What’s The Big Deal About Clean Air?

Compressed air isn’t called manufacturing’s “Fourth Utility” (the first three being electricity, water, and natural gas) for nothing. Pneumatic tools are popular because they’re often so much lighter than their electric counterparts. Compressed air can be stored in receiver tanks for use when other power supplies are unavailable or not feasible. Many compressed air operated products can be made to withstand environmental factors (high/low temperature, corrosive elements, atmospheric dust, oil, other contaminants, etc.,) that would make electric devices very expensive, unwieldy, or impractical.

One of the most valuable considerations, though, is that your compressed air system is, by and large, under your control.  The type and capacity of your air compressor can be determined by your specific operational needs.  The header pressure in your supply lines is based on the applications that your air-operated devices are used for.  And the performance & lifespan of every single component in your compressed air system is determined by the care you take in maintaining it.

I covered the importance of compressed air system maintenance in a blog a while back…today, I want to focus on clean air.  And, like the title (hopefully) makes you think, it’s a REALLY big deal.  Consider the effects of the following:

Debris: solid particulates can enter your air system through the compressor intake, during maintenance, or if lines are undone and remade.  If you have moisture in your air (more on that in a minute,) that can promote corrosion inside your pipes, and rust can flake off in there.  Almost all of your air operated products have moving parts, tight passages, or both…debris is just plain bad for them.  And if you use air for blow off (cleaning, drying, etc.,) keep in mind that anything in your compressed air system will almost certainly get on your product.

Your compressed air system may be equipped with a main filter at the compressor discharge.  This is fine, but since there is indeed potential for downstream ingress (as mentioned above,) point-of-use filtration is good engineering practice.  EXAIR recommends particulate filtration to 5 microns for most of our products.

Water: moisture is almost always a product of condensation, but it can also be introduced through faulty maintenance, or by failure of the compressor’s drying or cooling systems.  Any way it happens, it’s also easy to combat with point-of-use filtration.

EXAIR includes an Automatic Drain Filter Separator in our product kits to address both of these concerns.  A particulate filter element traps solids, and a centrifugal element “spins” any moisture out, collecting it in the bowl, which is periodically drained (automatically, as the name implies) by a float.

Point of use filtration is key to the performance of your compressed air products, and their effectiveness. Regardless of your application, EXAIR has Filter Separators to meet most any need.

Oil: many pneumatic tools require oil for proper operation, so, instead of removing it, there’s going to be a dedicated lubricator, putting oil in the air on purpose.  Optimally, this will be as close to the tool as possible, because not all of your compressed air loads need oil…especially your blow offs.  If, however, a blow off device is installed downstream of a lubricator (perhaps due to convenience or necessity,) you’ll want to do something about that oil. Remember, anything in your system will get blown onto your product.

If this is the case, or you just want to have the cleanest air possible (keep in mind there is no downside to that,) consider an EXAIR Oil Removal Filter.  They come in a range of capacities, up to 310 SCFM (8,773 SLPM,) and the coalescing element also offers additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.

In closing, here’s a video that shows you, up close and personal, the difference that proper filtration can make:

If you’d like to discuss or debate (spoiler alert: I’ll win) the importance of clean air, and how EXAIR can help, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Oil Removal Filters – Keeping Compressed Air Clean

Compressed air filters help to keep the air clean and condensate free to protect equipment from dust, dirt, pipe scale, oil and water. Even though the compressed air system will typically have a main dryer, additional treatment is often necessary. For this discussion, we will focus on the oil removal process and filter type.

After the compressed air has passed through a particulate filter, the dirt, dust and water droplets have been removed.  Oil that is present is much smaller in size, and mostly passes though the particulate filter.  The installation of a coalescing filter will provide for the removal of the majority of the fine oil aerosols that remain. The coalescing filter works differently than the particulate filters. The compressed air flows from inside to outside through the coalescing filter media. The term ‘coalesce’ means to ‘come together’ or ‘form one mass.’  The process of coalescing filtration is a continuous process where the small aerosols of oil come in contact with fibers of the filter media. As other aerosols are collected, they will join up and ‘come together’ and grow to become an oil droplet, on the downstream or outside surface of the media.  Gravity will then cause the droplet to drain away and fall off the filter element.

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Example of a 0.03 Micron Coalescing Oil Removal Filter

Some important information to keep in mind –

  • Change the filter regularly, not just when the differential pressures exceeds recommended limits, typically 5 PSI
  • Coalescing filters will remove solids too, at a higher capture rate due to the fine level of filtration, using a pre-filter for solids will extend the life
  • Oil free compressors do not provide oil free air, as the atmospheric air drawn in for compression contains oil vapors that will cool and condense in the compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about oil removal filters or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Vacuum Generator System Selection – EXAIR E-Vacs

E-Vac Vacuum Generators are a highly efficient, versatile compressed air vacuum pump. Their versatility allows them to be adapted to many applications such as pick and place, clamping or vacuum forming. They’ve also been used in more unique applications like wood veneer pressing and basketball deflation.

