Crescent Hammers, Phillips Head Punches, and Other Cautionary Tales

I don’t want to sound “preachy,” but I’m a stickler for using the right tool for the job. Case in point: just the other day, I noticed (OK; my wife told me about) a loose drawer handle. I went to my toolbox in the garage to get a flat-head screwdriver, even though the drawer in question had a selection of butter knives, any one of which could have been used to tighten that screw.

I can trace this, without doubt or hesitation, to my service in the US Navy, under the direction of Senior Chief Cooper.  Proper tool selection & use was VERY important to him.  He stressed the issues of safety, quality, and performance, but if that didn’t work, he’d make his point with an offer to demonstrate the use of a specific tool (a ball peen hammer) on a sensitive part of your anatomy (it’s exactly the part you’re thinking of.)  At that point, it would have been unwise (and unsafe) to question whether that was a proper use of the tool or not.

Only one of these is a hammer………………..….only one of these is a punch………………..…..only one of these is a chisel.
Choose wisely.

Likewise, there are safety, quality, and performance issues associated with compressed air blow offs.  At EXAIR, we’re ALL sticklers about this, and we get calls all the time to discuss ways to get more out of compressed air systems by using the right products.  Here’s a “textbook” example:

A hose manufacturer contacted me to find out more about our Air Wipes, and how they might be a better fit for their various cleaning & drying applications (spoiler alert: they are.)  The blow offs they were using were made of modular hose, designed (and very successfully used) for coolant spraying in machine tools.

Only one of these is a compressed air blow off. Again…choose wisely.

The selection process was two-fold: they purchased one Model 2401 1″ Super Air Wipe to verify performance, and they sent in some of their modular hose assemblies for Efficiency Lab testing.  The first part was just as important as the second because, no matter how much air they were going to save (another spoiler alert: it was significant,) it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t get the job done.  At the station shown above, the Super Air Wipe resulted in superior performance, and a compressed air cost savings of over $400.00 annually.  For that one station.  Based on that, they outfitted TWENTY FIVE stations with engineered product sized for their different hoses, using our Model 2400 (1/2″), 2401 (1″), 2402 (2″) and 2403 (3″) Super Air Wipes.

If you’d like to find out how using the right product for the job can help your operation, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Intelligent Compressed Air: How do Vortex Tubes Work

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.

Below is an animation of how a Vortex Tube works:

Function of a Vortex Tube


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.

Vortex generator

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.

Vortex Tube Cold Fraction

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.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Non-Hazardous Purge Cabinet Cooler Solves Two Problems At Once

Electrical control panel above belt press machine

The image above shows an electrical panel located over a belt press machine.  Belt press machines can be used in a variety of mechanical separation applications, from juice manufacturing to de-watering of grains, and even algae extraction.  The use in this application, however, was to assist in the removal of liquid from styrene via multiple “wedge zones” which force the styrene between an upper and lower belt, applying increasing pressure and forcing the liquid from the styrene roll.

The Plant Manager of the facility which uses this cabinet contacted EXAIR in search of a solution to provide cooling for this enclosure, and wanted to know if we could also provide some means to provide a constant ventilation as well.  We discussed the merits of the Cabinet Cooler in terms of cooling power, and also discussed our Non-Hazardous Purge Cabinet Cooler systems which provide a constant feed of 1 SCFM of compressed air into an enclosure.  This slight airflow into the cabinet provides a slight positive pressure which further helps to prevent any dust from entering the cabinet.  For older cabinets with potentially weakened seals, these systems can provide an added level of protection against harmful dust in the ambient environment.

After sending a Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide and determining the proper model number (NHP4825), the customer asked about lead time.  They said that the machine was intermittently shutting down and they needed something FAST.  I informed them that EXAIR Cabinet Coolers ship from stock and we can even ship UPS Next Day Air if need be.

Knowledgeable engineering support coupled with a shoe-in solution and on-the-shelf availability got this application under control quickly.  If you’re having a similar experience with your electrical control panels, contact EXAIR’s Application Engineering department for a similar solution experience.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

Vortex Tube Cold Fractions – An Explanation

Vortex Tube Family

At EXAIR we’ve been a pioneer in the compressed air market for the past 34 years.  We’ve brought engineered nozzles to the market which reduce compressed air consumption while maintaining performance, laminar flow Air Knives, pneumatic conveyors, atomizing nozzles, air-assisted static eliminators, and a slew of other products.  One of these “other” products is our Vortex Tube, which we manufacture in various sizes while also using as a basis for our Cold Guns, Adjustable Spot Coolers, Mini Coolers, and Cabinet Coolers – all of which are built on the same Vortex Tube technology.

Theory of operation for an EXAIR Vortex Tube

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?”

EXAIR Vortex Tube Performance Chart

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.

Red box shows the temperature drop in degrees F when an EXAIR Vortex Tube is operated at 100 PSIG with an 80% cold fraction.

