Data: Not the Cyborg from Star Trek, Air Data

This world is a constant gathering of data anymore. Every item that connects to the internet moves data, collects data, and shares data. The problem is often, what data is truly needed and what we can do with it. When it comes to business analytics and data there are many types. The same can be said for compressed air.

green and white line illustration
Photo by Markus Spiske on

When looking at the data your compressed air system is collecting and what data matters, it is good to understand the types of data we could be dealing with and what could be detrimental. That’s right, too much data can be a bad thing. Or data that hasn’t been refined and is coming in not in the correct format can also be crippling to analysis. The first is too much data and be considered “Vampire” Data, there is so much there that it just simply sucks all the energy out of your analysis and can lead to paralysis through analysis. The second would be considered “Dirty” data. This data causes lots of additional work to clean up and process. Rather than just importing, running with it, and being able to take off, it generates many of its own work levels and may even have erroneous readings in it throughout that can also cause issues. So how can we identify these within our compressed air system?

What could vampire data in a compressed air system look like? Well, multiple Flowmeters collecting data on the same branch line without any offshoots would be the first. If you have a loop-style main, there would be no need to measure the flow coming out of your dry storage and going into the header loop, then measure the header flow again before the first drop. A second instance would be taking measurements in a high quantity during system downtimes, this could be the off-hours period, and there isn’t a need to monitor every second if nothing is running. Now, monitoring overnight is needed, this helps to monitor leaks or other phantom draws of air while equipment is not running. It doesn’t need to be monitored every second of the off hours though. So try to keep this nuisance to a minimum and if you aren’t sure where you should install Digital Flowmeters, contact an Application Engineer to discuss.

The latter, dirty data, is sometimes harder to take care of. This can be caused by different sources all feeding data into separate files or even importing routines from equipment not being refined. This can also be due to operator error when collecting manual data points or not following standard operating procedures. One way to reduce the number of items to import data from is by utilizing equipment like Digital Flowmeters with Wireless Capabilities and also pressure-sensing flow meters. These all help to reduce the number of items or routines in a compressed air system data collection. Again, if you aren’t sure how to clean up data, or how to process the data coming out of our EXAIR Logger software that is included with the Wireless Capability Digital Flow meter, that’s what we are here to help with.

No matter what, data in a compressed air system is important and helps to create system profiles, deduce failed equipment, refine processes, and most of all give you the ability to calculate ROI after installing engineered solutions. If you want to discuss how to do this, reach out to an Application Engineer today!

Brian Farno
Application Engineer

Digital Flow Meter Options Make it Easier to Manage What You Measure

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is a widely used maxim, in a number of fields. Since EXAIR is in the business of helping customers get the most out of their compressed air system, we use it with regard to our Digital Flowmeters.

While installation of our standard Digital Flowmeters is fairly easy & straightforward, it does require depressurization of the pipe you’re installing it onto to drill the holes for the probes. If you can do that, installation takes a matter of minutes, you can repressurize the line and get back to work. If it’s impossible, impractical, or even inconvenient to isolate and depressurize the pipe, our Hot Tap models allow for installation under full line pressure. Not only do you get away with not depressurizing part of your system, you don’t even have to stop using compressed air loads being supplied by that pipe. Here’s how it works:

  • Like any mass thermal type flow meter, these work by inserting two probes through the pipe wall. One is heated to a specific temperature, and the other measures the temperature of the air flowing past it. The difference is proportional to the mass flow rate through the pipe.
  • Normally, drilling holes in a pressurized pipe is a BAD idea. The bases for the Hot Tap Digital Flowmeters, however, allow you to do it safely. They have valves in them, which the drill bit passes through, that you’ll close as you withdraw the drill bit to prevent compressed air from flowing out.
  • A muffler in the drill guide lowers the sound level to a slight hiss, and collects the chips made by the drill bit.
  • Once the Digital Flowmeter itself is installed on the Hot Tap base, the valves are opened to put the Digital Flowmeter in service.
Hot Tap Digital Flowmeters are available for 2″ through 8″ iron pipe, , and 2″ through 4″ copper pipe.

As beneficial as it is to measure the mass flow rate through the pipe, it can be important to know the pressure inside the pipe as well. Our Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeters provide for this, with a 2nd milliamp output.

Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeters can be installed on 2″ through 8″ iron pipe, or on 2″ through 4″ copper pipe (above left). They provide input to the Flowmeter’s 2nd milliamp output via a special sensing port (above center). They can display either flow or pressure values on their display, or you can use our optional Wireless Capability (above right) to transmit this data to your computer.

A pressure AND flow profile can aid in identifying areas for improvement…and sometimes even finding problems that need fixing. One of our customers did just that, by using the flow & pressure profile to identify a transient caused by a faulty filter baghouse cleaning cycle control.

If you’re serious about getting the most out of your compressed air use, the very first step in EXAIR’s Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System is literally a great place to start.

Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

To find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
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Getting Back To It – One-Step At A Time

I’ve blogged in the past about how one of my favorite things to do is to get out of my comfort zone and over the past year, that has been a struggle for me physically. I’ve slacked off on my rucking and event participation and continued to grow my knowledge level. That’s started to weigh on me over the past few months, so I began to change it. In all honesty, I was okay with being meh. That’s not okay, and I started changing it, how you might ask? It all started with my friends and my daughters.

Not a shabby pace for 35-pound ruck and second ruck back at it.

Rather than trying to do a 180 and completely disrupt my relaxed style, I took the approach of 5mm changes over time. That’s right, I am in the US and I just used the metric system as my primary measurement. So what does this look like, well first it started with less sitting and more standing. Even when at work, I try to stand most of the day at my desk, I’m grateful I have the means to do so through a standing desk. Then, rather than just hanging out while my kids are at their practices, I’ve taken that time to start rucking or at the very least walking/volunteering and working. These are different movements that I didn’t have over the past several months, and it’s honestly been 5mm changes and I can already feel the improvements in my sleep, and my energy throughout the day. The best part is, I can really relate this to being a great approach to an industrial compressed air system as well.

Over time a system can age, efficiencies lower, leaks start to form, equipment wears down or gets built up on it and starts to require more maintenance. Just like my personal journey, we can easily get these back on track by making small 5mm changes in our daily operations. We don’t have to completely gut and revamp a compressed air system or just throw more compressors at the system to fix it. We can follow the Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization and work towards a renewed system.

Processes lead to continuous improvement.

The first point is to get a baseline, find out where you are, and then go from there. This is easily done with Digital Flowmeters w/ Wireless Capabilities. Then, rather than trying to change an entire facility, focus on one spot, one line, or even one machine. Then start to evaluate that specific point for leaks, and open blowoffs. Fixing just this one machine by reducing leaks, and replacing open blowoffs can begin to shift the efficiency within the system and drive the desire to do more. This return will also generally give the system the ability to handle expansion to other new lines as well.

Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a drastic change or complete teardown and rebuild. It should start with a baseline and then perform small changes from there, so the data can be collected and return can be measured to justify the means. We outline this process and do everything we can to offer items needed for each step of the process to ensure you have one single contact along the process, an EXAIR Application Engineer.

If you want to discuss further how we can help you keep ticking away at these 5mm changes within your system, please contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer

The Cost of Compressed Air Leaks

As margins get tighter and the cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking for ways to be more economical.  A big focus is on the compressed air system.  Compressed air is considered to be the “fourth utility” behind gas, water, and electricity.  Air compressors are necessary to run pneumatic systems, but they are the least efficient of the utilities.  For every $1.00 that is put into making compressed air, you only get roughly 5¢ of work from it.  So, it is very important to use this utility as efficiently as possible. 

One of the biggest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks.  That quiet hissing sound coming from the pipelines is costing your company a lot of money.  A study was conducted by a university to determine the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  In a poorly maintained system, they found that 30% of the compressor’s capacity is lost through air leaks on average.  Just to let you know, the majority of companies do not have a leak prevention program, so they will fall into the “poorly maintained” category.  To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130 per year.  That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines.  The chart below shows the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole for larger leaks. Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean, so leaks will not be visible at the source.  You have to find them by other means. 

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization products that EXAIR offers are designed to help optimize your compressed air system, and the most effective way is to find and stop leaks.  We have the Ultrasonic Leak Detectors to find inaudible air leaks and the Digital Flowmeters to check your system and find leak rates.  With both products included in a leak prevention program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the cost caused by wasting compressed air. 

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector: When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence.  These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency which is inaudible for human hearing.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector, model 9207, can pick up these frequencies and make the leaks audible.  With a signal strength number and bar graph level display, you can find very minute leaks.  It comes with two attachments; the parabola to locate leaks up to 20 feet away, and the tube attachment to define the exact location in the pipeline.  Once you find a leak, it can be marked for fixing.  This simple-to-use instrument can save you a lot of money and headaches. 

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter: With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously watch for waste.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic system.  You can do regular checks by isolating sections with the Digital Flowmeter and watching for a flow reading.  Another way to monitor your system would be to compare the results over time.  With the Digital Flowmeters, we have a couple of options for recording the air flow data.  We have the USB Datalogger for setting certain time increments to record the air flows.  Once the information is recorded, you can connect the USB to your computer, and with downloadable software, you can view the information and export it into an Excel spreadsheet.  With the digital flowmeters, we also offer wireless capability.  You can have multiple flow meters that can communicate with your computers to continuously log and record the flow information via one gateway.  Once the flow information starts trending upward for the same process, you can use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find the leak.  It can also serve as a preventive measure if a pneumatic system is starting to fail.

Leaks in compressed air will cost you in terms of performance, compressor life, and electrical costs.  It is important to have a leak prevention program to check for leaks periodically, as they can happen at any time.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector and the Digital Flowmeters will help you accomplish this and optimize your compressed air system.  If you need more information, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products.  It will save you even more money. 

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Photo: Soap bubble and pencils by Carola68Pixabay license