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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Mounting Options for EXAIR’s Super Air Knife

 

Super Air Knife installed using the Universal Air Knife Mounting system.

The key towards a successful Super Air Knife  application is making sure it’s installed properly. Using the chart on the installation & maintenance guide to ensure your plumbing is properly sized is the first step. This ensures that an adequate volume of compressed air is able to reach the knife, without causing an unnecessary pressure drop.

super air knife pipe size

Once you’ve planned out the distribution of compressed air to the Super Air Knife you must consider how to mount it in your application. Across the bottom of the knife are ¼-20 tapped holes spaced out evenly every 2” along the knife. A 30” Model 110030 will have (15) holes, a 60” 110060 (30), and so on. These holes are tapped through to allow you to mount the knife to best suit the application.

If you’d rather have a more “out of the box” solution, EXAIR offers our Universal Mounting System. It gives you the ability to mount onto a conveyor rail or machine frame and provide precise positioning for all of EXAIR’s Super Air Knives, Standard Air Knives, Full-Flow Air Knives, as well as the Standard and Super Ion Air Knives. Each system comes with (2) 1/2-13 x 5” long bolts, 2’ long stainless steel rod, mounting hardware, angle bracket, and adjustable swivel clamps. Check out the video below for a demonstration of the adjustability you can achieve with the Model 9060 Universal Mounting System.

Another critical factor to consider is the mounting position of the knife. If the material is moving along a conveyor, the knife should be positioned as closely as possible with the airflow oriented against the direction of travel of the material. By doing so, we increase the amount of time that the material is in contact with the airflow. We call this term counter-flow. Maximizing the time in contact with the laminar airflow from the Super Air Knife gives us the best chance at a successful result. Whether we’re talking about cooling, drying, or cleaning, the longer that the material is in contact with the laminar airflow the better the results will be.

air knife counter flow

In this photo, the Super Air Knife is positioned upside down at an angle above a conveyor belt, against the direction of travel. We recommend installing the Super Air Knife in this orientation as it allows the airflow to get closest to the material being blown off. They’ve used their own brackets to allow the knife to be adjusted when blowing residual dust off of a conveyor for a mining application. The dust on the belt would build up over time and was difficult to remove. By installing a Super Air Knife, they’re able to continuously remove the dust from the conveyor belt before it becomes a problem.

If you have an application that would be better served with one of EXAIR’s Super Air Knives, give us a call. An Application Engineer is ready to assist you in selecting the proper material, length, and mounting method.

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

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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The Super Air Knife Vs. a Homemade Drilled Pipe Solution

A drilled pipe has been used for many years to blow compressed air across a span for cleaning, cooling, and drying.  They are a simple tool that was created from spare parts and many holes.  The cost to make this type of product is not expensive, but to use this product in your application is very expensive.  Similarly, an incandescent lightbulb is inexpensive to purchase, but it will cost you much more in electricity than a LED light bulb.  Since 1983, EXAIR has been innovating safe and efficient products to be used in compressed air systems.  In this blog, I will compare the drilled pipe with the Super Air Knife.

Even though you can find the components relatively easily to design your own drilled pipe, this blow-off design is very costly and stressful to your compressed air system.  Typically, the holes along the pipe are in a row next to each other.  As the airstream leaves from each hole, it will hit the airstream from the one next to it.  This will cause turbulent air flows which has inconsistent forces and loud noises.  Also, with turbulent air flows, the ability to entrain the surrounding ambient air is very small.  We call this the amplification ratio.  The higher the amplification ratio, the more efficient the blow-off device is.  For a drilled pipe, the amplification ratio is near 3:1 (3 parts ambient air to 1 part compressed air).

A colleague, Brian Bergmann, wrote a blog about the amplification ratio of the EXAIR Super Air Knife.  (Read it HERE.)  This blog demonstrates how EXAIR was able to engineer an efficient way to blow air across a span.  The unique design of the Super Air Knife creates an amplification ratio of 40:1 which is the highest in the market.   Unlike the drilled pipe, the gap opening runs along the entire knife for precise blowing.  This engineered gap allows for laminar air flow which has a low noise level, a consistent blowing force, and maximum amplification ratio.  With these benefits, the Super Air Knife can reduce the amount of compressed air required, which will save you money and save your compressed air system.

