Keep Your Pneumatics “Healthy” and “Running Like a Brand New Car”

Compressed air systems are used in facilities to operate pneumatic systems, and these systems are vital for industries.  So, it is important to keep them running.  The system can be segregated into three different sections; the supply side, the demand side, and the distribution system.  I like to represent these sections as parts of a car.  The supply side will be the engine; the distribution system will be the transmission; and, the demand side will be the tires.  I will go through each section to help give tips on how to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system.

From the supply side, it will include the air compressor, after-cooler, dryer, and receiver tank that produce and treat the compressed air.  They are generally found in a compressor room somewhere in the corner of the plant.  The air compressor, like the engine of your car, produces the pneumatic power for your plant, and needs to have maintenance to keep it working optimally.  The oil needs to be changed, the filters have to be replaced, and maintenance checks have to be performed.  I wrote a blog that covers most of these items, “Compressed Air System Maintenance”.

To connect the supply side to the demand side, a distribution system is required.  Distribution systems are pipes which carry compressed air from the air compressor to the pneumatic devices.  Just like the transmission on the car, the power is transferred from the air compressor to your pneumatic products.

Maintenance is generally overlooked in this area.  Transmissions have oil which can be detected if it is leaking, but since air is a gas, it is hard to tell if you have leaks.  Energy is lost from your pneumatic “engine” for every leak that you have.  So, it is important to find and fix them.  A study was conducted within manufacturing plants about compressed air leaks.  They found that for plants without a leak detection program, up to 30% of their compressed air is lost due to leaks.  This will be equivalent to running on only 6 cylinders in a V-8 engine.

EXAIR offers the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find those pesky leaks.  It makes the inaudible “hiss”; audible.  It can detect leaks as far as 20 feet (6m) away with the parabola attachment, and can find the exact location of the leak to be fixed with the tube attachment.

Another area for discussion with the distribution system is contamination like rust, oil, water, and debris.  Compressed air filters should be used to clean the compressed air that supplies your pneumatic products. They can remove the debris for your pneumatic products to have a long life.  You can read about the EXAIR compressed air filters here, “Preventative Maintenance for EXAIR Filters”.

The third section is the demand side.  So, you have an engine that makes the power, the transmission to transfer that power, and the tires to use that power safely and efficiently.  Many managers miss the importance of the demand side within their pneumatic system.  If you are using blow-off devices like open pipes, coolant lines, copper tubes, or drilled pipe; it will be like running your car on flat tires.  It is very unsafe as well as reducing gas mileage.  To improve safety and efficiency, EXAIR has a line of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives.  Not only will it increase your “gas mileage” to save you money, but they also will keep your operators safe.

In this analogy, you can have a high-performance engine and a durable transmission, but if your tires are bald, flat, or cracked; you cannot use your car safely and efficiently.  The same thing with your compressed air system.  You have to optimize your blow-off devices to get the most from your pneumatic system.  EXAIR is a leader in engineered blow-off devices for efficiency and safety.  So, if you want to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system, you should begin at how you are using your compressed air on the demand side.  EXAIR has Application Engineers that will be happy to help you in trying to keep your pneumatic system running like a “brand new car”.

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

 

Photo: Ford Mustang Roadster by openclipart-VectorsPixabay License

Compressed Air Quality Classes – ISO 8573-1

ISO 8573-1:2010 is the international standard for Air Quality Classes. It lays the ground rules for acceptable levels of pollutants, particulate, moisture, and oil in a compressed air source. 

Image Courtesy of  the Compressed Air Challenge

Though the standard has detailed standards for maximum particle size, maximum pressure dew point and maximum oil content for different industries and/or environments (see Slide show above) we can generalize a bit and express the levels of air quality like this:

Plant Air – general plant compressed air used for air tools, nozzles etc.
Instrument Air – found in laboratories, paint and powder coat booths, used for climate control.
Process Air – used in food and pharmaceutical applications, electronics applications.
Breathing Air – used for breathing respirators, breathing tanks and hospital air systems.

Achieving the different levels of air quality can be done with 3 basic types of filtration.
     1. Particulate – a filter element removes particles larger than the opening in the filter material. Typically done with particles greater than 1 micron.
     2. Coalescing – use different methods to capture the particles; 1) direct interception – works like a sieve, 2) Inertial impaction – collision with filter media fibers, 3) Diffusion – particles travel in a spiral motion and are captured in the filter media.
     3. Adsorption – the filter element holds the contaminants by molecular adhesion.

Filters
EXAIR FILTER SEPARATORS

The higher the class your air needs to be the more of these filtration methods you will use. Adsorption will remove more and finer particles than a simple particulate filter. And many applications will use a combination of these methods.

EXAIR products, all of which need a source of “clean, dry air” will operate very well utilizing a source of plant air and only a particulate filter. Your process, dictate if you need to supply additional filtration methods for better air quality. For example, an automotive plant using compressed air to blow parts off will not need the kind of filtration a food handling facility will need while blowing a food product off. If you are using a lubricated compressor or have lubricant in your compressed air lines from another source, you will want to use a coalescing oil removal filter.

EXAIR stocks 5 micron particulate filters which are properly sized for each individual product as an option for our customers if they choose. We also stock coalescing oil removal filters for customers who may need to remove oil from the air. Replacement filter elements are also available and should be replaced at least twice a year, depending on the quality of your air.

