The Importance Of Properly Sized Compressed Air Supply Lines

EXAIR Corporation manufactures a variety of engineered compressed air products that have been solving myriad applications in industry for almost 37 years now.  In order for them to function properly, though, they have to be supplied with enough compressed air flow, which means the compressed air supply lines have to be adequately sized.

A 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe can handle a maximum flow capacity of 18 SCFM, so it’s good for a Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (uses 14 SCFM @80psig) or a Model 110006 6″ Super Air Knife (uses 17.4 SCFM @80psig,) but it’s going to starve anything requiring much more air than those products.  Since compressed air consumption of devices like EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products is directly proportional to inlet pressure, we can use the flow capacity of the pipe, the upstream air pressure, and the known consumption of the EXAIR product to calculate the inlet pressure of a starved product.  This will give us an idea of its performance as well.

Let’s use a 12″ Super Air Knife, with the 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe as an example.  The ratio formula is:

(P2 ÷ P1) C1 = C2, where:

P2 – absolute pressure we’re solving for*

P1 – absolute pressure for our published compressed air consumption, or C1*

C1 – known value of compressed air consumption at supply pressure P1

C2 – compressed air consumption at supply pressure P2

*gauge pressure plus 14.7psi atmospheric pressure

This is the typical formula we use, since we’re normally solving for compressed air consumption at a certain supply pressure, but, rearranged to solve for inlet pressure assuming the consumption will be the capacity of the supply line in question:

(C2 P1) ÷ C1 = P2

[18 SCFM X (80psig + 14.7psia)] ÷ 34.8 SCFM = 49psia – 14.7psia = 34.3psig inlet pressure to the 12″ Super Air Knife.

From the Super Air Knife performance chart…

This table is found on page 22 of EXAIR Catalog #32.

…we can extrapolate that the performance of a 12″ Super Air Knife, supplied with a 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe, will perform just under the parameters of one supplied at 40psig:

  • Air velocity less than 7,000 fpm, as compared to 11,800 fpm*
  • Force @6″ from target of 13.2oz total, instead of 30oz*
  • *Performance values for a 12″ length supplied with an adequately sized supply line, allowing for 80psig at the inlet to the Air Knife.

Qualitatively speaking, if you hold your hand in front of an adequately supplied Super Air Knife, it’ll feel an awful lot like sticking your hand out the window of a moving car at 50 miles an hour.  If it’s being supplied with the 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe, though, it’s going to feel more like a desk fan on high speed.

The type of supply line is important too.  A 1/4″ pipe has an ID of about 3/8″ (0.363″, to be exact) but a 1/4″ hose has an ID of only…you guessed it…1/4″.  Let’s say you have 20 feet of 1/4″ hose instead, which will handle only 7 SCFM of compressed air flow capacity:

[7 SCFM X (80psig + 14.7psia)] ÷ 34.8 SCFM = 19psia – 14.7psia = 4.3psig inlet pressure to the 12″ Super Air Knife.

Our Super Air Knife performance chart doesn’t go that low, but, qualitatively, that’s going to generate a light breeze coming out of the Super Air Knife.  This is why, for good performance, it’s important to follow the recommendations in the Installation Guide:

This table comes directly from the Installation & Operation Instructions for the Super Air Knife.
All Installation Guides for EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products contain recommended air supply line sizes for this very reason.  If you have any questions, though, about proper compressed air supply, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Why Use EXAIR Super Air Knives: Return on Investment

Return on Investment, or ROI, is the ratio of profit over total investment.  Many people use it to check stocks, financial markets, capital equipment, etc.  It is a quantitative way in determining the validity for an investment or project.   You can use the ROI value to give a measurable rate in looking at your investment.  For a positive ROI value, the project will pay for itself in less than one year.  Any negative values would represent a high-risk investment.  In this blog, I will compare the ROI between an EXAIR Super Air Knife to a common drilled pipe.  Let’s start by looking at Equation 1 to calculate the Return on Investment:

Equation 1:  ROI = (Total annual savings – Total Project Cost) / Total Project Cost * 100

The Total Project Cost is the cost of the product with the labor to install.  In our example, we will use a 24” (610mm) wide blow-off device.  One device will be an inexpensive drilled pipe and the other will be a high-efficiency EXAIR Super Air Knife.  The drilled pipe had (48) 1/16” (1.6mm) diameter holes spaced ½” (13mm) apart.  EXAIR manufactures the model 110024 Super Air Knife with a .002” (.05mm) slot along the entire length.  Both have a blowing width of 24” to cover the conveyor.  The model 110024 has a retail price of $491.00 each.  The cost of the drilled pipe was around $50.00.  What a difference in price!  But, how could EXAIR remain a leader in this industry for over 35 years?

