Laminar vs. Turbulent Flow

Laminar flow is an fundamental component of compressed air efficiency. Believe it or not, laminar flow is controlled exclusively by the airline used in a compressed air system. To fully understand the effects of laminar flow in a compressed air system, we need to explain exactly what it is.

Fluids & gases are unique in their ability to travel. Unlike solid molecules that remain stationary whose molecules tend to join others of the same kind; fluid molecules aren’t so picky. Fluid molecules, such as gases and liquids, partner with different molecules and are difficult to stop.

Laminar flow describes the ease with which these fluids travel; good laminar flow describes fluid travelling as straight as possible. On the contrary, when fluid is not travelling straight, the result is turbulent flow.

PVDF Super Air Knife
Laminar Flow

Turbulent air flow results in an inefficient compressed air system. This may not seem like a major concern; yet, it has huge impacts on compressor efficiency. Fluid molecules bounce and circle within their path, causing huge energy wastage. In compressed air systems, this turbulent airflow results in a pressure drop. How do you avoid this from happening? It all comes down to compressed air system design.

Flow type
Laminar vs. Turbulent Flow

The design and material of the air pipe, as well as the positioning of elbows and joints, has a direct connection to laminar flow and pressure drop. To avoid high energy consumption of your compressed air system, reducing pressure drop is key.

If your system is experiencing high pressure drop, your compressor has to work overtime to provide the needed air pressure. When your compressor works overtime, it not only increases your maintenance costs, but also your energy bills.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can help your process, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Starting a Leak Prevention Program

Since all compressed air systems will have some amount of leakage, it is a good idea to set up a Leak Prevention Program.  Keeping the leakage losses to a minimum will save on compressed air generation costs,and reduce compressor operation time which can extend its life and lower maintenance costs.

SBMart_pipe_800x

There are generally two types of leak prevention programs:

  • Leak Tag type programs
  • Seek-and-Repair type programs

Of the two types, the easiest would be the Seek-and-Repair method.  It involves finding leaks and then repairing them immediately. For the Leak Tag method, a leak is identified, tagged, and then logged for repair at the next opportune time.  Instead of a log system, the tag may be a two part tag.  The leak is tagged and one part of the tag stays with the leak, and the other is removed and brought to the maintenance department. This part of the tag has space for information such as the location, size, and description of the leak.

The best approach will depend on factors such as company size and resources, type of business, and the culture and best practices already in place. It is common to utilize both types where each is most appropriate.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Baseline compressed air usage – knowing the initial compressed air usage will allow for comparison after the program has been followed for measured improvement.
  • Establishment of initial leak loss – See this blog for more details.
  • Determine the cost of air leaks – One of the most important components of the program. The cost of leaks can be used to track the savings as well as promote the importance of the program. Also a tool to obtain the needed resources to perform the program.
  • Identify the leaks – Leaks can be found using many methods.  Most common is the use of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector, like the EXAIR Model 9061.  See this blog for more details. An inexpensive handheld meter will locate a leak and indicate the size of the leak.

    ULD_Pr
    Using the Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to search for leaks in a piping system
  • Document the leaks – Note the location and type, its size, and estimated cost. Leak tags can be used, but a master leak list is best.  Under Seek-and-Repair type, leaks should still be noted in order to track the number and effectiveness of the program.
  • Prioritize and plan the repairs – Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Document the repairs – By putting a cost with each leak and keeping track of the total savings, it is possible to provide proof of the program effectiveness and garner additional support for keeping the program going. Also, it is possible to find trends and recurring problems that will need a more permanent solution.
  • Compare and publish results – Comparing the original baseline to the current system results will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the program and the calculate a cost savings. The results are to be shared with management to validate the program and ensure the program will continue.
  • Repeat As Needed – If the results are not satisfactory, perform the process again. Also, new leaks can develop, so a periodic review should be performed to achieve and maintain maximum system efficiency.

In summary – an effective compressed air system leak prevention and repair program is critical in sustaining the efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of an compressed air system.

