I had the pleasure of discussing a spot cooling application with a customer this morning. He wanted to get more flow from his Adjustable Spot Cooler, but still keep the temperature very low. He machines small plastic parts, and he’s got enough cold flow to properly cool the tooling (preventing melting of the plastic & shape deformation) but he wasn’t getting every last little chip or piece of debris off the part or the tool.
After determining that he had sufficient compressed air capacity, we found that he was using the 15 SCFM Generator. The Adjustable Spot Cooler comes with three Generators…any of the three will produce cold air at a specific temperature drop; this is determined only by the supply pressure (the higher your pressure, the colder your air) and the Cold Fraction (the percentage of the air supply that’s directed to the cold end…the lower the Cold Fraction, the colder the air.)
Anyway, the 15 SCFM Generator is the lowest capacity of the three, producing 1,000 Btu/hr of cooling. The other two are rated for 25 and 30 SCFM (1,700 and 2,000 Btu/hr, respectively.)
He decided to try and replace the 15 SCFM Generator with the 30 SCFM one…his thought was “go big or go home” – and found that he could get twice the flow, with the same temperature drop, as long as he maintained 100psig compressed air pressure at the inlet port. This was more than enough to blow the part & tool clean, while keeping the cutting tool cool, and preventing the plastic part from melting.
If you’d like to find out how to get the most from a Vortex Tube Spot Cooling Product, give me a call.
A vortex tube is an interesting device that has been looked upon with great fascination over the last 89 years since its discovery by George Ranque in 1928. What I’d like to do in this article is to give some insight into some of the physics of what is happening on the inside.
With a Vortex Tube, we apply a high pressure, compressed air stream to a plenum chamber that contains a turbine-looking part that we call a generator to regulate flow and spin the air to create two separate streams. One hot and one cold.
The generator is a critical feature within a vortex tube that not only regulates flow and creates the vortex spinning action, it also aligns the inner vortex to allow its escape from the hot end of the vortex tube. Note the center hole on the photo below. This is where the cooled “inner vortex” passes through the generator to escape on the cold air outlet.
Once the compressed air has processed through the generator, we have two spinning streams, the outer vortex and the inner vortex as mentioned above. As the spinning air reaches the end of the hot tube a portion of the air escapes past the control valve; and the remaining air is forced back through the center of the outer vortex. This is what we call a “forced” vortex.
If we look at the inner vortex, this is where it gets interesting. As the air turns back into the center, two things occur. The two vortices are spinning at the same angular velocity and in the same rotational direction. So, they are locked together. But we have energy change as the air processes from the outer vortex to the inner vortex.
If we look at a particle that is spinning in the outer vortex and another particle spinning in the inner vortex, they will be rotating at the same speed. But, because we lost some mass of air through the control valve on the hot end exhaust and the radius is decreased, the inner vortex loses angular momentum.
Angular momentum is expressed in Equation 1 as:
L = I * ω
L – angular momentum
I – inertia
ω – angular velocity
Where the inertia is calculated by Equation 2:
I = m * r2
m – mass
r – radius
So, if we estimate the inner vortex to have a radius that is 1/3 the size of the outer vortex, the calculated change in inertia will be 1/9 of its original value. With less mass and a smaller radius, the Inertia is much smaller. The energy that is lost for this change in momentum is given off as heat to the outside vortex.
Adjustments in output temperatures for a Vortex Tube are made by changing the cold fraction and the input pressure. The cold fraction is a term that we use to show the percentage of air that will come out the cold end. The remaining amount will be exhausted through the hot end. You can call this the “hot fraction”, but since it is usually the smaller of the two flows and is rarely used, we tend to focus on the cold end flow with the “cold fraction”. The “Cold Fraction” is determined by the control valve on the hot end of the Vortex Tube. The “Cold Fraction” chart below can be used to predict the difference in temperature drop in the cold air flow as well as the temperature rise in the hot air flow.
By combining the temperature drops expressed above with the various flow rates in which Vortex Tubes are available, we can vary the amount of cooling power produced for an application. The above cold fraction chart was developed through much testing of the above described theory of operation. The cold fraction chart is a very useful tool that allows us to perform calculations to predict vortex tube performance under various conditions of input pressure and cold fraction settings.
The most interesting and useful part about vortex tube theory is that we have been able to harness this physical energy exchange inside a tube that can fit in the palm of your hand and which has a multitude of industrial uses from spot cooling sewing needles to freezing large pipes in marine applications to enable maintenance operations on valves to be performed.
We would love to entertain any questions you might have about vortex tubes, their uses and how EXAIR can help you.