Let’s continue on with the Return on Investment.  The amount of time required to install the Super Air Knife across the conveyor only took a maintenance staff about one hour to mount.  The labor rate that I will use in this example is $75.00 per hour (you can change this to your current labor rate).  The labor cost to install the knife is $75.00.   The Total Project Cost can be calculated as follows: ($491 – $50) + $75.00 = $516.00.  The next part of the equation, Total annual savings, is a bit more in-depth, but the calculation is shown below.

Super Air Knife

EXAIR manufactures engineered products to be efficient and safe.  The Super Air Knife has a 40:1 amplification ratio which means that 40 parts of “free” ambient air is entrained for every 1 part of compressed air.  For comparison, the Super Air Knives are to compressed air systems as LED lightbulbs are to electricity.  In that same way, the drilled pipe would represent an incandescent lightbulb.  The reason for this analogy is because of the amount of energy that the EXAIR Super Air Knives can save.  While LED lightbulbs are a bit more expensive than the incandescent lightbulbs, the value for the Return on Investment is at a higher percentage, or in other words, a short payback period.  On the other hand, the drilled pipe is less expensive to make, but the overall cost for using it in your compressed air system is much higher.  I will explain how below.

To calculate the Total Annual Savings, we will use the same blow-off scenario as above.  The amount of compressed air used by the drilled pipe is around 174 SCFM (4,924 SLPM) at 60 PSIG (4.1 Bar).  The model 110024 Super Air Knife has an air consumption of 55.2 SCFM (1,563 SLPM) at 60 PSIG (4.1 Bar).  At an electrical rate of $0.08 per Kilowatt-hour, we can figure the cost to make compressed air.   Based on 4 SCFM per horsepower of air compressor, the electrical cost is $0.25 per 1000 standard cubic feet, or $0.25/1000SCF.  To calculate an annual savings, let’s use a blow-off operation of 8 hours/day for 250 days a year.   Replacing the drilled pipe with the model 110024 Super Air Knife, it will save you (174 SCFM – 55.2 SCFM) = 121.8 SCFM of compressed air.  To put this into a monetary value, the annual savings will be 121.8 SCFM *$0.25/1000SCF * 60 Min/hr * 8hr/day * 250 day/yr = $3,654 per year.

With the Total Annual Cost and the Project Cost known, we can insert these values into Equation 1 to calculate the ROI:

ROI = (Total annual savings – Total Project Cost) / Project Cost * 100

ROI = ($3,654 – $516.00) / $516.00 * 100

ROI = 608%

With a percentage value that high, we are looking at a payback period of only 52 days.  You may look at the initial cost and be discouraged; but in a little over a month, the model 110024 will have paid for itself.  And after using it for one year, it will save your company $3,654.00.  Some things that may be overlooked are safety issues.  With some inexpensive blow-off devices, the noise levels are over the OSHA limits.  The drilled pipe had a noise level of 91 dBA while the Super Air Knife only had a noise level of 65 dBA.

In my experience, a loud blowing noise from your equipment is generally coming from an inefficient and safety-concerned product.  With these “cheap” ways to blow compressed air, it will cost your company a lot of money to use as shown in the example above.  If you would like to team up with EXAIR to set up ways to increase savings, improve productivity, and promote safety, an Application Engineer can help you to get started.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Controlling Compressed Air can be Easy, and Save Thousands of Dollars

The history of automated controls can be traced back to inventors in ancient Greece & Egypt, who sought ways to keep more accurate track of time than afforded by sundials and hourglasses.  Their efforts, dating as far back as 300BC, produced devices actuated by water flow, which is actually quite reliable and repeatable: a set amount of water will flow via gravity through a fixed conduit in the exact same amount of time, every time.  These were in fairly common use until the invention of the mechanical clock in the 14th century.

The Industrial Revolution grew the need for automated processes exponentially…the need to control objects or tooling in motion, fluid flow, temperature, and pressure, just to name a few.  As time passed, the sky was literally the limit: modern aircraft & spacecraft rely on a staggering amount of automated processes from production to operation.