If you have questions about a Leak Prevention Program or any of the 16 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Intelligent Compressed Air: Refrigerant Dryers and How They Work

We’ve seen in recent blogs that Compressed Air Dryers are an important part of a compressed air system, to remove water and moisture to prevent condensation further downstream in the system.  Moisture laden compressed air can cause issues such as increased wear of moving parts due to lubrication removal, formation of rust in piping and equipment, quality defects in painting processes, and frozen pipes in colder climates.  The three main types of dryers are – Refrigerant, Desiccant, and Membrane. For this blog, we will review the basics of the Refrigerant type of dryer.

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.

Refrigerated Dryer
Fundamental Schematic of Refrigerant-Type Dryer

Refrigerant Type dryers cool the air to remove the condensed moisture and then the air is reheated and discharged.  When the air leaves the compressor aftercooler and moisture separator (which removes the initial condensed moisture) the air is typically saturated, meaning it cannot hold anymore water vapor.  Any further cooling of the air will cause the moisture to condense and drop out.  The Refrigerant drying process is to cool the air to 35-40°F and then remove the condensed moisture.  The air is then reheated via an air to air heat exchanger (which utilizes the heat of the incoming compressed air) and then discharged.  The dewpoint of the air is 35-40°F which is sufficient for most general industrial plant air applications.  As long as the compressed air stays above the 35-40°F temperature, no further condensation will occur.

The typical advantages of Refrigerated Dryers are-

  1.  – Low initial capital cost
  2.  – Relatively low operating cost
  3.  – Low maintenance costs

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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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.

9001
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.

9005
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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What Size Pipe Should I Use?

Yesterday, I had a customer with a tough application for a Standard Air Knife. The customer was quenching individual 11″ x 11″ steel plates in oil after they had been heated to over 1,200° Celsius. Following quenching, the plate is pulled out of the oil with a fair amount of excess oil still attached. This excess oil is relatively hot and could be dangerous, if it drips from the plates as they are conveyed to the next process. The oil removed from the tank is also lost, so the tank needed to be refilled regularly. This oil added up to quite a large expense every year for this company. The customer installed (2) 12″ Standard Air Knives above the oil quenching tank to blow the oil off of the plate back into the oil quenching tank as the plate is raised out of the tank and in between the two air knives.

How the Standard Air Knife Works
How the Standard Air Knife Works

The customer called to express some disappointment about the air knife performance, I asked him a few questions about his application.

Q:What pressure is supplied to the air knife?
A: 100 PSI
Q: Where are you measuring this pressure?
A: That is our shop pressure and the pressure I’m measuring at the regulator.
Q: How are you connecting the regulator to the air knife?
A: We are using 10 feet of 3/8″ ID tubing.

At this point I suspected that the problem was in the compressed air supply line. To confirm this, I asked the customer to install a pressure gauge in the unused air inlet of the air knife. This pressure gauge read only 52 PSIG. The customer had a pressure drop of 48 PSI through the 10 foot of 3/8″ tubing, fittings, and valves that connected the regulator to the air knife.  The 12 inch Standard Air Knife utilizes 41 SCFM of compressed air when fed with 80 PSIG. In order to determine what to expect for a reasonable pressure drop, you could use EXAIR’s Air Data charts. According to EXAIR’s air data chart, for 1/8″ schedule 40 iron pipe, which has around 1/4″ ID (Which is very similar to the Inside Diameter of the 3/8″ tube) at 8 SCFM of flow the line will create a 18.6 PSIG pressure drop. When you try and shove more than 8 SCFM through the 3/8″ OD (1/4″ ID) tubing, you create a higher pressure drop. In this customer’s case it created a 48 PSI drop across the air line. This 48 PSI pressure drop was caused by the supply line as well as the fittings or valves used to connect valve to the regulator. This pressure drop limited the air knife to only 52% of its performance. In an application with a viscous fluid like oil , this drop in pressure led to lower force upon the steel plate and disappointing performance.

After getting the proper plumbing in place, the pressure drop was eliminated and the the Air Knives were operating at peak performance to remove the oil from the plates.

During the course of our troubleshooting, the customer also discovered Russ Bowman’s excellent video Proper Supply Plumbing for Compressed Air Products. In the video, our customer discovered the impact both the cross sectional area and overall length of compressed air piping can have on the performance of an air operated device.

