Super Air Knives Save 63% Electrical Cost for a Food Manufacturer Drying Trays

A food manufacturing company was looking for a more efficient way to dry polypropylene trays that were filled with food product. With their current operation, they would send already packed and sealed food trays through a washing system that used sterilized water. The trays would then have to be dried prior to bulk packaging. The operators would place the trays side by side on a 24” wide open-mesh stainless steel metal conveyor with two or three trays at a time (depending on the tray dimensions). They contacted EXAIR because they wanted to replace their “old and inefficient system” with something better.

In my discussions, they gave some additional details of the operation and the problems that they were seeing. The dimensions of the trays ranged from 150 to 200mm long by 100 to 150mm wide by 35 to 50mm in height. They were cleaning at a rate of 30 trays per minute through the washing and drying system. The washer was designed to recycle the water to improve “green” operations. But the trays were carrying much of the water outside the machine. Thus, they would have to stop and refill the wash system with fresh water.

After the washing cycle, the drying section began. It consisted of two parts; a sponge roller and a heated chamber that would blow hot air. First the trays would run under the sponge roller to absorb the water from the top of the trays. A feature that they did not like was the continuous adjustment to the sponge roller for the different tray heights. They had to make sure that they had good contact without stopping the movement.

Also, with bulk of the water being on top of the trays, the sponge surface would get saturated. They would have to stop the process to change with a dry foam pad or replace due to wear. After the sponge roller, it would move into a heated chamber to remove the remaining portion of the water from the trays. They used a 11 KW heating system to blow hot air. This part of their system required a lot of electricity to run. They wondered if EXAIR could help streamline their process and reduce energy costs.

They sent a photo of their system, reference above. As described, the trays were moving intermittently through the wash cycle and then into the drying operation. When gaps are present in a process, the Electronic Flow Control, or EFC, becomes a great product for energy efficiency. It is designed to use a photoelectric sensor to detect a part and initiate a timing sequence. Using a solenoid valve, it will turn on the compressed air only when needed. With the drying operation, I suggested that they could remove the sponge roller and heated chamber, and replace them with two Super Air Knives. In conjunction with the EFC, we can decrease energy usage, reduce downtime, and increase savings. Profit margins can be critical in the food industry, and EXAIR has many ways to help.

Electronic Flow Control

To expand a bit more about revitalizing the “old and inefficient system” with EXAIR products, I made some suggestions. I recommended two Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Kits, model 110224SS, to be placed near the end of the conveyor. One Super Air Knife would be positioned above the tray to blow across the top; and one would be positioned below the tray under the mesh conveyor to blow across the bottom.

At a slight blowing angle in a counter-flow direction, the air streams would remove the water from the top and bottom of the tray at the same time. This would create a non-contact “wiping” solution. Now they do not have to worry about parts wearing out due to contact. Another unique feature of the Super Air Knife is the strength of the laminar air stream. It is consistent from 3” (76mm) to 12” (305mm) away from the target. Thus, they can easily set the height of the Super Air Knives to dry all the different trays without adjusting it.

And as an added benefit, the water that was being blown off the trays by the Super Air Knives remained within the washing system. The sterilized water was not being wasted and could be recycled. With the Electronic Flow Control, I recommended the model 9056. It is a user-friendly device with eight different timing sequences. They were able to position the photoelectric sensor near the outlet of the washing system. As soon as the trays were detected, the Super Air Knives would turn on to blow two or three trays at the same time. With the EXAIR products installed, the system went from using 11 KW down to 4 KW, a 63% savings.

EXAIR has helped many customers like this one above. When it comes to energy savings, EXAIR leads the way. With two Super Air Knives and an EFC, we were able to modernized their system; save on water, improve productivity, reduce the overall footprint, and save on their energy usage. If you have a similar application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to update your system.

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

EXAIR Standard Air Knife Keeps Bottles Free From Contaminants

Recently I worked with a customer on an application to remove contaminants from the inside of glass bottles. During production, dust from the ambient environment was collecting inside of the bottles. They needed a way to remove it prior to filling. The solution was to briefly pause the conveyor, pulsing air into the bottles to free any dust that had accumulated. Their problem was that while the dust was blowing out of the bottle without an issue, some of it was settling back down into the bottles.