Oil Removal Filter
EXAIR Oil Removal Filter

Remember to ask about filtration if you have any concerns about your air quality. We can assist in sizing up the proper filters to get the air quality we recommend for proper operation and longevity of our products. 

If you would like to see how we might be able to improve your process or provide a solution for valuable savings, please contact one of our Application Engineers.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Image Courtesy of  the Compressed Air Challenge

Compressed Air Membrane Dryers: What are They? How do They Work?

A critical component on the supply side of your compressor system is the dryer. Atmospheric air contained within a compressed air system contains water vapor. The higher the temperature of the air, the more volume of moisture that air is capable of holding. As air is cooled, this water vapor can no longer be contained and this water falls out in the form of condensation. The temperature where this water will drop out is referred to as the dew point.

At a temperature of 75°F and 75% relative humidity, approximately 20 gallons of water will enter a 25HP compressor during a 24-hour period. As air is compressed, this water becomes concentrated. Since it’s heated during the compression process, this water stays in a vapor form. When this air cools further downstream, this vapor condenses into droplet form.

Moisture within the compressed air system can result in rust forming on the inside of the distribution piping, process failure due to clogged frozen lines in colder weather, false readings from instruments and controls, as well as issues with the point of use products installed within the system.

The solution to this problem is to install a dryer system. We’ve spent some time here on the EXAIR blog reviewing refrigerant dryers , desiccant dryersdeliquescent dryers, and heat of compression dryers. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to focus on one of the newer styles on the market today: the membrane dryer.

Membrane Dryer

In a membrane dryer, compressed air is forced through a specially designed membrane that permits water vapor to pass through faster than the air. The water vapor is then purged along with a small amount of air while the rest of the compressed air passes through downstream. Generally, the dew point after the membrane dryer is reduced to about 40°F with even lower dew points also possible down to as low as -40°F!

With such low dew points possible, it makes a membrane dryer an optimal choice in outdoor applications that are susceptible to frost in colder climates. Membrane dryers also are able to be used in medical and dental applications where consistent reliability is critical.

A membrane dryer does not require a source of electricity in order to operate. The compact size makes it simple to install without requiring a lot of downtime and floor space. Since they have no moving parts, maintenance needed is minimal. Most often, this maintenance takes the form of checking/replacing filter elements just upstream of the membrane dryer. The membrane itself does need to be periodically replaced, an indicator on the membrane dryer will display when it needs to be changed. If particular instruments or processes in your facility are sensitive to moisture, a membrane dryer might be the best option.

However, there are some drawbacks to these types of dryers. They’re limited to low capacity installations, with models ranging from less than 1 SCFM up to 200 SCFM. This makes them more applicable for point-of-use installations than for an entire compressed air system. The nature in which the membrane dryer works necessitates some of the air to be purged out of the system along with the moisture. To achieve dew points as low as -40°F, this can equate to as much as 20% of the total airflow. When proper filtration isn’t installed upstream, oils and lubricants can ruin the dryer membrane and require premature replacement.

Make sure and ask plenty of questions of your compressor supplier during installation and maintenance of your system so you’re aware of the options out there. You’ll of course want to make sure that you’re using this air efficiently. For that, EXAIR’s wide range of engineered Intelligent Compressed Air Products fit the bill. With a variety of products available for same-day shipment from stock, we’ve got you covered.

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

Why Use Oil Removal Filters For Compressed Air

If you’re even an occasional visitor to the EXAIR Blog, you’ll know we like to write about compressed air filtration.  One reason is that many of our products have relatively small passages that can become fouled with dirt from the compressed air supply, and performance will suffer.   Even if you find yourself in that situation, though, the good news is, it’s easy to clean many of those products…worst case, some disassembly is required, but we’re here to help with that if needed.

The more pressing reason for many users is, whatever’s in your compressed air is going to get on whatever it’s coming in contact with.  That means if you’re blowing dirt or water off a part with a Safety Air Gun, you could be blowing dirt, or water ONTO it if you’re not using proper filtration.  Clean, moisture free air is a MUST for a lot of Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor applications where exclusion of contamination (food and pharma, we’re looking at you) is critical.  It’s also quite important to Cabinet Cooler System applications – dust, water, and electronics DON’T mix.

That’s why all EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product Kits include a Filter Separator with a particulate element to remove solids, and a centrifugal element that spins out any moisture in the air flow supplying the product.  Sometimes, though, another  contaminant may be present, and may need to be addressed: oil.

Oil is often introduced into a compressed air system on purpose, via a lubricator installed in the supply line to pneumatic tools, to keep their moving parts, well…moving.  This is generally not a problem, as long as the lubricator’s downstream line only leads to said tools.  The most common method for UNWANTED oil to enter is from the compressor.  This happens when internal parts start to wear (like the piston rings of a reciprocating compressor,) allowing oil from the gearbox into the air side.

Just as water & dirt in your air will get on whatever you’re blowing onto, so will oil.  That’s where our Oil Removal Filters come in.  The coalescing element removes any trace of oil from the air flow, and also provides additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.

When properly installed downstream of an Automatic Drain Filter Separator (left,) an Oil Removal Filter (center) will provide clean, oil free air to the Pressure Regulator (right) and all downstream components.

If you want to get the most out of your compressed air system and the devices it operates, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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