Compressed Air Vs. Blower Air Knife & Other Alternatives

An often debated subject is whether it makes more sense to use a compressed air powered Air Knife or a blower powered Air Knife.  Initially, one might think that the blower option might be a more economical solution due to its slightly lower electrical consumption when compared to an air compressor.  However, a blower powered Air Knife is an expensive capital expenditure that requires frequent downtime, costly maintenance of filters, belts, bearings and electricity!  They also take up a lot of space and can produce sound levels that exceed OSHA noise level requirements.  EXAIR’s Super Air Knife even when operated at 80 PSIG (5.5 BAR), is surprisingly quiet at 69 dBA!

OSHA Chart

Another drawback for the blower powered Air Knives is the air volume and velocity can be difficult to control since these are adjusted mechanically.

Some other important maintenance considerations are:

  • Filters must be replaced every 1 – 3 months.
  • Belts must be replaced every 3 – 6 months.
  • Blower bearings wear out quickly due to the high rpm requirements.
  • The Seals wear and can allow dirt and moisture to enter, couple that with high temperature environments and the bearing life will be reduced.
  • Blowers typically add heat to the air flow, making it unsuitable for cooling applications.

In contrast the award winning and highly efficient EXAIR Super Air Knife represents our latest generation of innovation that dramatically reduces compressed air usage and noise, with no moving parts!

The EXAIR Super Air Knife is a great way to clean, dry or cool parts because they deliver a uniform sheet of laminar air flow across it’s entire length with force that can range from a gentle breeze to extreme hard-fitting force!

EXAIR Super Air Knives highly engineered design entrains ambient air at a ratio of 40:1.  This simply means that for every (1) part of compressed air supplied (40) parts of ambient air are pulled into the compressed air stream exiting the nozzle.

How Air Knife Works

1). Compressed air flows into the plenum of the Super Air Knife.  The flow is directed to a precision slotted orifice.

2). As the air-flow exits the air gap it follows a flat surface that directs the air flow in a perfectly straight line.  This creates a uniform sheet of air across the entire length of the Super Air Knife.

3).  Velocity loss is minimized and force is maximized as the room air is entrained into the primary air-stream at a 40:1 ratio.  This all results in a well defined sheet of laminar air-flow with hard hitting force.

Advantages of the Super Air Knife

  • Very Quiet, typically 69 dBA for most applications
  • Minimal Compressed air consumption
  • 40:1 air amplification
  • Uniform air flow across the entire length
  • Force and flow are variable
  • No moving parts – therefore maintenance free
  • Easy mounting – compressed air inlets are conveniently located on each end and the bottom
  • Compact design, rugged design and very easy to install
  • Recessed hardware
  • Stock lengths up to 108″ in Aluminum (max temperature of 180°F/82°C), 303SS or 316SS (max temperature 800°F/427°C)
  • PVDF is available up to 54″ long for superior corrosion resistance (max temperature 275°F/135°C)

EXAIR’s Super Air Knife is also a great replacement for other commonly used, but highly inefficient and noisy compressed air operated devices.

As an example, two commonly used blow-offs are the drilled pipe and flat air nozzles installed into a pipe.  EXAIR performed a head to head test employing the EXAIR Super Air Knife, Blower Powered Air Knife, Drilled Pipe & Plastic Flat Nozzles mounted in a pipe.

Below are the results of that test from a very common application, blowing water off bottles.  As shown in the First Year Cost Column it becomes clear that the true cost of ownership needs to be considered.  Many plants are surprised at how efficient the EXAIR Super Air Knife is compared to other alternatives.

AirKnifeComparisons

Another important consideration is how effective these other blow-off methods are.  The drilled pipe and flat air nozzles have “dead spots” where the air flow is non existent leaving some of your product wet and/or dirty.

When 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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Where Can’t I Use An EXAIR Super Air Knife?

Considering the material options available, there are very few places you CAN’T use a Super Air Knife. Most often, we find those to be due to extreme elevated temperature, like this one:

A caller from a glass manufacturing company wanted to replace a drilled pipe in a cooling application. Thing is, glass makers deal with their product in molten form, which is HOT…the ambient temperature that this drilled pipe is exposed to reaches 800°C, or 1,472°F.  Because of the temperature, and corrosive atmospheric elements (SO2 is also present, as if the heat wasn’t bad enough,) they have to replace the drilled pipe every so often, and wanted to explore other solutions.