EXAIR manufactures (3) types of E-Vacs – Low vacuum generators for porous materials, like cardboard, generating up to 21″ Hg with vacuum flows as high as 18.5 SCFM. Our high vacuum generators, designed for use with non-porous materials like glass or steel sheets, produce vacuum levels up to 27″ Hg and up to 15.8 SCFM of vacuum flow. The adjustable generators provide flexible vacuum performance, up to 25″ Hg and 81 SCFM,  which can be easily adapted to meet the application.

EXAIR E-Vacs provide instantaneous vacuum response, and are engineered for high efficiency to minimize air consumption.

 

When making a selection, there are a few key areas you want to consider:

Is the material porous or non-porous?

  • This will allow you to select the proper type of vacuum generator to fit the application and the type of vacuum cup best suited for the process.

 

What is the weight of the part and how will it be lifted?

  • If the part is being lifted where the vacuum cups will be positioned horizontally, like on top of a sheet of glass, you want to use a safety factor of 2 times the actual weight of the part. In processes requiring the cups be positioned vertically on the part, such as picking up a sheet of plywood and hanging it on an overhead conveyor, a safety factor of 4 would be used.

 

How many Vacuum Cups do I need?

  • Consider the quantity and placement to evenly distribute the weight for safely moving the material.
  • Depending on the maximum vacuum the generator produce, how much weight can each cup lift?
  • Make the cup selection per the following chart

 

Once you have selected the type and number of cups needed, you can then begin to look at which additional accessories items you might need.

  • Filters – supplying clean, dry air is key for maintaining optimal performance. An automatic drain filter  can be used to remove any water or contaminants in the supply line. If there is oil present, consider using an Oil Removal Filter.
  • Mufflers – help to reduce the noise level without restricting the airflow. We offer 2 different styles – Standard and Straight Through. Standards mufflers are a good choice where the supply air is clean and dry. These mufflers can only be used with the porous and non-porous generators. The Straight Through mufflers reduces sound levels by up to 26 dBA and are the better choice in processes where dirt or particulate may be present.
  • Tubing and Fittings – polyurethane tubing is available in 10′ sections up to 50′ for processes requiring the vacuum cups be placed in a location that wouldn’t allow for direct mounting to the NPT vacuum port on the generator or where multiple cups are needed. You want to keep the length of tubing as short as possible though for effective pickup and release time.
  • Check Valve – will maintain vacuum on the load if the supply pressure were to drop or be lost during operation.

For additional assistance selecting the proper E-Vac and accessories for your process, please contact an application engineer at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

 

Intelligent Compressed Air: Membrane Dryers – What are they and How Do they Work?

Recently we have blogged about Compressed Air Dryers and the different types of systems.  We have reviewed the Desiccant and Refrigerant types of dryers, and today I will discuss the basics of  the Membrane type of dryers.

All atmospheric air that a compressed air system takes in contains water vapor, which is naturally present in the air.  At 75°F and 75% relative humidity, 20 gallons of water will enter a typical 25 hp compressor in a 24 hour period of operation.  When the the air is compressed, the water becomes concentrated and because the air is heated due to the compression, the water remains in vapor form.  Warmer air is able to hold more water vapor, and generally an increase in temperature of 20°F results in a doubling of amount of moisture the air can hold. The problem is that further downstream in the system, the air cools, and the vapor begins to condense into water droplets. To avoid this issue, a dryer is used.

Membrane Dryers are the newest type of compressed air dryer. Membranes are commonly used to separate gases, such as removing nitrogen from air. The membrane consists of a group of hollow fiber tubes.  The tubes are designed so that water vapor will permeate and pass through the membrane walls faster than the air.  The dry air continues on through the tubes and discharges into the downstream air system. A small amount of ‘sweep’ air is taken from the dry air to purge and remove the water vapor from inside the dryer that has passed through the membrane tubes.

Membrane Dryer
Typical Membrane Dryer Arrangement

Resultant dew points of 40°F are typical, and dew points down to -40°F are possible but require the use of more purge air, resulting in less final dry compressed air discharging to the system.

The typical advantages of Membrane Dryers are-

  1.  Low installation and operating costs
  2.  Can be installed outdoors
  3.  Can be used in hazardous locations
  4.  No moving parts

There are a few disadvantages to consider-

  1. Limited to low capacity systems
  2. High purge air losses (as high as 15-20% to achieve lowest pressure dew points
  3. Membrane can be fouled by lubricants and other contaminants, a coalescing type filter is required before the membrane dryer.

If you have questions about getting the most from your compressed air system, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Membrane Dryer Schematic – From Compressed Air Challenge, Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems, Second Edition

 

 

 

EXAIR Accessories – We’ve Got you Covered

When you work with us here at EXAIR, we strive to have all the ancillary items that you might need to make your installation a success, without having to find components at the last minute or perhaps using the wrong sized components. Each specific product line such as Super Air Knives or Line Vac air operated conveyors have specific accessories such as mounting brackets or plumbing kits which EXAIR has made to simplify the installation of those particular products. We also carry generalized accessories which work across all of the product lines so you do not have to use multiple vendors or purchase orders.