The principle behind a Vortex Tube is rooted in the Ranque-Hilsch effect which takes place inside of the tube. As a compressed air source is fed into the Vortex Tube, the air flows through a generator and begins to spin down the length of the tube, “hugging” the ID of the tube. When this spinning air contacts a deliberate obstruction at the end of the tube, it is forced to reverse directions, which requires a change in diameter to the vortex. The original vortex must decrease in diameter, and in order to do so, it must give off energy. This energy is shed in the form of heat, and a portion of the incoming air is directed out of the tube with a drastically reduced temperature via what is called the “cold end”. Another portion of the air escapes through the “hot end” of the tube, resulting in a cold airflow at one end, and a hot airflow at the other end of the tube.
Small, but powerful, Vortex Tubes really are a marvel of engineering. And, like most useful developments in engineering, Vortex Tube technology begs the question “How can we control and use this phenomena?” And, “What are the effects of changing the amount of air which escapes via the cold end and the hot end of the tube?”
These answers are found in the understanding of what is called a cold fraction. A cold fraction is the percentage of incoming air which will exhaust through the cold end of the Vortex Tube. If the cold fraction is 80%, we will see 80% of the incoming airflow exhaust via the cold end of the tube. The remaining airflow (20%) will exhaust via the hot end of the tube.
For example, setting a model 3210 Vortex Tube (which has a compressed air flow of 10 SCFM @ 100 PSIG) to an 80% cold fraction will result in 8 SCFM of air exhausting via the cold end, and 2 SCFM of air exhausting through the hot end of the Vortex Tube. If we change this cold fraction to 60%, 6 SCFM will exhaust through the cold end and 4 SCFM will exhaust through the hot end.
But what does this mean?
Essentially, this means that we can vary the flow, and temperature, of the air from the cold end of the Vortex Tube. The chart above shows temperature drop and rise, relative to the incoming compressed air temperature. As we decrease the cold fraction, we decrease the volume of air which exhausts via the cold end of the Vortex Tube. But, we also further decrease the outlet temperature.
This translates to an ability to provide extremely low temperature air. And the lower the temperature, the lower the flow.
With this in mind, the best use of a Vortex Tube is with a setup that produces a low outlet temperature with good cold air volume. Our calculations, testing, and years of experience have found that a cold fraction of ~80% can easily provide the best of both worlds. Operating at 100 PSIG, we will see a temperature drop of 54°F, with 80% of the incoming air exiting the tube on the cold end (see red circle in chart above). For a compressed air supply with a temperature of 74°F-84°F (common compressed air temperatures), we will produce an output flow with a temperature between 20°F and 30°F – freezing cold air!
With a high volume and low temperature air available at an 80% cold fraction, most applications are well suited for this type of setup. When you order a Vortex Tube from EXAIR we will ship it preset to ~80% cold fraction, allowing you to immediately install it right of the box.
The cold air from an EXAIR Vortex Tube is effective to easily spot cool a variety of components from PCB soldering joints to CNC mills, and even complete electrical control panels. Contact an Application Engineer with application specific questions or to further discuss cold fractions.
If you’re looking for a reliable, consistent flow of cold air, there’s really no better way to produce it than with a Vortex Tube. There are no moving parts…the air flow and temperature from a particular model, set to a specific cold fraction, is only influenced by the compressed air supply pressure & temperature.
Pressure is easy to control…all you need is a suitable regulator. Temperature CAN be a variable, depending on your type of compressor, if you have a dryer system (and what type it is,) and sometimes, ambient conditions…if, for example, a long pipe is run through a very hot environment like a foundry or a blast furnace operation. In cases where supply pressure and/or temperature can be limitations, a higher capacity Vortex Tube, set to a lower Cold Fraction, may be specified. Which brings me to the user inquiry that inspired today’s blog…
This particular customer uses our Model 3215 Vortex Tubes (15 SCFM, 1,000 Btu/hr) to provide cooling to analyzer systems that monitor certain quality parameters in their manufacturing processes. The ability to precisely control the temperature in these systems makes for repeatable and accurate measurement of these parameters. Their compressed air supply in this area is regulated to 80psig, they have a refrigerant-type dryer and climate-controlled facility, so their supply temperature is a consistent 70°F. You couldn’t ask for better conditions for a successful Vortex Tube application, and they’ve worked great, for years.
Now, due to a plant expansion, they’re installing some of these analyzer systems in a location where the compressed air supply is limited to 60psig. The required cooling capacity is going to be the same, so the Project Manager reached out to us to see if they could get the same amount of cooling with this new pressure limitation. Here’s how they’re doing it:
We publish the rated performance of Vortex Tube products for a supply pressure of 100psig. The Model 3215 Vortex Tube consumes 15 SCFM @100psig and, when set to an 80% Cold Fraction (meaning 80%…or 12 SCFM…of the 15 SCFM supply is directed to the cold end,) the cold air will be 54F colder than the compressed air supply temperature. Here’s the performance table, so you can follow along:
Now, their supply is at 80psig. Since air consumption is directly proportional to absolute supply pressure (gauge pressure PLUS atmospheric, which is 14.7psi at sea level,) we can calculate their units’ consumption as follows:
So, with a 50°F temperature drop (from a supply @70°F,) they were getting 12.4 SCFM of cold air at 20°F.