Now, this was a rare case where a Super Air Knife would not have necessarily offered an improvement over a drilled pipe:

  • The air flow from the drilled pipe is primarily straight from their compressed air system.  Since the Super Air Knife entrains air from the surrounding environment at a rate of 40:1, the resultant flow would be very close to the 800°C ambient temperature…and not as effective at cooling as the much cooler compressed air supply temperature.  It wouldn’t have helped to reduce consumption if it simply didn’t work.
The Super Air Knife takes a supply of compressed air (1), discharges it through a gap that runs the length of the Air Knife (2,) and entrains an enormous amount of “free” air from the surrounding environment (3.)
  • Another great thing about the Super Air Knife is that it’s dramatically quieter than any other method of compressed air blowing.  Of course, if you find yourself in a 800°C sulfur dioxide environment, hearing protection is the least of your concerns.

    When supplied at 80psig, the EXAIR Super Air Knife produces a hard hitting, powerful curtain of air, with a sound level of only 69dBA.
  • EXAIR Super Air Knives (and all of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products) are compliant with OSHA Standard 1910.242(b) which limits the outlet pressure of a compressed air blowing device used for cleaning to 30psi…this protects personnel from high velocity debris and air embolisms.  Again, not a concern in an unoccupied (and uninhabitable) space.

Again, that’s a rare case…a very specific exception to a broadly inclusive rule, in light of the options EXAIR offers.  Consider:

  • Aluminum Super Air Knives are durable, lightweight, and suitable for most any installation in a typical industrial/commercial environment.  They’re good to 180°F (82°C) and are fitted with stainless steel fasteners to eliminate corrosion in damp environments.  The polyester shim can be replaced with a custom stainless steel shim, increasing the temperature rating to 400°F (204°C) if needed.
  • Type 303 Stainless Steel Super Air Knives offer higher tensile strength, and are good to 800°F (427°C.)  They are popular in applications with factors like high heat, corrosive environments, frequent spray down cleaning, outdoor installations, etc.
  • Type 316 Stainless Steel Super Air Knives are often specified in food and pharmaceutical applications, due to their even higher resistance to chemical attack and pitting.  They’re also rated to 800°F (427°C) and have the same high tensile strength as the Type 303 Stainless Steel models.
  • Some situations call for better corrosion resistance than these high grades of austenitic stainless steels – and that’s where EXAIR’s PVDF Super Air Knife comes in.  Fitted with PTFE shims and Hastelloy© C-276 hardware, they are especially well suited for processes involving the harshest of corrosive agents, such as electroplating, solar cell manufacturing, and lithium ion battery production, just to mention a few.  They would, in fact, be ideal for the SOenvironment at the glass factory, if it weren’t for the temperature…they’re rated to 275°F (135°C.)

Performance is identical, regardless of construction materials, and all EXAIR Super Air Knives come in lengths from 3″ to 108″ (except PVDF…those go up to 54″ lengths) and ship quickly from our well maintained inventory.  Aluminum and Stainless Steel models can be coupled together for even longer flow lengths.  Plumbing Kits and Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems make for easy and quick installation, and all Super Air Knife Kits come with an Automatic Drain Filter Separator, a Pressure Regulator, and a Shim Set for reliability, clean air flow, and total performance control.

If you need a reliable, cost effective, safe, quiet, and efficient curtain of air, EXAIR’s Super Air Knives are what you’re looking for.  If you’d like to discuss a particular application and/or product selection, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Super Air Knife with a Plumbing Kit Removes Gypsum from a Conveyor Belt

Plumbing Kits

A gypsum facility was having issues in losing powder from the tailings in their conveying system.  The conveyor moved gypsum from their processing plant to an outside silo bin location for loading and transportation.  The conveyor that they used was 60” wide.  As the conveyor went around the end to dump the gypsum powder, some of the material would stick to the belt and collect on the floor underneath.  Depending on production rates, they would have to stop the operation to clean up the floor which added additional hours for custodial work.  The customer sent a picture of the problem and wondered if EXAIR could help them with this application.

The facility did an annual cost projection to determine the loss of money from the gypsum material collecting under the conveyor.  The custodial cost to clean up the excess powder was roughly $45,000/year.  The unscheduled downtime was estimated at 115 hours per year.  (They did not share the loss of dollars in production to EXAIR.)  But it was large enough that they needed a solution from EXAIR.  (The photo below is similar to the same application as written by Lee Evans: “EXAIR Super Air Knives Improve Process in an Aluminum Rodding Shop“.)

Powder collecting under conveyor

I suggested a model 110260PKI Super Air Knife Kit for this application.  The Super Air Knife was 60” in length to cover the conveyor belt.  The kit included a filter, a regulator, and a shim set to “dial” in the minimum amount of force to remove the material.  This gives the customer the most flexibility when using an EXAIR Super Air Knife.  The “PKI” suffix at the end of the model number indicates our Plumbing Kit.  This kit which is Installed on the Super Air Knife allows for ease of installation to compressed air connections and it also allows for the proper airflow to get a consistent blow-off across the entire length of the Super Air Knife.

