How a Centrifugal Compressor Works

Continuing our series on different types of air compressors, today’s blog will feature the centrifugal compressor.  The centrifugal compressor is classified as a dynamic compressor.  Dynamic compressors are designed to work with  a continuous flow of air that has its velocity increased by an impeller rotating at a very high speed.

The centrifugal compressor works by transforming the kinetic energy and velocity into pressure energy in the diffuser.  The air passes through the inlet guide vanes being drawn into the center of a rotating Impeller with radial blades and is then pushed outward from the center by centrifugal force. This radial movement of air results in a pressure rise and the generation of kinetic energy.  The kinetic energy is also converted into pressure by passing through the diffuser.

Centrifugal Pic 1
Sample Centrifugal Compressor

Multiple stages are required to raise the pressure to a sufficient level for typical industrial plant requirements.  Each stage takes up a part of the overall pressure rise of the compressor unit.  Depending on the pressure required for the application, a number of stages can be arranged in a series to achieve a higher pressure.

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

Centrifugal compressors are the near middle of the road regarding efficiency, their typical operating cost is 16 to 20 kW/100 CFM.  The most efficient compressor type is the double-acting reciprocating and costs 15 to 16 kW/100 SCFM and the least is the Sliding Vane which costs 21 to 23 kW/100 SCFM.

Advantages of the centrifugal air compressor:

  • Up to 1500 HP systems are available
  • Price per HP drops as system size increases
  • Supplies lubricant-free air
  • Special installation pads are not required for installation

Disadvantages of the centrifugal air compressor

  • Costs more Initially
  • Requires specialized maintenance
  • Due to high rotational speeds (can exceed 50,000 RPM) precision high speed bearings and vibration monitoring are required

EXAIR recommends contacting a reputable air compressor dealer in your area to discuss your volume and pressure requirements to determine the best size & type air compressor for your needs.

Regardless of the type of air compressor you have, EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products® can minimize your compressed air consumption, potentially reducing the size of compressor needed, reduce noise and still deliver powerful results!   If you would like to discuss highly efficient and quiet point of use compressed air products or any EXAIR product, we would enjoy hearing from you. 

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Image Courtesy of  the Compressed Air Challenge

Cold Guns for Spot Cooling or Replacing Mist Systems

By using only a source of compressed air, the Cold Gun and High Power Cold Gun produces a stream of clean, cold air 50°F (28°C) below your compressed air supply temperature. The Cold Gun is very quiet at only 70 dBA and has no moving parts to wear out. Just supply it with clean compressed air and it’s maintenance free.

How does it work, and what are the benefits?

  • The Cold Gun uses compressed air to produce a stream of clean, cold air at 50°F (28°C) below supply air temperature. Generally this will be 20°F-30°F outlet temperature.
  • They use Vortex Tube technology…no moving parts to wear out.

How A Vortex Tube WorksInstant cold air flow with no moving parts!

  • Cold flow and temperature are preset to optimize cooling capability, and are non-adjustable to prevent freeze-up during use.
  • Eliminates the expense of both the purchase & disposal of cutting fluids when replacing expensive mist systems.
  • Removes the potential for health problems associated with breathing mist & vapors, and the safety issue of slipping on a wet floor.

Cold Gun Aircoolant System selection is easy & straightforward…we offer a standard, and a High Power version to meet your specific needs.

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Four systems to choose from, to meet most any need.

We also offer Single & Dual Point Hose Kits, to further meet the needs of your application.

One of the best applications I have seen with our cold gun came from a customer in Peru. They are a gold mining operation and they were having trouble with the liquid they were using to cool a saw. Read all about it here!

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If you have an application that you believe would be better served by the use of an EXAIR Cold Gun, give us a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Understanding Compressed Air Supply Piping

An important component of your compressed air system is the supply piping. The piping will be the middle man that connects your entire facility to the compressor. Before installing pipe, it is important to consider how the compressed air will be consumed at the point of use.  You’ll also need to consider the types of fittings you’ll use, the size of the distribution piping, and whether you plan to add additional equipment in the next few years. If so, it is important that the system is designed to accommodate any potential expansion. This also helps to compensate for potential scale build-up (depending on the material of construction) that will restrict airflow through the pipe.

Air Compressor
Air Compressor and Storage Tanks

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine your air compressor’s maximum CFM and the necessary operating pressure for your point of use products. Keep in mind, operating at a lower pressure can dramatically reduce overall operating costs. Depending on a variety of factors (elevation, temperature, relative humidity) this can be different than what is listed on directly on the compressor. (For a discussion of how this impacts the capacity of your compressor, check out one of our previous blogs – Intelligent Compressed Air: SCFM, ACFM, ICFM, CFM – What do these terms mean?)

Once you’ve determined your compressor’s maximum CFM, draw a schematic of the necessary piping and list out the length of each straight pipe run. Determine the total length of pipe needed for the system. Using a graph or chart, such as this one from Engineering Toolbox. Locate your compressor’s capacity on the y-axis and the required operating pressure along the x-axis. The point at which these values meet will be the recommended MINIMUM pipe size. If you plan on future expansion, now is a good time to move up to the next pipe size to avoid any potential headache.

