EXAIR Super Air Knives Helps Keep Labels on the Bottles.

Super Air Knife Blower Air Knife

Sometimes you need more power.  I received a phone call from a bottling facility that was currently using a blower style type of air knives.  They increased their production rate from 220 bottles/min to 300 bottles/minute, and they started to see issues in the labeling process.  Their operation consisted of a wash cycle, rinse cycle, drying cycle, then labeling.  They determined that the bottles were not getting dry enough during the drying cycle before the labels were applied.  They had a VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) for the blower system, and they reached the maximum rate.  Still the bottles were not getting dry enough to allow the label to stick to the surface properly.  This meant that they would have to increase the size of their blower system.  With the capital cost of a blower system, they decided to call EXAIR to see if we could help them with the drying application.

Compressed air is the best way for establishing a strong blowing force.  Instead of air pressures in the range of inches of water, the compressed air system can generate over 40 times the amount of pressure than a typical blower system.  EXAIR products uses this power of the compressed air to give you a wide range of blowing forces for drying, cooling, or moving products.  For the above application, I recommended two model 110212 Super Air Knife kits.  The kit includes the Super Air Knife, a filter, a regulator, and a shim set.  They mounted one knife on each side of the bottles to blow off and remove the liquid after the rinse cycle.  Even at the increased bottle speeds, the EXAIR Super Air Knives had no issues in keeping the bottles dry.  With the regulator and the shim, it was easy for them to dial in the correct amount of force without using excess compressed air.  The labels remained glued and the bottling process ran smoothly.  Because the company was impressed by the Super Air Knives, they wanted to comment on the comparisons between the blower knife and the Super Air Knife.

  1. Cost:
    1. Blower System – The reason for contacting EXAIR. Blower-type air knives are an expensive set up.  They require a blower, ducting, and a knife.  To have any flexibility, a control panel with a VFD will be needed.
    2. Super Air Knife – It is a fraction of the cost. With their system, we were roughly 1/10 the cost; even with the kit.  No capital expense report would be needed for the two air knives.
  2. Installation:
    1. Blower System – They stated that it took them a week to install the entire system before they were able to operate. They had to run electrical wires, controls, ducting, and they even had to change the conveying system slightly to accommodate the blower size.
    2. Super Air Knife – They mounted the filter and the regulator on the conveyor, and ran tubing to the Super Air Knives. Even with a fabricator making a bracket to fit into their system, they had the system up and running is less than two hours.
  3. Size:
    1. Blower System – The foot print of the blower is large and it takes up floor space. The 3” ducting had to be ran to an oversized air knife.  With the congestion of the bottle system, it made it difficult to optimize the position and the blowing angle to adequately dry the bottles.
    2. Super Air Knife – With the compact design, the Super Air Knife packs a large force in a small package. It has a footprint of 1 ¾” X 1 ½” X 12” long.  The air knife only required a ¼” NPT compressed air line to supply the compressed air.  It opened up the floor space as well as the bottling area.
  4. Maintenance:
    1. Blower System – The blower filter had to be changed regularly, and system had to be checked. Being that the blower motor is a mechanical device, the bearings will wear and the motor will fail over time.  These items should be checked quarterly as a PM which increase the cost to run the system.
    2. Super Air Knife – No moving parts to wear out. The only maintenance would be to change the filter once a year.
  5. Versatility:
    1. Blower System – They did have a VFD to control the blowing force. But it was still very limited.  With a 36% increase in the bottle speed, they went beyond the maximum capacity of the blower.
    2. Super Air Knife – With a regulator and the shim set, the blowing force can be controlled easily from a breeze to a blast. With their application, the customer only required 40 psig with a standard 0.002” shim to clean and dry the bottles.  They had the option to adjust the regulator or change the shim to get the appropriate amount of blowing force.  So, with any changes in the bottling operations, the Super Air Knife could easily be adjusted.  Also, with the blowing force being optimal from a distance of 3” to 12” from the target, they had more flexibility in angle and distance to hit the moving target.
  6. Quiet:
    1. Blower System – With the blower and turbulent air flow, the units are very loud. It had a sound level near 93 dBA, and with the operators working around the system, they needed PPE to protect them from the high potential of noise induced hearing loss.
    2. Super Air Knife – These units are very quiet. At 40 PSIG, the sound level is only at 61 dBA.  (Even operating at a pressure of 100 PSIG, the sound level is only 72 dBA).  This was very nice for the operators to work around as it wasn’t a constant noise nuisance.