As you can see from the table above, they’ll only get a 46°F drop at 60psig…and the flow won’t be as high, either. So…we’ll need to get more air through the Vortex Tube, right? Let’s use a little math to solve for what we need.
We still need 20°F cold air from 70°F compressed air, so, at 60psig, we’re looking at a Cold Fraction of ~70%. And we still need 12.4 SCFM, so:
That’s about 10% more flow than they needed, theoretically, which was close enough to start. From there, they “dialed in” performance by regulating the supply pressure and Cold Fraction (see video, below):
If you’d like to find out more, or work through a cooling application, give me a call.
I recently had the pleasure of discussing a cooling application with a customer. The caller was familiar with our Cabinet Cooler Systems, and wanted to incorporate the same technology into a spot cooling application. Problem was, he wasn’t sure about exactly how much cold air flow, and at what temperature, would suit his needs best…this was on a brand new mold (for plastic parts) that had just arrived. His idea was to order a few different Vortex Tubes, and experiment with them.
I agreed that trying a few different Vortex Tube models would be a quick and easy way to find a solution, but I had a quicker and easier way: the Model 3930 Medium Vortex Tube Cooling Kit. This gave him all the Generators that fit the Medium Vortex Tube, allowing him to make any medium Vortex Tube model he desired. He would also be able to adjust the Cold Fraction to get the most effective temperature drop as well.
With the Vortex Tube in place, it was very easy to configure the optimal cooling…as he decreased the Cold Fraction (to get colder air) he replaced the Generator (to get higher air flow.) His application (cooling molded plastic parts) was satisfied with a Model 3225, set to a 70% Cold Fraction…this gave him 17.5 SCFM of cold air flow, at temperature of around 0F (a 71F drop from their compressed air supply temperature, which is around 70F.)
Is an EXAIR Cooling Kit right for your heat removal application? If you’d like to find out, give me a call.
I recently worked with an OEM on a cooling application for a gelatin pill forming machine they designed for their customer. In their machine design, the gelatin film leaves an extruding machine then travels between 2 punch rollers to form the pills. After the pills are formed, they are supposed to drop onto a chute feeding a conveyor to carry the pills to the bottling/packaging area.
The problem they were having was the film was retaining heat which caused the pills to occasionally stick to the roller, resulting in rejects and lost production time. They were looking for an economical way to blow cold air across the rollers and film but were concerned about putting too much demand on their customer’s compressed air system.
After reviewing the photos and discussing the details, I recommended they use our Model # 3308 Mini Cooler System with dual point hose kit. The Mini Cooler provides a 50°F temperature drop from the incoming supply air temperature and provides 550 Btu/hr. of cooling capacity. The system includes a swivel mag base for easy installation while the dual point hose kit would allow them to direct the cold air to blow across both rollers from a single device. Compressed air demand is minimal, at only 8 SCFM @ 100 PSIG, alleviating their concern for the customer’s compressed air system.
If you are having heat related issues with your process or to discuss a particular application or product, give me a call, I ‘d be happy to help.
A customer emailed me with some questions about the using the EXAIR spot cooling technology for use on PEEK material being machined in a Swiss Turning machine. Typically, apart from drilling and parting, coolants are not necessary for thermoplastic machining operations. In order to obtain the best surface finish and tightest tolerances, keeping the cutting area cool is required. The ideal goal was to provide sub-zero air to the cutting area, while being quiet and easy to operate. After reviewing the various EXAIR spot cooling products, it was determined that the Adjustable Spot Cooler System would satisfy all of the requirements.
The Adjustable Spot Cooler System shown above is capable of producing temperatures from -30°F to room temperature, with just the turn of a knob. Included in the package are (2) additional generators, which allow for more or less cold air flow rate, depending on the application cooling needs. With the magnetic base, the system can be easily positioned, and the flexible hose allows for precise aim of the cold air flow. And, sound levels are kept below 75 dBA.
To recap, the Adjustable Spot Cooler System provides adjustable cold air temperature with the simple turn of a knob, includes additional generators to provide wide ranging flow rates, has a magnetic base to allow for positioning anywhere, on any machine, and has a flexible hose for directing the cold air wherever it is needed.
I would say that it is a Very Adjustable Spot Cooler.
To discuss spot cooling and your application, we ask you to contact EXAIR and one our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.