At EXAIR, we pride ourselves in energy efficiency.  Compressed air is expensive to make, so why not use it as efficiently as you can?  The Super Air Knife has a 40:1 amplification ratio which allows 40 parts of ambient “free” air for every 1 part of compressed air.  And, with the “dirty” environment at the gypsum facility, the Super Air Knife would not be affected as they do not require a motor that can fail or a maintenance program to perform.  After installing the model 110260PKI, the gypsum powder was no longer collecting on the floor underneath.  If we look at the cost of removing the hourly rate of the custodian, the Return on Investment, ROI, was only 27 days (and this did not include the increase in production rates).

Spillage is wasteful, costly, and time consuming to cleanup.  If you have excess waste from your conveying system, EXAIR will have the product to help you.  For the gypsum facility above, the Super Air Knife Kit made it possible to increase production efficiencies with a short ROI.  You can contact an Application Engineer to review your application and see if we can improve your conveying operation.

John Ball

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

Super Air Knife Cleans Baking Pans

A few weeks back I was contacted by a large baking company who was looking for a better way to pre-clean their cake and muffin pans before sending them to a wash cycle. After the pans exit the oven, an operator places the baked goods on a cooling conveyor then uses an air gun to blow out the residual crumbs. The pans are then placed on a separate conveyor and sent through a washer. The manual operation was taking a lot of extra time which resulted in reduced production.

Muffin Pan

After further discussion, I recommended they use our 24″ Super Air Knife. The Super Air Knife produces an even, high velocity curtain of air across the entire length of the knife which would provide a uniform blowoff of the pans, eliminating the manual cleaning.  Super Air Knives are extremely efficient and quiet. Operating at 80 PSIG, using a 40:1 amplification rate of entrained ambient air to compressed air consumed, they require only 2.9 SCFM per inch of knife length while maintaining a low sound level of only 69 dBA and produce a velocity of 11,800 feet per minute.

Efficient way to clean, dry or cool parts, webs or conveyors.

The Super Air Knives are available in lengths from 3″ up to 108″ in single-piece construction and offered in aluminum, 303ss or 316ss construction, they are the perfect choice for small scale or wide coverage blowoff applications. To discuss a particular application or for help selecting the best EXAIR product to fit your need, contact an application engineer at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

 

Muffins Anyone? photo courtesy of Amy via creative commons license.

How a Super Air Knife Helps with Metal Etching

Etching Machine

A company had a process where they were etching metal components with an acid bath.  The system consisted of four baths where the metal parts would be dipped.  The four baths consisted of a wash, rinse, acid bath, and rinse again.  The automated system was contained inside an enclosed booth; and, once the parts were placed inside a 24” (610mm) X 18” (457mm) basket, a sliding door was closed to initiate the operation.  The timing sequence consisted of the basket being dipped into each bath for a certain length of time.  Between each bath cycle, the basket would be raised above the solution, and an open pipe blow-off would remove excess liquid from the part with compressed air.   They complained that the parts were not getting dry enough, and cross-contamination was causing process problems.  The acid bath was becoming more neutral and the effectiveness of the etching was being sacrificed.  The rinse water was becoming more “soapy” after the cleaning bath and more acidic after the acid bath.  Overall, they had to replace every one of the bath solutions which caused shut-downs and extra expense.

From similar applications, I was able to recommend a great solution.  Because of the acidic solution and corrosive environment, I recommended two stainless steel Super Air Knives, model 110024SS.  They are manufactured in 303 stainless steel.  EXAIR also offers 316 stainless steel as well as PVDF for more acidic or caustic etching.  Instead of using the open pipes to blow off the parts, the customer could replace them with the Super Air Knives.  They can easily be mounted above the front and back of the basket, blowing at a downward angle toward the dip tank.  The two Super Air Knives would remove the liquid solution from the parts as well as the basket to put back into the same dipping tank.  The more solution that is removed, the less liquid that will transfer from one solution to the next; thus, reducing cross-contamination dramatically.

After installing the model 110024SS Super Air Knives in their system, they started to see a vast improvement in their etching process.  The etching acid was able to be used roughly 40% longer as compared to the prior method.  As an added feature, the Super Air Knives decreased the time to blow off the parts as they can be adjusted for optimum cleaning.  Less waste and faster production times were how the EXAIR Super Air Knives helped the customer above.  If you have a similar application and want to discuss how we can improve your dipping process, please speak to one of our Application Engineers.  We’ll be happy to help.