In comparing the drilled pipe to the Super Air Knife, I will relate both products in a simple cooling application.   Thermodynamics expresses the basics of cooling with an air temperature and an air mass.  Since both products are represented in the same application, the air temperature will be the same.   Thus, the comparison will be with the amount of air mass.  In this example, the customer did some calculations, and they needed 450 Lbs. of air to cool the product to the desired temperature.  At standard conditions, air has a density of 0.0749 lbs/ft3.  To convert to a volume of air, we will divide the weight by the density:

450 lbs. / (0.0749 lbs./ft3) = 6,008 ft3 of air

To meet this requirement, reference Table 1 below.  It shows the volume of air required by your compressed air system to meet this demand.  As you can see, your compressor has to work 13X harder to cool the same product when using a drilled pipe.  Just like the LED light bulbs, the Super Air Knife has more efficiency, more innovation, and uses less compressed air.  In turn, the Super Air Knife will save you a lot of money in electrical costs.  If you would like to see how much the Super Air Knife can save compared to the drilled pipe, we have that information in this blog.  (Read it HERE.)  For my reference, it will reduce the stress of your compressed air system.

if you would like to compare any of your current blow-off devices with an innovative EXAIR product, you can contact an Application Engineer.  We can do an Efficiency Lab to shine an LED light on saving energy and money with your compressed air.

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

The Super Air Knife and the Amplification Ratio

Super Air Knife

The EXAIR Super Air Knife has a 40:1 amplification ratio.  So, what does this mean?  The definition of ratio is a relation between two amounts showing the number of times one value is contained within the other.  For the Super Air Knife, it is a value that shows the amount of ambient air that is drawn into the compressed air.  With an amplification ratio of 40:1, that means that there are 40 parts of ambient air for every 1 part of compressed air; which helps make the most efficient air knifes available in the market.

Super Air Knife has 40:1 Amplification Ratio

Most people think that compressed air is free, but it is most certainly not.  Because of the amount of electricity required, compressed air is considered to be the fourth utility for manufacturing plants.  To save on utility costs, it is important to use compressed air very efficiently.  So, the higher the amplification ratio, the more efficient the compressed air product.  Manufacturing plants that use open fittings, copper tubes, and drilled pipes for blowing are not efficiently using their compressed air system.  These types of products generally have between a 5:1 to 10:1 amplification ratio.  When EXAIR began, they knew that there was a better way in saving compressed air by increasing the amplification ratio.

EXAIR initially created a line of air knives called the Standard Air Knife and Full-Flow Air Knife.  They utilize a Coanda effect to blow air at a 30:1 amplification ratio.  These air knives were much more efficient for blowing air than the open fittings, tubes and drilled pipes.  But, EXAIR knew that we could design a more efficient air knife, the Super Air Knife which has a 40:1 amplification ratio.

I like to explain things in every day terms.  For this analogy, the amplification ratio can be represented by gas mileage.  Like your car, you want to get the most distance from a gallon of gas.  With your compressed air system, you want to get the most utilization for blowing.  With an EXAIR Super Air Knife, it has a 40:1 amplification ratio.; or, in other words, you can get 40 mpg.  If you use the EXAIR Standard or Full Flow Air Knife, you can get 30 mpg.  But, if you use drilled pipes, copper tubes, etc. for blowing, then you are only getting 5 to 10 mpg.  If you want to get the most “distance” from your compressed air system, you want to check the “gas mileage” of your blow-off components.

EXAIR can “tune up” your blow-off systems to make them efficient and safe by contacting an Application Engineer.  We will be happy to help you.

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

EXAIR’s Super Air Knife: The Benefits of Laminar Airflow

SSPlumbingKitpr_cheese-559x

When a wide, even, laminar flow is necessary there isn’t a better option available on the market than EXAIR’s Super Air Knife. We’ve been manufacturing Air Knives for over 35 years, with the Super Air Knife making its first appearance back in 1997. Since then, the Super Air Knife has undergone a few enhancements over the years as we’re constantly trying to not only introduce new products but also improve on the ones we have. We’ve added new materials, longer single piece knives, as well as additional accessories. But, by and large, the basic design has remained the same. As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”.