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The customer needed a way to mitigate the risk of dust particles resettling into the bottles after it was removed. The solution was to install a Model 2012 12” Standard Air Knife to provide a curtain of air across the top of the bottles, catching any freed dust particles and blowing them away from the conveyor.

After noticing positive results, we wanted to take things one step further and help to reduce overall air consumption in the process. The blowoff was achieved with (8) ¼” open tubes operating at a pressure of 80 PSIG. Although they were only operating for a fraction of a second, they still consume a whopping 33 SCFM! Replacing them with Model 1101 ¼” NPT Super Air Nozzles (14 SCFM at 80 PSIG) resulted in compressed air savings of 58%!!

In addition to saving compressed air, the noise level was also dramatically reduced. At just 74 dBA, we’re below the threshold for an 8-hour exposure time for operators according to OSHA. Where earplugs were necessary before, they’re now able to operate safely without the need for PPE to protect their hearing. The second most effective fundamental method of protecting workers, according to NIOSH, is to substitute or replace the hazard with an engineered solution. It’s not possible to eliminate the hazard as a compressed air blowoff was necessary, but the next best step is to replace it with something safer.

HierarchyControls

In addition to complying with OSHA 1910.95(a), the Super Air Nozzle also cannot be dead-ended. In applications for compressed air blowoff with unsafe nozzles, pipes, or tubes, the pressure must be regulated down to below 30 PSIG according to OSHA 1910.242(b). The installation of an engineered compressed air nozzle by EXAIR allows you to operate safely at much higher pressures.

If you have inefficient blowoff processes in your facility, give one of our Application Engineers a call. We’ll be happy to take a closer look at your application and recommend a safe, reliable, engineered solution!

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

How to Install A Super Air Knife – From the Basic to the Creative

Occasionally, a caller will ask if we offer installation services for our products. They’re usually very pleased to learn that there’s not all that much to it.

Any of our Super Air Knives can use our Model 9060 Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems (shown below; one on a 12″, and four on a 108″ length) for easy installation and precise aiming.

The 9060 Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems are perfect for simple, fast installation and positioning.

Shorter lengths, like the Model 110006 6″ Aluminum Super Air Knife (below, left,) can be adequately supported by air supply piping.  We don’t recommend that with longer lengths (due to overhung load concerns) but even a Model 110018 18″ Aluminum Super Air Knife (below, middle,) can be supported by the supply pipe in a vertical position.  We even stock our 3″ Aluminum Super Air Knives with Stay Set Hoses & Magnetic Bases (below, right.)

Just a few more popular ways to install a Super Air Knife.

The Super Air Knife also has a series of 1/4″-20 tapped holes, 2″ apart, along the bottom of the body.  These are often used for installation & mounting as well, and we’ve seen some creative methods, for sure:

Yes, that’s a door hinge. No, it wasn’t my idea, but I kind of wish it was.

EXAIR Super Air Knives come in lengths from 3 inches to 9 feet long.  We stock them in aluminum, 303SS, 316SS, and PVDF.  If you need a custom length or material, though, we do those too.  We can even talk about the best way to mount it.  Call me.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Super Air Knife’s Adjustability and Flexibility = Success

The EXAIR Super Air Knife is the most efficient compressed air knife on the market. We know this because we’ve tested them, and our competitors’ offerings, for performance, using the same instruments, controls, and procedures. We’re not going to publish data that we can’t back up, and that’s a fact.

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EXAIR Super Air Knife removing moisture after a rinse on anodized parts.

They’re also ideally suited to a wide variety of applications – they come in lengths from 3 inches to 9 feet long (and can actually be coupled together for uninterrupted air flows of even longer lengths,) a variety of materials for just about any environment. But the best thing about our Super Air Knives is how you can adjust the air pressure and flow to complete a wide variety of tasks. You can adjust them in two different ways, Replacing or adding Shims, or regulating the incoming air pressure.

completeAirknifesets
Shims for the aluminum, 303 Stainless Steel, and 316 Stainless Steel Super Air Knives

Changing out your shim!