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

Super Air Knife Helps You Use Compressed Air Efficiently

Sheet washing system

A sheet metal company made thin stainless steel sheets in their process.   Before the sheets were rolled up, it went through a washing system.  Two blower-type air knives were mounted after the wash cycle to remove the residual water from the surface.  They purchased the blower-style air knives under the belief that they would save money by not using compressed air.  They found out quickly that it was not a true statement especially when it comes to the total cost of ownership.

With the dirty environment at their facility, the inlet filter on the blower was getting plugged.  The blower motor would heat up from the filter being restricted.  After eight months of service, the blower motor failed due to excessive heat.  The replacement was very costly, and it created a production stoppage for an entire day.  The manufacturer of the blower-type air knife recommended that the filter should be changed every month instead of quarterly.  This recommendation increased the monthly budget for the blower system, but they did not want to replace the blower motor again.  Instead of a quarterly stop in production for maintenance, the washing system had to be stopped every month for filter change-out.   They decided to contact EXAIR to see if their concept of “saving money” with the blower-type air knife was valid.

To better explain the concept, I divided the comparisons into different categories explaining the details between the Super Air Knife and the blower system.

  1. Initial Cost:
    • Blower System – They are an expensive set up when you have to include a blower, ducting, and a knife. To have any flexibility, a control panel with a VFD will be needed.
    • Super Air Knife – It is a fraction of the cost. With their system above, we were roughly 1/4 the cost.  A capital expense would not be required for ordering two Super Air Knives to remove the water from the stainless steel sheets.
  1. Maintenance:
    • Blower System – The intake filter had to be changed every month, and the customer estimated a cost of $150.00 each. The motor and belt also had to be checked quarterly as a preventive maintenance.  Being that the blower motor is a mechanical device, the bearings and belts will wear and have to be replaced.  Without proper maintenance, things can break prematurely.  This customer had to already replace the motor in their system.
    • Super Air Knife – They do not have any moving parts to wear out, and they are not affected by the dirty environment. Only compressed air is needed to operate.  The maintenance requirement is to change the compressed air filter once a year.  The annual price for the replacement filter is less than $35.00.
  2. Compressed air usage:
    • Blower System – This device does not require any compressed air to operate, but it does use an electric motor. For this customer, they had a 7.5KW blower motor.  With the inherent designs of blower-type air knives, they have reduced blowing forces and turbulent air flows.  This combination required maximum power output on the 7.5KW blower motor.
    • Super Air Knife –With their unique design, it has one of the highest efficiencies in the market place. It can entrain 40 parts of ambient “free” air with every 1 part of compressed air.  With laminar flow and the power of compressed air, the Super Air Knives can be used at a much lower air pressure.  To compare with the electric blower motor above, the Super Air Knives only required 11KW of compressor power to operate.
  3. Noise:
    • Blower System – With the turbulent air flow, the blower units are very loud. It can have a sound level near 93 dBA.  If operators are working near the system, they would require PPE for hearing.  The cost for proper hearing equipment and the training for the operators will add more cost with using blower systems.
    • Super Air Knife – These units are very quiet. Even at an elevated pressure, the sound level is only 72 dBA at 100 PSIG.  This level is below the maximum noise exposure for hearing safety as marked in OSHA 29CFR 1910.95(a).

 

I tabulated the annual cost comparison and shared it with the customer to better explain the total cost of ownership.  After reviewing the information, they decided to try two pieces of the model 110230 Super Air Knife Kits.  When they replaced the blower-type air knives, the customer did share some additional information.  First, they were amazed at the ease of installation.  The blower-type air knives had to be electrically wired; floor space was sacrificed for the blower; the connection hoses were large and bulky; and the mounting was cumbersome.  The customer also noticed the amount of power that was created by the Super Air Knives.  They were able to increase the feed rates of the stainless steel sheets if they wanted and still keep the surface dry.  This gave them flexibility in their production system.  And of course, the maintenance time and cost were practically eliminated.  Compressed air is expensive, but if you use EXAIR products, you can use the compressed air very efficiently.  As noticed in the tabulation above, the total cost of ownership is very expensive for the blower-type air knives as compared to the Super Air Knives.  You can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR if you want to discuss further the benefits of using the Super Air Knives.

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

Universal Air Knife Mounting System Saves You Time & Money

Using EXAIRS Universal Air Knife Mounting System greatly ease’s the installation of all Air Knives (Except PVDF).  It will save you the time and expense of designing and fabricating your own mounting system which will maximize your uptime and keep your staff focused on key plant tasks!

Please note the table below that highlights the recommended number of the Universal Air Knife Mounting System to use for the various length of Air Knives.

Length Of Air Knife Number of UAKMS
3″ – 18″ 1
24″ – 54″ 2
60″ 3
72″ – 95″ 4
96″ – 108″ 5

If you would like to discuss Universal Air Knife Mounting System, Air Knives or any EXAIR compressed air product, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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