material.  Because of this, application specifics like material/material size, bulk density, conveyance height and distance, and required conveyance rate play a key role in proper sizing.  Here’s how the specifics looked for this application:

 

Material:  Dry cookies and cookie crumbs, 8mm-50mm in diameter (5/16” – 2” in diameter)

Bulk density:  0.69 g/cm³ (43 lb./ft.³)

Conveyance height:  None

Conveyance distance:  5m (16.5 feet)

Required conveyance rate:  As high as possible, preferably in the range of 500kg/hr. (1100 lb./hr.)

Available compressed air supply:  170m³/hr. @ 5.5 BARG (100 SCFM @ 80 PSIG)

Material constraints:  316SS mandatory

 

With these details well defined, I used our empirical test data to appropriately size a suitable Line Vac.  In this case, we had a viable solution in our Heavy Duty Line Vac with regards to conveyance rate, but this solution is not the proper material.  So, we matched performance of a Heavy Duty Line Vac in our 316SS Line Vac using model HP6064-316.  Model HP6064-316 is not a stock option and not shown on the website, so having a proper dialogue with an Application Engineer was critical to dialing in on the right solution for this application.

Once the solution was confirmed, this customer was all set.  We worked with them on every aspect of the application solution and ended up shipping them (3) specialized Line Vacs in 316 stainless steel.  The Line Vacs are up and running, helping to make delicious ice cream for expecting customers.

If you have a similar application or are interested in exploring a Line Vac solution, now is the time to act.  We have a Line Vac promotion running through the end of October that includes a free 2” Flat Super Air Nozzle with the purchase of any Line Vac.  Application Engineers are available for any questions you may have via phone (1-800-903-9247), email (techelp@exair.com), and online chat.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Intelligent Compressed Air: Desiccant Dryers – What are they and How Do they Work?

Desiccant dryer

Heat of Compression Desiccant Dryer

No matter where you are in the world, the atmospheric air will contain water vapor. As this air cools to the saturation point, also known as dew point, the vapor will condense into liquid water. The amount of this moisture will vary depending on both the ambient temperature and the relative humidity. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a general rule of thumb is that the amount of moisture air can hold at a saturated condition will double for every 20°F increase in temperature. In regions or periods of warmer temperatures, this can create a significant problem. Some problems that can be associated with moisture-laden compressed air include:

  • Increased wear of moving parts due to removal of lubrication
  • Formation of rust in piping and equipment
  • Color variation, adherence, and finish of paint that is applied using moisture-laden compressed air
  • Create unstable conditions for processes that are dependent upon pneumatic controls. Malfunctions due to rust, scale, or clogged orifices can damage product or cause costly shutdowns
  • In colder temperatures, moisture in the compressed air flow can freeze in the control lines

To remove moisture from the lines, a dryer must be installed. One of the most commonly found dryers in a facility are referred to as desiccant dryers. There are three variations of desiccant dryers: Regenerative-Desiccant Dryers, Heat Reactivated Desiccant Dryers, and Heat of Compression Desiccant Dryers.

A Regenerative-Desiccant Dryer uses a porous desiccant that collects and adsorbs the moisture. This allows for large amounts of water to be retained with a minute amount of desiccant. Most regenerative-desiccant dryers consist of two towers. One where wet, moisture-laden compressed air flows through a desiccant bed. A second tower contains desiccant that is being regenerated. A controlled amount of dry air flows through the tower being regenerated, which causes the moisture to release from the desiccant and flow out with the purge flow. This saturated air exhausts to atmosphere. After a set time, the towers will switch and continue this cycle of drying/regenerating.

Another, and more efficient, regenerative-desiccant dryer uses heat to assist in removing water from the desiccant. As the tower is heated, the moisture is no longer adsorbed by the desiccant and is purged through the flow. This style is more efficient than the other styles of dryers because less compressed air is wasted removing the moisture in the tower.

The third type of desiccant dryer is the Heat of Compression dryer. This style utilizes the heat that is generated during compression to accomplish the regeneration of the desiccant. Typically, the heat that is generated from the air compressor is exhausted to atmosphere and wasted. With a heat of compression dryer, this heat is captured and used to regenerate the desiccant. The compressed air passes through the drying section of the desiccant bed, is dried, and exits through the discharge. A portion of the captured heat flows through the opposite side of the dryer to regenerate the desiccant. Afterwards, this hot air passes through a regeneration cooler and is combined with the main air stream. This results in ZERO loss of purge air, making this style of dryer the most efficient available.

If you have questions about how to optimize your compressed air system, contact EXAIR. An Application Engineer is standing by ready to assist you!

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

 

Heated Desiccant Dryer by Compressor1.  Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Safety Air Guns – True Cost of Ownership

There are many inexpensive, cheaply made air guns out on the market.  If evaluated solely on purchase price, the decision of what air gun to buy seems obvious.  Only when you consider all the cost of ownership and operation, does the best direction become apparent.

A popular thumb lever operated air gun, readily available online has a base purchase price of $6.11.  The List price of the EXAIR model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun is $81.00. Wow- big difference you think, I am surely not going to spend that kind of money on a simple air gun.  Let’s take a look of the true cost of ownership for each of the guns.

IMG_6967

Thumb Operated Air Gun

1210

EXAIR Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun

We tested both the model 1210 and the other gun utilizing our Efficiency Lab service. We tested at 80 PSIG of supply pressure and measured and recorded air consumption, force and sound levels. Results of this testing is shown below.

Capture

From the test data, the other gun is able to provide 9% more force, but at a cost of 35% greater compressed air consumption, 5.64 SCFM more, along with an 18 dBA sound level increase (a sound level where hearing protection is needed, an additional cost to be incurred.)

If we examine the compressed air consumption, we can calculate the yearly compressed air usage, considering 4 hour per day of operation, 5 days per week, for 50 weeks out of the year.

Capture

 

A general rule of thumb for industry is that 1000 SCF of compressed air costs $0.25 to produce.Capture

As you can see, after 1 year of operation the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun has already paid for itself with compressed air savings, not to mention significantly reduced sound levels, well within the OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1910(a) for Maximum Allowable Noise Exposure. To read more about the OSHA Standard, see this EXAIR blog. An EXAIR Safety Air Gun will continue to bring you benefits after this ROI period, and includes many other feature you do not receive with the cheap air gun.

You get the EXAIR 5 Year Built to Last Warranty which covers defects in workmanship and materials.  EXAIR’s safety air guns lead the way in standards and certification – we meet or exceed relevant OSHA standards, carry the CE mark and utilize a conflict mineral free supply chain.  We offer (5) types of Safety Air Guns, all offering ergonomic, comfortable, lightweight operation.

Safety Air Guns are also available with optional Chip Shields and Extensions (in lengths of 6″ to 6′) along with many different nozzle sizes (2.5 SCFM to 460 SCFM of air flow) and a variety of materials (Zinc Aluminum alloy, Stainless Steel, brass and PEEK plastic) to allow the configuration of the best air gun for your application.  EXAIR Safety Air Guns are great for use in applications ranging from light dust removal from delicate circuit boards to large scale, long distance, wide area blow off, cooling and drying applications and everything in between.

Be sure to check out the new VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun for variable flow with the squeeze of the trigger!

If you have questions regarding the Safety Air Guns, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, 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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