Methods, Patterns, and Continuous Improvement

I’ve blogged about the fact that I am married to an amazing woman and we have been blessed with three incredible daughters before. My wife and I are constantly being reminded of just how different raising kids in this digital and rapidly changing world is compared to when we were kids. And, just writing those statements makes me realize I have truly entered the next (I’m old) chapter of my life.

My oldest, who is 12, is at that point where she is gaining some independence at middle school, and at the same time is getting sucked into social norms where she can easily be consumed by social media and screen time. The challenge I took on was to find something analog that we could both pick up and enjoy, maybe even challenge each other with. Enter a classic that I was never able to master, and still can’t without the aid of another (my 12 year old), the Rubik’s Cube. I was honestly shocked when she took the time to review a video from our library and learned the patterns to solve the cube. Turns out a few of her friends are even able to solve them and thus the education began.

A traditional 3×3 Speed Cube in a solved state then converted to a checkerboard pattern.

What I once thought was an impossible task was broken down into patterns and a logical path to correct and straighten out the tangled squares. The are a number of methods to solve the standard 3×3 cube. No matter what, the pattern has to be recognized, implement the steps to solve, and then improve through repetition. Not many people pick something like this up, solve it once and then sit it down. It becomes a process of continuous improvement and that is exactly what my daughter took on. For me, it reminded me of Lean Manufacturing and every process I have ever looked at professionally. It was truly rejuvenating for me to see her take on the challenge and then have an urge to improve her process time.

When I came into work the next day, it clicked. That same process of methodical movements could all connect to our Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization. Each of these steps is solving another layer of a mixed up cube. While at first, the process of optimizing a compressed air system can easily seem out of reach it is easily broken down into steps that result in a solution. Then, instead of taking all of that new found knowledge to only conduct the six steps once, you can easily make this a recurring event. Because even though your facility may not change, the air system will, new leaks may appear, items on the supply side may wear, demand side application may change as processes are added or modified.

Processes lead to continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is a method that propels a system forward toward efficiency and improved outcomes and it is something that is needed to stay relevant. Even with the methods of solving a 3×3 cube, those methods continue to evolve and the main level of improvement is often on the person spending time with the process. If you want to discuss a compressed air application in your facility that could stand some improving or maybe you want to share your solve times on the 3×3 cube, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

The Basics of a Compressed Air Leak Detection Program

It is no surprise that compressed air can be a costly utility for industrial facilities. It can easily chip away at the bottom line finances if used carelessly and without planning. This is one of the leading reasons we have educated continuously on how to ensure this vital utility is used with safety and conservation in mind. If we have installed all engineered solutions at the point of use throughout a facility, there is still more to be saved. One of the easiest things to do with a utility system inside of a facility is to leave it unchecked and undocumented until something goes wrong. This does not have to be the scenario and in fact, starting a leak detection program in a facility can help to save up to 30% of the compressed air generated.

Leaks cost money!

That’s right, up to 30% of the compressed air being generated in an industrial facility can be exhausting out to ambient through leaks that run rampant throughout the facility. When the point of use production is still working fine, then these sorts of leaks go unnoticed. Another common occurrence goes something like this example: Maybe there is a leak bad enough to drop the packaging line pressure slightly, this may get fixed by bumping up a pressure regulator, production is back up and it is never thought of again. In all actuality this is affecting the production more and more with each leak.

The leaks add additional load onto the supply side. The compressor has to generate more air, the dryer needs to process more air, the auto drains dump more moisture, it all ads up to additional wear and tear also known as false load. All of this additional load on the system can add more maintenance which if left undone can result in system shut downs. One way to begin to eliminate this false load is to deploy a leak detection program. The steps are fairly easy.