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.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

EXAIR Cabinet Cooler vs. Air-To-Air Heat Exchanger

The EXAIR Cabinet Cooler family.

At EXAIR we’ve been providing enclosure cooling solutions for decades, and in many cases those cooling solutions have remained in place for decades as well.  In the time we’ve been in the market with industrial enclosure cooling solutions we’ve encountered a number of alternative means for enclosure cooling.  One of those methods is an air-to-air heat exchanger.

An air-to-air heat exchanger uses the temperature differential between the ambient air surrounding an enclosure and the hot air inside an enclosure to create a cooling effect.  A closed loop system exchanges the heat inside the enclosure with the outside air in an effort to maintain a set internal temperature.  The heat exchange of most air-to-air unit relies on a heat pipe, a heat-transfer device which converts an internal refrigerant liquid into vapor by placing one end of the pipe in contact with the hot environment.  The heated vapor travels to the other end of the pipe which is in contact with a cooler environment.  The vapor condenses back into a liquid (releasing latent heat) and returning to the hot end of the pipe and the cycle repeats.  All in all, a clever solution.

But, this type of a solution does give some cause for concern, especially when considering their use in an industrial environment.  Here are the key points to keep in mind when comparing an air-to-air cooler to an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler.

Required temperature differential based on ambient air temp

An air-to-air heat exchange relies on the ΔT between the ambient air temperature and the internal enclosure air temperature to produce cooling.  If this ΔT is low, or the ambient temperature rises, cooling is diminished.  This means that as the temperatures in your facility begin to rise, air-to-air heat exchangers become less and less effective.  Larger air-to-air heat exchangers can be used, but these may be even larger than the enclosure itself.

EXAIR Cabinet Coolers rely on the ΔT between the cold air temperature from the Cabinet Cooler (normally ~20°F) and the desired internal enclosure temperature (normally 95°F).  The cold air temperature from the Cabinet Cooler is unaffected by increases in ambient temperatures.  The large ΔT and high volume cold air flow produced by a Cabinet Cooler results in more cooling capacity.  And, we can increase cooling capacity from a Cabinet Cooler without increasing its physical footprint, which is already much, much smaller than an air-to-air type of unit.


Cooling in high temperature environments

High Temperatures are no problem for EXAIR Cabinet Coolers

Due to their nature of operation, an air-to-air heat exchanger must have an ambient temperature which is lower than the desired internal temperature of the enclosure.  If the ambient air has a higher temperature, air-to-air units provide zero cooling.

Cabinet Coolers, on the other hand, can be used in hot, high temperature environments up to 200°F (93°C).


Cooling in dirty environments

An EXAIR NEMA 12 Cabinet Cooler in an extremely dirty environment. Still operating after over 7 years, without any maintenance.

Dirt in the ambient environment will impact cooling performance with an air-to-air heat exchanger.  In order for the air-to-air unit to effectively remove heat, the heat pipe must have access to ambient air.  With any exposure to the ambient environment comes the possibility for the ambient end of the heat pipe to become covered in ambient contaminants such as dust.  This dust will create an insulation barrier between the heat pipe and the ambient air, decreasing the ability for the heat pipe to condense the vapors within.  Because of this, most air-to-air devices use filters to separate the heat pipe from the ambient environment.  But, when these filters become clogged, access to ambient temperatures are reduced, and cooling capacity of the air-to-air unit reduces as well.

Cabinet Coolers have no problem operating in dirty environments.  In fact, it is one of their strengths.  Without any moving parts to wear out or any need to contact ambient air for cooling purposes, a dirty environment poses no problems.  In fact, check out this blog post (and this one) about EXAIR Cabinet Coolers operating maintenance free for years in dirty environments.


Size and time required to install

Air-to-air heat exchangers vary in size, but even the smallest units can have large dimensions.  Many applications have limited space on the enclosure, and a large, bulky solution can be prohibitive.  Couple this with the time and modification required to the enclosure to install a large air-to-air unit, and the “solution” may end up bringing additional problems.

Another key aspect of the Cabinet Cooler is its size.  Small, compact, and easy to mount on the top or side of an enclosure, Cabinet Coolers install in minutes to remove overheating problems.  Check out this video to see how simple Cabinet Coolers are to install.

Rising ambient temperatures translate to less natural heat transfer into the ambient environment.  As temperatures rise and overheating electrical components becomes a concern, remember EXAIR Cabinet Coolers as a viable solution.  If you have any questions about how an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler can solve problems in your facility, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

Air Amplifiers – Vent, Exhaust, Cool, Dry, Clean – With No Moving Parts!

As an Application Engineer, one of the interesting aspects of working with customers on applications is the varied types of solutions an EXAIR product can provide.  The Air Amplifier family – Super Air Amplifier, Adjustable Air Amplifier, and the special High Temperature Air Amplifier can be used in a wide variety of process and applications.  Below highlights several of those from past experiences.