A larger shim gap will give you higher flow and force from your Air Knife. Honestly, the 0.002″ shim that comes pre-installed in all of our Air Knives is perfectly suitable for most blow off applications, and appropriate air supply conditions are the first thing you should check for before going with thicker shims, but if you do indeed need a boost, a thicker shim will indeed give you one…here’s a blog with the video to show you how it’s done:

How_to_change_air_knife_shim
Video Blog: How to Change a Shim in a Super Air Knife
Filter Regulator
Regulator and filter

Another advantage to having a Pressure Regulator at every point of use is the flexibility of making pressure adjustments to quickly change to varying production requirements.  Not every application will require a strong blast sometimes a gentle breeze will accomplish the task.  As an example one user of the EXAIR Super Air Knife employs it as an air curtain to prevent product contamination (strong blast) and another to dry different size parts (gentle breeze) coming down their conveyor. For Performance at different supply pressures see the chart below.

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Super Air Knife Performance Table

EXAIR products are highly engineered and are so efficient that they can be operated at lower pressures and still provide exceptional performance!  This save’s you money considering compressed air on the average cost’s .25 cents per 1000 SCFM.

If you’d like to discuss altering the performance of your Super Air Knife, give us a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Compressed Air Knives vs. Blower Air Knives, an Application Comparison

A company was needing to dry vegetables after a washing system.  They currently had three blower air knives (as shown in the photo above) to remove the water before packaging.  The issues that they presented to me were in two parts.  They were not able to generate enough force to remove enough water from larger products like cauliflower and broccoli.  And, the heat from the blower system was affecting the appearance of the thinner vegetables like snow peas.  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.

Super Air Knife drying fruits and vegetables

When comparing the EXAIR Super Air Knife to a blower-type air knife, there are many features that should be reviewed.  For the customer above, they used an 18” (457mm) wide conveying system to wash more than twenty different fruits and vegetables.  So, they needed versatility to dry the different types of products.  With the Super Air Knife, we have a simple way to adjust the force by changing the inlet air pressure.  So, we can blow air at a light breeze for the snow peas to a very strong force to dry the cauliflower and broccoli.  With the engineered design of the Super Air Knife, we can achieve a 40:1 amplification ratio.  That means for every 1 part of compressed air, we are able to entrain 40 parts of ambient air.  This unique feature allows for the Super Air Knife to be very efficient with your compressed air as well as keeping the blowing air at ambient temperatures.  The design of a blower system allows the air to become hot, turbulent, and limited in force.  As noted in the photo above, they had to use three blower knives to try to remove the liquid water.  With the Super Air Knife, I recommended just one air knife to do the job.  They decided to try an EXAIR model 110218SS 18″ Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Kit 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.  You can decide if the Super Air Knife would be a better product than the blower-type air knife.  It sure was for the customer above.

