In a previous life I worked in the metal cutting industry on machines that were all imported to the USA. Every machine we brought in had to have the air inlets changed out to match the NPT ports that most of our domestic customers had within their facilities. This simply made sense, why force someone to change an air fitting or something as simple as that to match the rest of their facility. The option we did not offer was to change all the hardware on the machine to match the rest of the SAE sized hardware and limit the number of tools their staff needed. That didn’t make sense. Well, here at EXAIR we like to do things differently.
There are several companies that I deal with here who always prefer their air inlets be different, whether it be a metric BSP thread or a larger NPT thread, maybe a global thread, or even a special fitting like a taper lock fitting. No matter the needs, as long as it will physically fit on the product, chances are we can offer the fitting that will simplify installation. Even past the installation we like to look forward to the complete ownership of our products. Once a machine is located in a facility, what other types of fasteners are used, what is the rest of the machine tooled with. When working on a machine as a maintenance person or adjusting the operation, not having to struggle with determining which Allen wrench or hex size a bolt is and risk damaging the bolt can be extremely helpful.
Most EXAIR products come from stock with standard fractional hardware. We do offer a number of products with a BSPT air inlet and they are often available with the same expediency as our other stock products, same day on orders received by 2 PM ET that are shipping within the U.S. As mentioned above, we can customize a product with the fasteners of your choice, as long as they pass our design criteria. Some of the most common fastener changes I have seen are converting a Super Air Knife to an M6-1.0 threaded bolt rather than the stock 1/4-20 fastener. There are a multitude of other requests that I recall throughout the years. Some of the most intricate are listed and explained below.
From left to right: M6-1.0 stainless steel bolt, a titanium hex-head bolt, a Hastelloy hex-head bolt, brass hex-head bolt, Kolsterized hex-head bolt, special acorn head fastener, Allen key flat-head bolt. Each of these fasteners has been used within a custom configuration to meet a specific need, whether it be simply to match the metric or SAE hardware in the rest of the machine or to meet the demands of the environment they are going into. The bottom row are, integral star washer nut, serrated safety washer, and spring washer. Each of these has, again, been requested by a customer to meet the design and safety standards they have a requirement for. These are just a sampling of the custom hardware we have used over the years to support our customer base and fill their need with product that meets their standards.
If you would like to discuss custom hardware in a stock product or even a full on custom point of use compressed air product, the Application Engineer team here is ready to help. Contact us and we will do our best to understand what your need requires and offer a solution to fit.
One of the free services we offer to customers here at EXAIR is our Efficiency Lab. In case you are not familiar here is a brief synopsis. Speak with an Application Engineer about your existing compressed air blowoff/point of use product and that you would like to know how much air it consumes. Fill out the brief survey and send the product you use in to our facility. Let us perform tests on calibrated test equipment to determine the force, flow, and noise level. We will then issue you a report that states what the EXAIR model would best be suited (if applicable) as well as how much compressed air you will be able to save. Order the recommendation and start saving money.
To do these evaluations, we have to have calibrated equipment that is reliable and capable of handling vast range of products we may receive in. For this, we could use a Digital Flowmeter, in some cases that is what has to be done due to large flow rates. For the majority of these though we go old school. We utilize a piece of equipment called a rotameter.
This is a device that is designed to measure the flow rate of a fluid within a closed tube. The inside diameter of the tube is varied which causes the float within the meter to raise or lower. They are calibrated for a specific gas at a given pressure and temperature, most are calibrated for atmospheric conditions, 14.7 psi (1.014 Bar). The meter must be mounted vertically and this is not always best suited for industrial environments.
When testing products the compressed air within the meter is pressurized which means we have to correct the reading for the given pressure, if the temperature is outside of the calibration temp then we must also perform that correction. We do this using a table provided by the manufacturer of the meter or by using the calculations shown to get exact values that may be in between the pressures in the table.
This will allow us to then multiply the Correction Factor by the meter reading and calculate our corrected flow for the point of use device at a given operating pressure and temperature.
Knowing where the values that are measured and calculated come from add validity to the reports and understanding all of the variables that go into reading like this helps to better validate the cost savings that can be seen.