In using the compressed air, the Super Air Knives are engineered to be very efficient.  The design creates a 40:1 amplification ratio which means that for every 1 part of compressed air, 40 parts of the ambient air is entrained.  But, even with the use of compressed air, the customer still wanted to share the ease of installing, the effectiveness of blowing, and the improvements to their process.  With the 6 points noted above, the customer wished that they would have contacted EXAIR at the beginning.

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

Super Air Knives Make Beer Bottle Labels Stick; EFC Optimizes Efficiency

The Super Air Knife has been featured as the cover photo of every EXAIR Compressed Air Products catalog since I got here in 2011…except for Catalog #26 in 2013, which featured the Super Ion Air Knife. BIG difference, right there.

The highlighted application photos may change from catalog to catalog, but one that always remains is the iconic (I think, anyway) image of the Super Air Knives blowing off the orange soda bottles:

This is a darn-near ‘textbook’ application for the Super Air Knives…the even, laminar flow wraps around the bottles, stripping moisture away. Among other reason why this is important, it improves the next step in the process – the labels stick better.

One of the many simple and effective ways an EXAIR Super Air Knife is commonly used.

In my younger, intemperate days, I’d join my friends at a popular watering hole to celebrate special occasions like…well, Tuesday, for example. Sometimes, there’d be a ballgame on the TV, or lively conversation, to entertain us. Other times, we’d make a game out of trying to separate the labels from the beer bottles, in one piece.

Some years later, I tried to teach my young sons this game…except with root beer bottles. It didn’t work near as well, because these labels adhered much tighter to the root beer bottles in my dining room than the ones on the beer bottles at the bar.

Some years after that (those boys are teenagers now,) I became an Application Engineer at EXAIR, and found out that this drying-the-bottles-to-make-the-labels-stick-better thing was for real, because I got to talk to folks in the bottling business who told me that the Super Air Knives had made all the difference in the world for their operation.

Just the other day, I had the pleasure of helping a caller who operates a micro-brewery, and had just installed a set of 110009 9″ Aluminum Super Air Knives for the express purpose of (you guessed it, I hope…) making their labels stick better. The only thing that could make it better, according to them, was if they could use less compressed air, and they were interested in what the EFC Electronic Flow Control could do for them.

Click here to calculate how much you can save with an EXAIR EFC Electronic Flow Control.

As a micro-brewery, their production lines don’t run near as fast…nor do they want them to…as some of the Big Names in the business. As such, there’s some space between the bottles on the filling lines, and they thought that turning the air off, if even for a fraction of a second, so they weren’t blowing air into those empty spaces, would make a difference. And they’re right…it’s a simple matter of math:

Two 9″ Super Air Knives, supplied at 80psig, will consume 26.1 SCFM each (52.2 SCFM total). This microbrew was running two 8 hour shifts, 5 days per week. That equates to:

52.2 SCFM X 60 minutes/hour X 16 hours/day X 5 days/week X 52 weeks/yr = 13,029,120 standard cubic feet of compressed air, annually.  Using a Department of Energy thumbrule which estimates compressed air cost at $0.25 per 1,000 SCF, that’s an annual cost of $3257.00*

Let’s say, though, that the micro-brewery finds that it takes one second to blow off the bottle, and there’s 1/2 second between the bottles.  The EFC is actually adjustable to 1/10th of a second, so it can be quite precisely set.  But, using these relatively round numbers of 1 second on/0.5 seconds off, that’s going to save 1/3 of the air usage…and the cost…which brings the annual cost down to $2171.00*

*As a friendly reminder that the deadline to file our USA income tax returns is closing fast, I’ve rounded down to the nearest dollar.  You’re welcome.

That means that the Model 9055 EFC Electronic Flow Control (1/4 NPT Solenoid Valve; 40 SCFM) with a current 2017 List Price of $1,078.00 (that’s exact, so you know) will have paid for itself just short of one year. After that, it’s all savings in their pocket.

If you’d like to find out how much you can save with EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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