  1. Initial Cost:
    1. Blower System – They are an expensive product when you have to include a blower, ducting, and a knife. To have any flexibility, a control panel with a VFD will be needed.  A capital expenditure is typical for a complete system.
    2. Super Air Knife – It is a fraction of the cost. With their system above, we were roughly 1/10 the cost.  A capital expense would not be required for ordering a Super Air Knife to remove the water.
  2. Maintenance:
    1. Blower System – The intake filter has to be changed periodically as well as the motor and belt has to be checked 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.  Loss of production will cost you much money.
    2. Super Air Knife – They do not have any moving parts to wear out. Only compressed air is needed to operate.  The maintenance requirement is to change the compressed air filter once a year.
  3. Compressed air usage:
    1. Blower System – This device does not need any compressed air to work, but it does use an electric motor. For this customer, they had a 7.5KW blower motor.  With the inherent design of blower-type air knives, they have a reduced blowing force and turbulent air flow.  This combination required the maximum power output on the 7.5KW blower motor.
    2. 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 would use 10KW of compressor power to operate at the highest force rating.  So, at lower air pressures, the blower motor and compressor requirement will be very similar.
  4. Noise:
    1. Blower System – With the turbulent air flow, the blower units are very loud. If operators are working near the system, they would need PPE for hearing protection, or elect to purchase (for even more money) a sound enclosure which some of the blower manufacturers offer.
    2. Super Air Knife – These units are very quiet. Even at a higher pressure, the sound level is only 72 dBA at 100 PSIG (6.9 Bar).  This level is well below the maximum noise exposure for hearing safety as marked in OSHA 29CFR 1910.95(a).
  5. Installation:
    1. Blower System –Just to begin, the installers will have to run electrical wires, controls, and ducting. The foot print is large and will need space to install.  They will have to drill holes in the floor to hold the blower in place, and perhaps build an attenuation chamber.  This can take days with no production to start operating.  And time is money.
    2. Super Air Knife –They are compact and do not take up much space. They mount easily into a system.  You can run a plastic tube or rubber hose to the Super Air Knife from a compressed air source.  If you use the Universal Mounting Kit, they will only need a 1/2″ hole for attaching.  Even if a fabricator has to make a bracket to fit into their system, the timing is in hours not days.
  6. Heat:
    1. Blower System – Besides being quite loud, blower systems get very hot as a function of the operation. While this may be sold as a benefit for some applications, it is considered a significant drawback for drying fruits and vegetables. The air can reach a target temperature of 180°F (82°C).
    2. Super Air Knife – The advantage for the Super Air Knife is the amplification ratio. The total volume of air that comes from it is 40 parts ambient and 1 part compressed air. So, the temperature of the airflow is going to be the same as the ambient environment surrounding the Super Air Knife.

The total cost of ownership is quite clear when you look at loss of output, loss of product, and breakdown of equipment.  After reviewing the information above, it was easy for them to try the model 110218SS Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Kit.  When they replaced the blower-type air knives, the customer did share some information with me.

First, they were amazed at the ease of installation and the compact design.  The customer also mentioned the amount of force that could be created by the Super Air Knife.  They were able to increase and decrease the required force to remove the liquid water from all the different fruits and vegetables.  This gave them the flexibility that they were looking for in their process.  And of course, the maintenance time and cost were eliminated.

Compressed air can be expensive, but if you use EXAIR products, you can use the compressed air very efficiently.  You do not have to sacrifice other areas within the total cost of ownership.  If you have a similar application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be happy to discuss the benefits of using the EXAIR Super Air Knives over a blower-type air knife.

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

Opportunities To Save On Compressed Air

If you’re a regular reader of the EXAIR blog, you’re likely familiar with our:

EXAIR Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

This guideline is as comprehensive as you want it to be.  It’s been applied, in small & large facilities, as the framework for a formal set of procedures, followed in order, with the goal of large scale reductions in the costs associated with the operation of compressed air systems…and it works like a charm.  Others have “stepped” in and out, knowing already where some of their larger problems were – if you can actually hear or see evidence of leaks, your first step doesn’t necessarily have to be the installation of a Digital Flowmeter.

Here are some ways you may be able to “step” in and out to realize opportunities for savings on your use of compressed air:

  • Power:  I’m not saying you need to run out & buy a new compressor, but if yours is
    Recent advances have made significant improvements in efficiency.

    aging, requires more frequent maintenance, doesn’t have any particular energy efficiency ratings, etc…you might need to run out & buy a new compressor.  Or at least consult with a reputable air compressor dealer about power consumption.  You might not need to replace the whole compressor system if it can be retrofitted with more efficient controls.