All throughout history, though, the benefits of automation remain the same: making processes more efficient.  That’s where the EXAIR EFC Electronic Flow Control comes in, for automating processes involving compressed air use, by turning air flow off when it’s not needed.  In fact, not only do they provide simple on/off control to blow only when a part is “seen” by the photoelectric sensor, there are eight distinct modes to incorporate delay on or off, flicker on or off, signal on/off delay, interval, or “One-Shot,” where the sensor detects the part, delays opening the valve per the timer setting, and blows for one second.

EFC Electronic Flow Control Systems are already assembled & wired for quick & easy installation.

The EXAIR EFC Electronic Flow Control is a true “plug and play” solution for automating a compressed air application.  Mount the sensor, plumb the valve, plug it in, and you’re ready to go.  There’s no complicated PLC wiring or programming, although the aforementioned mode selections do offer a great deal of flexibility other than “on when the sensor sees it; off when it doesn’t” operation, if desired.  Here are some prime examples of that flexibility, and the monetary benefits due to the compressed air consumption savings:

(Left) On/Off Delay setting used in tank refurbishment application to operate a “halo” of Super Air Knives for blow off as tanks exit oven where old paint is burnt off – $3,393 annual air savings. (Center) Interval setting actuates a Super Ion Air Knife for flat panel display dust blow off/static elimination – $2,045 annual air savings. (Right) Interval setting actuates a “halo” of Super Ion Air Knives to clean & remove static charge from plastic automotive bumper covers prior to painting – $5012 annual savings.

If you’d like to find out more about the EFC Electronic Flow Control can save you time, air, and money, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Products in Construction Industry: Super Air Knife Helps Steel Door Drying

A manufacturer of both residential and commercial steel doors used in the construction industry recently contacted me for help with an application in their manufacturing process. They make a wide variety of exterior and interior doors as well as some custom doors that are sold to builders across the country.


The raw material for the doors is formed, assembled, and welded together before it is then taken to a finishing step that involves grinding down the welds and sanding any rough spots on the door down to a smooth finish. This smooth finish creates a clean look and also helps with the application of paint at the end of the process.

After finishing, the doors are hung on an overhead conveyor where they pass through a machine that cleans off all of the surfaces and remain hanging until they dry. This air drying prevented them from continuously operating as they’d have to wait at least 10 minutes until the doors dried before they could apply any paint. In the summer, humid conditions in their plant further increased the time the doors took to air dry.

Super Air Knife w/ Plumbing Kit Installed

Rather than waiting to dry, they wanted to blow off any remaining water from both sides of the door just after the washing operation. The solution was to install (2) Model 110048PKI Super Air Knives on either side of the door to blow off residual water as it moved along the conveyor. Since the spacing in between doors was 12’, they didn’t want to have to operate the knives continuously and waste unnecessary compressed air.

With the doors traveling slowly at about 30 ft/min and a significant space in between them, they also went with a Model 9064 Electronic Flow Controller to keep the air on only when necessary. A standard door height is just under 7′. At the speed they were traveling, it would take roughly 14 seconds for each door to pass through the flow of the knives while 24 seconds pass with no door.

With a minimum 10 minute dry time without the Super Air Knives, the overall drying time was reduced to 38 seconds. That’s a 93.6% improvement in the overall time of their drying process! By improving the drying process, they were able to increase their production to 100 doors per 8-hr shift.

(2) 48″ Super Air Knives operating continuously at 80 PSIG would require 278.4 SCFM of compressed air. The average cost of compressed air is $0.25/1000 SCF. So what did this cost when operating continuously with a 38 second blowoff time?

0.633 min x 278.4 SCFM = 176 SCF/door

176 SCF x 100 doors per shift = 17,600 SCF

17600 SCF x ($0.25/ 1000 SCF) = $4.40/ 8 hr shift

Over the course of a year that equates to $1,144 in operating costs. With the EFC implemented, the blowoff time was reduced to just 14 seconds per door.

0.233 min x 278.4 SCFM = 65 SCF/door

65 SCF x 100 doors per shift = 6500 SCF

6500 SCF x ($0.25/1000 SCF) = $1.63/ 8 hr shift

Not only were they able to increase their production rate by implementing the Super Air Knife, but by taking it one step further with the EFC they reduced the overall operating costs for a full year to just $423.80.


If you have a similar application in the construction industry and would like to speak to an Application Engineer please give us a call!

Tyler Daniel
EXAIR Corporation
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Door photo courtesy of ErikaWittlieb via Pixabay