Silencing Mufflers – Per OSHA Standard 1910.95(a), a worker must not be exposed to sounds levels above 90 dBA for any eight hour shift of a 40 hour work week.  EXAIR offers several types of mufflers including – Reclassifying, Sintered Bronze, Straight-Through and Heavy Duty.  For reducing the noise associated with an EXAIR E-Vac Generator, Vortex Tube, Cabinet Cooler System, or the exhaust air from cylinders, valves and other air powered equipment, we’ve got a muffler that will help to keep the noise level at an acceptable level.

Mufflers

Solenoid and Manual Valves – The easiest way to reduce compressed air usage and save on operating expense is to turn off the compressed air to a device when it isn’t needed. EXAIR carries a wide assortment of solenoid valves, with offerings in the NEMA 4/4X classification, and supply voltages of 24VDC, 120VAC, and 240VAC.  We also have manual ball valves from 1/4 NPT to 1-1/4 NPT and a foot operated valve, with 1/4 NPT connections.

Valves

Swivel Fittings, Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases – To provide a great degree of flexibility for positioning an EXAIR Super Air Nozzle, Air Jets or Air Amplifiers, EXAIR offers several items.  The Swivel Fittings have 25 degree of movement from the center axis, providing a total of 50 degree of adjustability.  The position is locked in place and holds until adjustment is needed. For applications where frequent re-positioning of the air device is required, the Stay Set Hoses are ideal.  Simply mount the hose close to the application, bend it to the shape preferred, and because the hose has “memory”, it will not creep or bend.  Lastly, the Magnetic Bases are another option for flexible, movable installations.  The base has a on/off valve, and a powerful magnet to hold in any vertical or horizontal mounting arrangement.

Swivels, StaySets,MagBases2

 

Hoses – EXAIR can provide hoses for your application.  For the Line Vac air operated conveyor applications, we offer conveyance hose – a durable, clear reinforced PVC hose, in diameters of 3/8″ to 3″ ID, and lengths up to 50′. On the compressed air side, we can provide 12′ Coiled Hoses with 1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 NPT connections, and also 3/8″ and 1/2″ ID hose in lengths to 50′.

Hoses

Filter Separators, Oil Removal Filters and Pressure Regulators – Perhaps the most important accessories for use on a compressed air device are filters and regulators. Filtering the compressed air of dirt, debris, moisture and oil will help to prevent build up inside the EXAIR products, leading to longer service life, and less time spent cleaning, while providing optimum performance. Regulating the air pressure allows for tuning of the performance, using the proper amount of compressed air to obtain satisfactory results.

Filter and Regualtors

If you have questions regarding accessories for use with any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Compressed Air Filtration – Particulate, Coalescing, and Adsorption Types

Compressed air systems will contain contaminants that can lead to issues and increased costs through contamination of product, damage to the air operated devices, and air line clogging and restriction. Proper air preparation is critical to optimizing performance throughout the plant operations.

Because there are different types of contaminants, including solid particles, liquid water, and vapors of water and oil, there are different methods of filtration, each best suited for maximum efficiency in contaminant removal.

Particulate Filters – The compressed air flows from outside to inside of the filter element. The compressed air first passes through a baffle arrangement which causes centrifugal separation of the largest particles and liquid drops (but not liquid vapors), and then the air passes through the filter element.  The filter element is usually a sintered material such as bronze.  The filter elements are inexpensive and easy to replace. Filtration down to 40-5 micron is possible.

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Particulate Type Filter with Sintered Bronze Element

Coalescing Filters – This type operates differently from the particulate type.  The compressed air flows from inside to outside through a coalescing media. The very fine water and oil aerosols come into contact with fibers in the filter media, and as they collect, they coalesce (combine) to form larger droplets towards the outside of the filter element. When the droplet size is enough the drops fall off and collect at the bottom of the filter housing.  The filter element is typically made up of some type glass fibers.  The coalescing filter elements are also relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. Filtration down to 0.01 micron at 99.999% efficiency is possible.

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Coalescing Type Filter with Borosilicate Glass Fiber Element

Adsorption Filters – In this type of filtration, activated carbon is typically used, and the finest oil vapors, hydrocarbon residues, and odors can be be removed.  The mechanism of filtration is that the molecules of the gas or liquid adhere to the surface of the activated carbon.  This is usually the final stage of filtration, and is only required for certain applications where the product would be affected such as blow molding or food processing.

When you work with us in selecting an EXAIR product, such as a Super Air Knife, Super Air Amplifier, or Vortex Tube, your application engineer can recommend the appropriate type of filtration needed to keep the EXAIR product operating at maximum efficiency with minimal disruption due to contaminant build up and unnecessary cleaning.

If you have questions regarding compressed air filtration or any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Video Blog: Repairing Automatic Drain Floats In EXAIR Compressed Air Filters

If you have an Automatic Drain Filter Separator, or Oil Removal Filter, with a float drain that’s blowing by, then this video is for you. As always, though, give us a call if you have any questions.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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