After determining the appropriate pipe size, you’ll need to consider how everything will begin to fit together. According to the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems from the Compressed Air Challenge, the air should enter the compressed air header at a 45° angle, in the direction of flow and always through wide-radius elbows. A sharp angle anywhere in the piping system will result in an unnecessary pressure drop. When the air must make a sharp turn, it is forced to slow down. This causes turbulence within the pipe as the air slams into the insides of the pipe and wastes energy. A 90° bend can cause as much as 3-5 psi of pressure loss. Replacing 90° bends with 45° bends instead eliminates unnecessary pressure loss across the system.

Pressure drop through the pipe is caused by the friction of the air mass making contact with the inside walls of the pipe. This is a function of the volume of flow through the pipe. Larger diameter pipes will result in a lower pressure drop, and vice versa for smaller diameter pipes. The chart below from the Compressed Air and Gas Institute Handbook provides the pressure drop that can be expected at varying CFM for 2”, 3”, and 4” ID pipe.

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Air Pressure Drop

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can help your process, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Images Courtesy of  the Compressed Air Challenge and thomasjackson1345 Creative Commons.

About Compressed Air Dryers – What Are They and Why Use Them

All atmospheric air contains some amount of water vapor.  When air is then cooled to saturation point, the vapor will begin to condense into liquid water. The saturation point is the condition where the the air can hold no more water vapor. The temperature at which this occurs is knows as the dew point.

When ambient air is compressed, heat is generated and the air becomes warmer. In industrial compressed air systems, the air is then routed to an aftercooler, and condensation  begins to take place. To remove the condensation, the air then goes into separator which traps the liquid water. The air leaving the aftercooler is typically saturated at the temperature of the discharge, and any additional cooling that occurs as the air is piped further downstream will cause more liquid to condense out of the air. To address this condensation, compressed air dryers are used.

It is important to dry the air and prevent condensation in the air. Many usages of the compressed air are impacted by liquid water being present. Rust and corrosion can occur in the compressed air piping, leading to scale and contamination at point -of -use processes. Processes such as drying operations and painting would see lower quality if water was deposited onto the parts.

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There are many types of dryers – (see recent blogs for more information)

  • Refrigerant Dryer – most commonly used type, air is cooled in an air-to-refrigerant heat exchanger.
  • Regenerative-Desiccant Type – use a porous desiccant that adsorbs (adsorb means the moisture adheres to the desiccant, the desiccant does not change, and the moisture can then be driven off during a regeneration process).
  • Deliquescent Type – use a hygroscopic desiccant medium that absorbs (as opposed to adsorbs) moisture. The desiccant is dissolved into the liquid that is drawn out. Desiccant is used up, and needs to be replaced periodically.
  • Heat of Compression Type – are regenerative desiccant dryers that use the heat generated during compression to accomplish the desiccant regeneration.
  • Membrane Type– use special membranes that allow the water vapor to pass through faster than the dry air, reducing the amount water vapor in air stream.

The air should not be dried any more than is needed for the most stringent application, to reduce the costs associated with the drying process. A pressure dew point of 35°F to 38°F (1.7°C to 3.3°C) often is adequate for many industrial applications.  Lower dew points result in higher operating costs.

If you have questions about compressed air systems and dryers or any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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About Rotary Scroll Compressors

The Rotary Scroll compressor is a popular style compressor and is used primarily for air conditioning refrigerant systems.  Recently, since it is very efficient, quiet and reliable it has been adopted by industrial air compressor manufacturer’s to expand their product offering for their smaller, high-efficiency product line.

They operate on the principle of two intermeshing spirals or scrolls with one being stationary while the other rotates or orbits in relation to it.  They are mounted with 180° phase displacement between them which forms air pockets having different volumes.  Air enters through the inlet port located in the rotating/orbiting scroll which fills the chambers and as is moved along and compressed along the scroll surfaces.

scroll compressor finalSome of the key advantages of a Rotary Scroll Compressor are:

  • Pulsation free delivery due to the continuous flow from the suction port to the outlet port.
  • No metal to metal contact thereby eliminating the need for lubrication
  • Low noise levels
  • Fewer moving parts means less maintenance
  • Energy Efficient
  • Air cooled

The largest disadvantage is they are available in a limited range of sizes and the largest SCFM outputs are around 100 SCFM.

This is exactly where EXAIR shines, we offer 15 product lines of highly efficient & quiet point of use compressed air products and accessories to compliment their limited output volume of air.  All EXAIR products are designed to use compressed air efficiently and quietly, many of which reduce the demand on your air compressor which will help control utility costs and possibly delay the need to add additional compressed air capacity.

As an example, EXAIR’s Super Air Knives deliver exceptional efficiency by entraining ambient air at ratios of up to 40:1 and they are able to deliver an even laminar flow of air ranging from a gentle breeze to exceptionally hard-hitting force.