What really sets EXAIR’s Super Air Knife above the competition is the ability to maintain a consistent laminar flow across the full length of the knife compared to similar compressed air operated knives. This is even more evident when compared against blower operated knives or fans. A fan “slaps” the air, resulting in a turbulent airflow where the airflow particles are irregular and will interfere with each other. A laminar airflow, by contrast, will maintain smooth paths that will never interfere with one another.

turbulent vs laminar
A representation of a turbulent flow on top, and laminar flow on bottom

The effectiveness of a laminar airflow vs turbulent airflow is particularly evident in the case of a cooling application. The chart below shows the time to cool computers to ambient temperatures for an automotive electronics manufacturer. They used a total of (32) 6” axial fans, (16) across the top and (16) across the bottom as the computers traveled along a conveyor. The computers needed to be cooled down before they could begin the testing process. By replacing the fans with just (3) Model 110012 Super Air Knives at a pressure of just 40 psig, the fans were cooled from 194°F down to 81° in just 90 seconds. The fans, even after 300 seconds still couldn’t remove enough heat to allow them to test.

air-knife-cooling
While the fans no doubt made for large volume air movement, the laminar flow of the Super Air Knife resulted in a much faster heat transfer rate.

Utilizing a laminar airflow is also critical when the airflow is being used to carry static eliminating ions further to the surface. Static charges can be both positive or negative. In order to eliminate them, we need to deliver an ion of the opposite charge to neutralize it. Since opposite charges attract, having a product that produces a laminar airflow to carry the ions makes the net effect much more effective. As you can see from the graphic above showing a turbulent airflow pattern vs a laminar one, a turbulent airflow is going to cause these ions to come into contact with one another. This neutralizes them before they’re even delivered to the surface needing to be treated. With a product such as the Super Ion Air Knife, we’re using a laminar airflow pattern to deliver the positive and negative ions. Since the flow is laminar, the total quantity of ions that we’re able to deliver to the surface of the material is greater. This allows the charge to be neutralized quickly, rather than having to sit and “dwell” under the ionized airflow.

With lengths from 3”-108” and (4) four different materials all available from stock, EXAIR has the right Super Air Knife for your application. In addition to shipping from stock, it’ll also come backed up by our unconditional 30-day guarantee. Test one out for yourself to see just how effective the Super Air Knife is on a wide variety of cooling, cleaning, or drying applications.

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

EXAIR Standard Air Knife Overview

EXAIR manufactures a variety of different air knives in several different materials of construction. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be discussing the Standard Air Knife. EXAIR’s Standard Air Knife was the first rendition of the Air Knife family. The Standard Air Knife utilizes what’s known as the Coanda Effect, or the propensity of a fluid to adhere to a curved surface. The airflow from the Standard Air Knife exits the nozzle outlet and ends up perpendicular to the outlet. This air motion that is created also allows the knife to entrain ambient air at a rate of 30:1, 30 parts ambient air to one part compressed air, which maximizes the force while minimizing compressed air consumption.

gh_Standard Air Knife 750x696
Standard Air Knife

Due to this air entrainment, air savings of 40%-90% are possible when replacing homemade blowoff devices such as drilled or slotted pipe. Return on your investment is seen typically within weeks rather than months or years.

In addition to significant air savings, the Standard Air Knife also dramatically reduces “wind shear” by gradually introducing the entrained air into the primary airstream. The exiting air is also laminar, not turbulent. These two features help cut noise levels in HALF! With drilled pipes or open tube jets, there’s little to no air amplification and the sound levels are extremely high. These sound levels typically will be far outside of OSHA’s acceptable level of noise for operators. Fines can be handed out by OSHA under directive 29 CFR 1910.95.

The Standard Air Knife is available in lengths from 3”-48” in both aluminum and Type 303SS. They’re an excellent choice for applications such as blowing or removing debris, drying or cooling parts, or environmental separation. ¼ NPT female ports are located at either end of the knife and the force and flow through the knife is adjustable. For gross adjustments to the airflow, we offer shim sets that contain a .001”, .003”, and .004” shim for aluminum or (3) .002” shims for the stainless steel knives. Shims can be stacked together to create even more flow, or in the case of the aluminum knives the .001” shim can be installed to cut the flow and force in half. In addition to offering the shim sets, a pressure regulator can be installed right at the point of use to “dial in” the exact pressure that you need for the application.

Standard Air Knife Kit
Standard Air Knife Kit

If you have drilled or slotted pipe blowoffs in your facility, you’re simply leaving money on the table through high energy costs. Take advantage of the unconditional 30 day guarantee for all stock products and see just how much you can save with EXAIR’s Standard Air Knife.

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