Similar to our 6 Steps to Compressed Air Optimization, you start with a baseline of how much air the system is seeing and operating pressures. This begins the documentation process which is critical to the success of the program. Next, acquire an ultrasonic leak detector (ULD) and a layout of your compressed air system piping. Utilizing the ULD, test all compressed air piping along with equipment, and tag each leak that is detected. Next, begin to repair all of the tagged leaks and document the amount of compressed air savings with each repair. This again, is more documentation which leads to giving a quantitative value to the return on investment of the program. Lastly, schedule a follow up scan that recurs on a pre-determined basis to prevent the system from returning to it’s original leaky state.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

If you would like to discuss starting a leak detection program in your facility or have questions about the ULD or any point of use compressed air product, please reach out to an Application Engineer today.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

How to Size a Receiver Tank and Improve your Compressed Air System

Receiver Tank: Model 9500-60

My colleague, Lee Evans, wrote a blog about calculating the size of primary receiver tanks within a compressed air system.  (You can read it here: Receiver Tank Principle and Calculations).  I would like to expand a bit more about secondary receiver tanks.  They can be strategically placed throughout the plant to improve your compressed air system.  The primary receiver tanks help to protect the supply side when demands are high, and the secondary receiver tanks help systems on the demand side to optimize performance.

Circuit Board

I like to compare the pneumatic system to an electrical system.  The receiver tanks are like capacitors.  They store energy produced by an air compressor like a capacitor stores energy from an electrical source.  If you have ever seen an electrical circuit board, you notice many capacitors with different sizes throughout the circuit board (reference photo above).  The reason is to have a ready source of energy to increase efficiency and speed for the ebbs and flows of electrical signals.  The same can be said for the secondary receiver tanks in a pneumatic system.

To tie this to a compressed air system, if you have an area that requires a high volume of compressed air intermittently, a secondary receiver tank would benefit this system.  There are valves, cylinders, actuators, and pneumatic controls which turn on and off.  And in most situations, very quickly.  To maximize speed and efficiency, it is important to have a ready source of air nearby to supply the necessary amount quickly.

For calculating a minimum volume size for your secondary receiver tank, we can use Equation 1 below.  It is the same as sizing a primary receiver tank, but the scalars are slightly different.  The secondary receivers are located to run a certain machine or area.  The supply line to this tank will typically come from a header pipe that supplies the entire facility.  Generally, it is smaller in diameter; so, we have to look at the air supply that it can feed into the tank.  For example, a 1” NPT Schedule 40 Pipe at 100 PSIG can supply a maximum of 150 SCFM of air flow.  This value is used for Cap below.  C is the largest air demand for the machine or targeted area that will be using the tank.  If the C value is less than the Cap value, then a secondary tank is not needed.  If the Cap is below the C value, then we can calculate the smallest volume that would be needed.  The other value is the minimum tank pressure.  In most cases, a regulator is used to set the air pressure for the machine or area.  If the specification is 80 PSIG, then you would use this value as P2.  P1 is the header pressure that will be coming into the secondary tank.  With this collection of information, you can use Equation 1 to calculate the minimum tank volume.  So, any larger volume would fit the requirement as a secondary receiver tank.

Secondary Receiver tank capacity formula (Equation 1)

V = T * (C – Cap) * (Pa) / (P1-P2)

Where:

V – Volume of receiver tank (cubic feet)

T – Time interval (minutes)

C – Air demand for system (cubic feet per minute)

Cap – Supply value of inlet pipe (cubic feet per minute)

Pa – Absolute atmospheric pressure (PSIA)

P1 – Header Pressure (PSIG)

P2 – Regulated Pressure (PSIG)

If you find that your pneumatic devices are lacking in performance because the air pressure seems to drop during operation, you may need to add a secondary receiver to that system.  For any intermittent design, the tank can store that energy like a capacitor to optimize the performance.  EXAIR stocks 60 Gallon tanks, model 9500-60 to add to those specific locations, If you have any questions about using a receiver tank in your application, primary or secondary, you can contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We can restore that efficiency and speed back into your application.

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

 

Photo: Circuit Board courtesy from T_Tide under Pixabay License

Video Blog: EXAIR’s Efficiency Lab

If you’d like to know how efficient (or not,) quiet (or not,) and effective (or not) your current compressed air devices are, the EXAIR Efficiency Lab can help.  For more details, we hope you’ll enjoy this short video.

If you’d like to talk about getting the most out of your compressed air system, we’d love to hear from you.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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