The customer wanted to use a 12″ Air Knife to blow off the oil from the plates, which is a great application for the air knife. By properly plumbing the supply of an Air Knife, the customer contained hot oil, reclaimed quenching oil for future use, and maintained a clean shop floor. This installation was well worth the time and effort of installing the air knife properly. If the customer would like, we also have a Super Air Knife which will only use 35 SCFM and could help to save more compressed air. This savings of 7 SCFM may not seem like much, but it will have a significant impact on the energy cost of running his air compressor.

Dave Woerner
Application Engineer
@EXAIR_DW
DaveWoerner@EXAIR.com

When Is A Half Inch Not A Half Inch? When It’s Half Inch Pipe, Of Course!

People have been using pipe to transport fluids for thousands of years. Archeologists have discovered evidence that the Chinese were using pipes made of reeds for irrigation as early as 2,000 B.C. Lead pipe began to supplement, and eventually replace, the Roman aqueducts in the first century A.D. In the early 1800’s, someone got the idea to use gas burning lamps to light city streets, and, over the next few years, men like James Russell and Cornelius Whitehouse came up with better and better methods of mass producing metal tubing and pipes.

Over the course of the 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution, iron pipe came to be manufactured in standard sizes, which were called out by the inside diameter of the pipe. ¼” pipe had a ¼” ID, ½” pipe had a ½” ID, ¾” pipe had a ¾” ID, etc. Iron pipe could be found in any facility that needed to move a gas or a liquid: factories, power generating stations, chemical plants…you name it.

As engineers and metallurgists came up with new ways to produce pipe, technological advances led to the ability to decrease the wall thickness and still maintain high structural integrity. This was a HUGE improvement: not only could piping manufacturers make more pipe with less material, bringing down the cost, it was also lighter in weight, making it easier to transport, handle, and install. Because of the massive amount of existing piping already in place, it made sense to keep the outside diameter the same, so that all the fittings would match when these facilities went to replace worn out or damaged pipe. So, the inside diameter was increased. That’s why, today, ¼” pipe has a 0.36” ID, ½” pipe has a 0.62” ID, ¾” pipe has a 0.82” ID, etc. Lower cost, lighter weight, more flow capacity…it’s all good, right?

Well, yes, but sometimes, it can lead to confusion, especially when we’re talking about properly sized compressed air lines. See, we know how much compressed air will flow through certain sized pipes of specific lengths. The Installation & Operation Instructions for all of our products contain recommended infeed pipe sizes to ensure sufficient air flow. Keep in mind, these are Schedule 40 pipe sizes, and should not be confused with hose or tubing sizes, which usually report the outside diameter but could also report the inside diameter, depending on the source.

Consider this example: you want to install an 6” Super Air Knife in a location 10 feet from the compressed air header. Following the “Infeed Pipe Size Length of Run” column (10’) down, we see that this will require a ¼” SCH40 pipe, which has an ID of 0.36”. If you want to use hose or tubing to supply it, that’s fine – it’ll have to have a 3/8” ID, though, or you’re going to risk “starving” the Air Knife for air. If you choose a 3/8″ tube remember that dimension is usually referring to the outside diameter of the tube and automatically means your inside diameter is smaller than we would recommend.

SuperAirKnifeInfeedPipe

If you’d like to learn more, it’s actually been a pretty popular blog topic as well:

The Importance of Proper Compressed Air Supply Lines

Video Blog: Proper Supply Plumbing For Compressed Air Products

Top 6 Compressed Air Plumbing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

…and that’s just to name a few.  If you have specific questions about how to properly supply your EXAIR product(s), you can give us a call – we’re eager to help!

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
(513)671-3322 local
(800)923-9247 toll free
(513)671-3363 fax
Web: www.exair.com
Twitter: twitter.com/exair_rb
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Video Blog: Proper Supply Plumbing for Compressed Air Products

This video illustrates how improper compressed air supply lines can result in a pressure loss and impact product performance.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
(513)671-3322 local
(800)923-9247 toll free
(513)671-3363 fax
Web: www.exair.com
Blog: https://blog.exair.com/
Twitter: twitter.com/exair_rb
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/exair