In a pinch, for a field estimation, we can also use these Correction Factors and determine an approximate consumption rate of a device that has been measured at a pressure such as our cataloged 80 psig (5.5 Bar). This can often be done on the fly to help determine the flowrates currently on a system. This can be helpful when troubleshooting, giving estimated simple ROIs, and help justify results and reasons for future purchases of engineered solutions.
I’ve heard it a thousand times… Communication is the key to success. No matter what avenue of industry, work, or even personal life you are in, this statement rings true. At home, communication between my wife and I, as well as our network of friends is always the easiest thing to forego and not want to spend time on. Once this easy path is chosen the work kicks in because one side of the team doesn’t know what the other side of the team is doing. Most of the time this works for us, when it doesn’t I quickly realize it would have been a better solution to discuss everything rather than assume or just make a vague attempt at what I think we need to do.
As for the network of friends, one of the best things I have learned is, we are not alone… Chances are, if you enjoy doing something or talking about certain topics, even if you are struggling, there is someone, you probably even pass them every day and don’t know. Heck, I even found a group of people that like to get outside of their comfort zones and exhaust themselves physically and mentally through rucking. The fact is, my network of friends is like my council on tough decisions or even daily life recaps, as humans we need other people and interaction is in our being.
At work, this need for communication is just as important. During times like we are currently experiencing thanks to the pandemic, we may be seeing a worst-case scenario when it comes to communicating since we have split into shifts and moved to remote work.
We have blogged before about our response as a company, we have successfully been ahead of the curve on response and how we handled our staffing as well as social-distancing before these “rules” were put out. The largest hurdle for my team was the separation and not being able to easily discuss together due to separating into two shifts. Sharing applications, or problems customers may be experiencing with each other is one of our strong suits. To be able to collaboratively use our experiences to build the best solutions or see improvements was cut in half.
So how have we been able to keep helping customers the same as before when we are divided among two shifts? In case you can’t guess, it is an abundance of communication. We use every tool available to us every single day to effectively discuss what is going on between shifts as well as seamlessly transition notes so a customer who may need contact with both shifts isn’t re-explaining themselves in the afternoon. Is this easy? No, in fact, we haven’t performed flawlessly this entire time yet we have always kept one focus at the forefront.
We do not want our customers to experience anything different or have any additional hurdles to getting the product they need to maximize their compressed air operation. In fact, if you have noticed a change I would love to discuss it with you personally. You see, we can’t improve without evaluating the methods, just like the 6 Steps to Compressed Air Optimization, you have to know where you are starting, then fix the leaks.
A few weeks ago I participated in a series of three events that spanned the course of three days. Each of these events was through a company called GORUCK which manufactures American made gear and conducts endurance events led by Special Forces Cadre that use some of the training methods they have experienced throughout their career in the armed forces. GORUCK also works alongside service projects that help to better and empower veterans as well as their communities. I believe this tag from their page says it best. “So, yes we build gear. Yes, we lead events, build teams, and strengthen communities. But only because if we didn’t, we’d have to find some other way to change the world, one day at a time.” (GORUCK,2020)
Our custom team weight, weighing in at 25 lbs. Commemorating the battle of A Shau Valley
Our custom team weight weighing in at 25 lbs and commemorating the battle for A Shau Valley
The events that weekend were to commemorate and tell the story of a battle from Vietnam, specifically the battles for A Shau Valley. This is where the battle that became known as Hamburger Hill took place. The valley was an unforgiving place that came with many disadvantages to try and overtake. For example, the elevation goes from 2,000 feet above sea level in the valley to 5,000 ft and anywhere in between thanks to the surrounding mountain ridges.
The valley is also a triple canopy jungle making air support and recon extremely difficult. This valley was a supply chain during the war and there is still turmoil as to whether the battles were necessary as there were many lives lost and several other options that would have achieved a similar supply chain disruption. In the end, there were 17 Americans involved in a battle with a constantly changing number of support forces. 100% of the soldiers became casualties, 5 paid the ultimate sacrifice during the battle and there were 2 Congressional Medals of Honor given due to actions during the battle for Hamburger Hill.