Super Air Knife
EXAIR’s Super Air Knife entrains ambient air at a 40:1 ratio!

EXAIR’s Super Air Amplifiers are able to entrain ambient air at ratio’s up to 25:1.  The model 120024 – 4″ Super Air Amplifier developes output volumes up to 2,190 SCFM while consuming only 29.2 SCFM of compressed air @ 80 PSI which can easily be operated on a 100 SCFM output compressor.

Super Air Amplifier
EXAIR Air Amplifiers use a small amount of compressed air to create a tremendous amount of air flow.

For your blow off needs EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzle lineup has an offering that will fit nearly any need or application you may have.  Nozzles are available in sizes from M4 x 0.5 to  1 1/4 NPT and forces that range from 2 ounces of force up to 23 Lbs at 12″ from the discharge.  We offer sixty two nozzles that could all be operated easily from the limited discharge or a rotary scroll compressor.

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Family of Nozzles

If you need to reduce your compressed air consumption or you are looking for expert advice on safe, quiet and efficient point of use compressed air products give us a call.  We would enjoy hearing from you!

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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When to use Compressed Air Receiver Tanks (and More)

I was recently working with a process Engineer at a food packaging plant on installing a Super Air Knife to blow excess water off a food product. This product was moving single file on a conveyor belt with about 6 feet between each product. The belt was moving pretty slow so we wanted to turn the air knife on only when the product was in front of the knife, which saves compressed air and energy. To do this we used the ELECTRONIC FLOW CONTROL (EFC). If the knife ran the entire time it would be wasting any air blowing during one of the 6′ long gaps. This would also put an unnecessary strain on their already taxed compressed air system. The EFC let him only supply air to the Knife when it saw a product on the belt. To read more about the EFC click here!

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EXAIR Electronic Flow Control

This application worked perfectly, but they had one other issue. Throughout the day it seemed as if they were losing compressed air pressure at the knife. What they found was during peak compressed air usage in the plant the compressor couldn’t keep up with the demand. Fear not, the Super Air Knife was only running for 7 seconds and was off for 20 seconds. This was a perfect application for EXAIR’s Receiver Tank.

Receiver Tanks are great for applications that require an intermittent demand for a volume of compressed air. This can cause fluctuations in pressure and volume throughout the compressed air system with some points being “starved” for compressed air. EXAIR’s Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tank can be installed near the point of high demand so there is an additional supply of compressed air available for a short duration. The time between the high volume demand occurrences should be long enough so the compressor has enough time to replenish the receiver tank.

Receiver Tank
Receiver Tank

If you have a process that is intermittent, and the times for and between blow-off, drying, or cooling allows, a Receiver Tank can be used to allow you to get the most of your available compressed air system. If you need any assistance calculating the need for a receiver, please let us help.

Note – Lee Evans wrote an easy to follow blog that details the principle and calculations of Receiver Tanks, and it is worth your time to read here.

If you would like to talk about 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.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Intelligent Compressed Air: Double-Acting Reciprocating Compressor

Evaluating all of the different types of compressors and which is right for you can seem like a daunting task. Today, I’d like to take some time to talk about the Double-Acting Reciprocating type of air compressor.

double acting compressor
Cut-out of a double-acting reciprocating compressor

Double-Acting Reciprocating compressors are a subset of the larger family of positive displacement compressor types. In positive displacement compressors, air is drawn into a chamber where the volume is then mechanically reduced. The energy used to displace the air volume is converted to an increase in air pressure. Dynamic compressors operate a little differently. They utilize an increase in air velocity to create the change in pressure. Air is accelerated to a high velocity through an impeller. The kinetic energy of the air is converted to an increase in potential (pressure) energy.

The Double-Acting Reciprocating compressor is a close relative to the Single-Acting Reciprocating compressor. In these types of compressors, an “automotive-type” piston driven by a crankshaft provides the compression. In a Double-Acting Reciprocating compressor, air is compressed as the piston moves in each direction. Hence the name, “double-acting”. In a Single-Acting Reciprocating compressor, air is only compressed on each full revolution of the piston. This makes the Double-Acting Reciprocating compressor much more efficient than its brethren.

Double Acting Recip
Double Acting Reciprocating Air Compressor

Double-Acting Reciprocating compressors are also available in much larger sizes. While Single-Acting compressors can be found up to 150HP, generally they’re much less common any larger than 25HP. Whereas a Double-Acting compressor is available from 10HP-1,000HP, making it a better choice for larger plants that require a significantly greater volume of compressed air. While they’re a bit more expensive due to the added mechanisms to produce the double-action compression, this cost is quickly offset by the increase in efficiency. At a performance of 15-16 kW/100 cfm, they’re 32% more efficient than a single-acting reciprocating compressor.

If you’re in the market for a new compressor and are struggling to determine the most suitable compressor, talk with your local compressor sales representative. Once you’re up an running, EXAIR has a wide-range of products that’ll make sure you’re using your compressed air safely and efficiently!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD
Image courtesy of Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems – second edition