  • Pressure: Not every use of your compressed air requires full header pressure.  In fact, sometimes it’s downright detrimental for the pressure to be too high.  Depending on the layout of your compressed air supply lines, your header pressure may be set a little higher than the load with the highest required pressure, and that’s OK.  If it’s significantly higher, intermediate storage (like EXAIR’s Model 9500-60 Receiver Tank, shown on the right) may be worth looking into.  Keep in mind, every 2psi increase in your header pressure means a 1% increase (approximately) in electric cost for your compressor operation.  Higher than needed pressures also increase wear and tear on pneumatic tools, and increase the chances of leaks developing.
  • Consumption:  Much like newer technologies in compressor design contribute to higher efficiency & lower electric power consumption, engineered compressed air products will use much less air than other methods.  A 1/4″ copper tube is more than capable of blowing chips & debris away from a machine tool chuck, but it’s going to use as much as 33 SCFM.  A Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (shown on the right) can do the same job and use only 14 SCFM.  This one was installed directly on to the end of the copper tube, quickly and easily, with a compression fitting.
  • Leaks: These are part of your consumption, whether you like it or not.  And you shouldn’t like it, because they’re not doing anything for you, AND they’re costing you money.  Fix all the leaks you can…and you can fix them all.  Our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector (right) can be critical to your efforts in finding these leaks, wherever they may be.
  • Pressure, part 2: Not every use of your compressed air requires full header pressure (seems I’ve heard that before?)  Controlling the pressure required for individual applications, at the point of use, keeps your header pressure where it needs to be.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product Kits come with a Pressure Regulator (like the one shown on the right) for this exact purpose.
  • All of our engineered Compressed Air Product Kits include a Filter Separator, like this one, for point-of-use removal of solid debris & moisture.

    Air Quality: Dirty air isn’t good for anything.  It’ll clog (and eventually foul) the inner workings of pneumatic valves, motors, and cylinders.  It’s particularly detrimental to the operation of engineered compressed air products…it can obstruct the flow of Air Knives & Air Nozzles, hamper the cooling capacity of Vortex Tubes & Spot Cooling Products, and limit the vacuum (& vacuum flow) capacity of Vacuum Generators, Line Vacs, and Air Amplifiers.

Everyone here at EXAIR Corporation wants you to get the most out of your compressed air use.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Manufactures Custom Solutions with Precision and Speed

Customs
An Air Amplifier with a PTFE plug (left,) a curved Super Air Knife (center,) and a flanged Line Vac are just a few ways EXAIR has provided custom solutions.

Because EXAIR designs and manufactures our own products here in Cincinnati, we can take advantage of the speed, control, and flexibility that comes with full service manufacturing. If you need a customization of a current production product or if you would like to start a compressed air application from scratch, we can probably help. This is true throughout our entire product line, the following custom examples are of our Super Air Knife products.

Do you have an application that may not be best served by one of our stock Super Air Knife products? While we have quite a variety of both materials, sizes, and connection types sometimes a special application requires a special solution. For this reason,  EXAIR manufactures special Super Air Knives suited EXACTLY for the type of application or environment that it’ll be operating in.

Unique applications are fairly common, and the Super Air Knife provides a great solution to many of them.  Consider these situations:

  • A machine builder had to fit an air knife in a 43″ channel.  We had it covered: we made them a custom (non-stock) 43″ 303SS Super Air Knife and shipped it in three days.
  • A user needed 15″ (and only 15″) of air flow.  A Model 110018 18″ Aluminum Super Air Knife, off the shelf, would provide an “overflow” which would disturb product in the vicinity of the blow off.  We had it covered…a custom shim can be made to provide 15″ (and only 15″) of air flow out of an 18″ Super Air Knife.  It only takes a couple of days to get the special shim. We can make shims to center the airflow, keep it all on one side of the knife, have it come out two separate areas etc.
  • Our customer needed the lightweight of the aluminum air knife, but the ambient air temp was causing the stock plastic shim to melt and cause leaks. So we made a custom 4″ Super Air Knife and installed a Stainless Steel Shim.
custom air knives
If your application is more challenging than a custom shim, we’ve also made Air Knives with (left to right) curved radius, special material (glass filled PEEK shown here,) flat, double-sided, and even one with end-mount threaded holes.

We’ve also made a variety of special Air Knives, when more than just length is a consideration.  So, even if your application is “Unique” it’s very likely that we still have you Covered. Give us a call and we can prove it to you!

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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