To learn all of this we started out Friday evening at 2100 hr. in a park here in Cincinnati, on a basketball court. There were 23 of us total participating in the event as well as Cadre Steve our leader and then a great friend of mine who shadowed and photographed a great portion of the events. After some administration, we did a quick warmup where we quickly learned what it meant to be in sync and to move as a team. When doing physical exercises, in the dark, with 23 people from all walks of life and varying physical ability it can get interesting. With a team leader assigned by the Cadre, we made around a 1-mile movement as a group carrying with us an American Flag, GORUCK flag, six empty sandbags, and a team weight that weighed in at 25 lbs.
The movement was to a public sand volleyball court where the sandbags quickly went from empty to filled. Thus adding around 650 lbs of extra weight to the team. Each movement, from the point we stepped off to filling the bags became a task as we had to stay within a certain distance of each other, everyone wanted to go different speeds and the urban terrain was an added obstacle. Adding in the weight and suddenly the team will quickly realize how important communication as well as cooperative work and supporting one another is.
We then moved to a small secluded area where the Cadre had done some excellent recon to locate a downed communication device that needed relocation. This was a downed telephone pole that we are estimating weighed in at well over 300 lbs and was around 20′ long. 6 people were assigned from the team to carry that and continued our movement to another park within the city limits that had no easy way to reach other than up and over several of the hills our great city offers. Around 5 miles later and 5 hours later we reached our destination to get some more history on the events that took place during the war.
Along the way, our tactics for the weight continued to vary and we eventually placed 9 people tripping over each other on the heavy communication device, then an additional six on the sandbags, two people on flags, one on the team weight, and the rest just falling in line. By the time we got to the park, everyone on the team had become exhausted, some believed they were carrying more of the load than others, people carrying sandbags would want to not carry weight and have to go under the log then back to a sandbag all because communications were breaking down and the team was beginning to fray at the seams.
At some point it is human nature to look outside rather than inside and begin to focus on what others aren’t doing rather than what you can personally do in order to improve the situation of everyone. The rhythm that the team had been keeping broke down with mental and physical fatigue. Once we had received some more knowledge on the battles the Cadre asked how we were doing and what could be done better. We gave the team leader at each of these sessions three items they did well and three items to improve on then they are removed from their position and another is placed before the next movement. This also helps those that were leaders to understand their importance when placed in a support role.
At this stop, we were able to pay out through exercises leaving the communications pole at a safe location and have a better understanding of how to better move as a team and be congruent even in the middle of the night. We were able to move faster and get to the last stopping point for more education then off to where we started everything at to finish out the event. From this point on we had constant communication, we were working fluidly as a team and everyone from the front to the back of the pack was in the know of what our goal was, our time, and what was needed to get there.
During these events, every single person gets to fight their own minds and questions whether or not they are being an asset to the team or being a liability. It is when you are feeling weak, have pain, see others not struggling, or just get tired that this simple question can become devastating. That’s when everyone has to be willing to communicate and expose their weakness to their team in order for their team to support and help them overcome these internal hurdles. Not everyone gets there and not everyone can overcome. The team as a whole will grow closer and become far more effective if the members all experience this.
Experiencing this throughout the course of the night and seeing the kinds of opportunities that the team here at EXAIR has made possible for me to grow goes hand in hand. When someone here has not experienced an application, or we are weak within a certain area of knowledge or ability, the rest of the team will support, strengthen and ensure everyone makes it through. This is one reason that communication will always be one of the most important traits I can find in a team member. It is also one reason EXAIR continues to progress and continue forward even through trying times.
We communicate from the front all the way to the back of the building fluently and concisely. When something doesn’t happen then we know there is a problem and rather than focusing on blame or what went wrong the teams here all focus on the solution and then we can debrief once the issue is resolved. This leads to on-time and shipping accuracy percentages that continue to improve over the past decade. We place our team’s focus on being able to take care of our customers, give them a safe and efficient way to utilize compressed air and be easy to do business with throughout the entire process.
If you would like to discuss any compressed air application you may have or if you would like to discuss an interaction that you have had with us and share anything good or bad, please feel free to contact me directly.