A defense contractor was performing maintenance service on a Navy ship, and the ventilation system had to be shut down.  To keep the personnel cool and safe, an auxiliary ventilation was to be supplied.  Rather than use a cumbersome blower assembly, which has to mounted on the top deck, and ducted down to the lower decks, they chose to utilize (2) 4″ Super Air Amplifiers.  They are very portable and can be set up in minutes.  This solution provided the necessary air flow, providing a safe environment for the maintenance crew.

Super Air Amplifier

EXAIR Air Amplifiers use a small amount of compressed air to create a tremendous amount of air flow.

A light bulb manufacturer needed a better solution for a cooling operation.  During manufacturing of a mercury lamp, the bulb must be cooled from 700°C to 600°C in just 15 seconds.  The current method, an open brass pipe, was working but the noise level was too high (95 dBA.) The goal was to maintain the 15 second cooling time, but reduce sound levels to 85 dBA.  By utilizing (2) of 3/4″ Adjustable Air Amplifiers, the customer was able to maintain the cooling rate, and reduce the noise level down to 80 dBA, a 15 dBA reduction.

adjustable Air Amplifier

Adjustable Air Amplifier

A garbage collector presented a problem that needed a solution.  The garbage was incinerated and when the furnaces were first started up, there tended to be issues with getting the flue to draft properly.  Using the High Temperature Air Amplifier, the high velocity air flow and draw provided the needed draft until the stack warmed up and the natural draft would be established.  Since the unit is capable of handling temperatures up to 700°F, it was able to withstand the heat of the process after the compressed air was turned off.

These and other Applications for the Air Amplifiers and all other EXAIR products can be found on the EXAIR website on the Products page, under the Related Info section toward the bottom of each page.

If you have questions regarding Air Amplifiers 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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EXAIR Manufactures Custom Vortex Tubes

EXAIR is based in Cincinnati, OH and it is where we design and manufacture our products. Since we are the manufacturer, we can design and build custom product when your application demands particular features. Vortex Tubes are the foundation of our cooling products and can be customized to suit your needs in many ways…

Vortex Family

The EXAIR Vortex Tube uses compressed air to generate a cold air stream at one end and a hot air stream at the other end.  This phenomenon in physics is also known as the Ranque-Hilsch tube.  It can generate very cold or very hot air without any moving parts, motors, or Freon.  Thus; making it low cost, reliable, and maintenance free.  The EXAIR Vortex Tube can generate

  • Air temperatures from -50 to +260 deg. F (-46 to +127 deg. C).
  • Flow rates from 1 to 150 SCFM (28 to 4,248 SLPM)
  • Refrigeration up to 10,200 BTU/hr (2,570 Kcal/hr)

Cooling or Heating with the Vortex Tube

With a wide range of cooling and heating applications, the EXAIR Vortex Tubes can be an ideal product for you.  They are used for cooling electronics, CCTV cameras, and soldered parts.  They are also useful for setting hot melts, gas sampling, and environmental chambers.  With its very compact and versatile design, it can be mounted in tight places to apply heated or cold air to your process.  The Vortex Tubes are used for improving process times in cooling, protecting equipment, or setting specific temperature requirements.  If you need a Vortex Tube to be more specific to your application, EXAIR can manufacture a proprietary product in the following ways:

Preset Vortex Tubes – the standard Vortex Tube has a screw on the hot end to adjust the cold and hot air temperatures.  To make the Vortex Tube tamper-resistant, EXAIR can replace the screw with a preset hot valve.  If you can supply the temperature and flow requirements for your application, EXAIR can determine the correct diameter hole to give you a consistent temperature and flow from the Vortex Tube.

Materials – The standard Vortex Tubes has a maximum temperature rating of 125 deg. F (52 deg. C).  For elevated ambient temperature, we offer a brass generator which will increase the temperature rating to 200 deg. F (93 deg. C).  If other materials are needed for food, pharmaceutical, or chemical exposure, we can also offer stainless steel for the hot plug, cold cap, and generator. I have seen Vortex Tubes made entirely from 316SS and even one made with a brass body. There are EXAIR Vortex Tubes with special material o-rings and hot valves or with customized muffler assemblies.

Fittings – Our standard units have threaded connections on the Vortex Tube to connect fittings and tubing.  In certain applications to improve mounting and assembly, special fittings may be required for ease of installation.  EXAIR can attach or modify these parts to the Vortex Tube to meet your requirements.

At EXAIR, we pride ourselves with excellent customer service and quality products.  To take this one step further, we offer specials to accommodate your applications.  As a manufacturer of the Vortex Tubes, we can work with our customers to generate a custom product with high quality, fast delivery, and a competitive price.  So, if you do need a special Vortex Tube to give you a specific temperature, ease of mounting, or a proprietary product for your OEM design, you can discuss your requirements with an Application Engineer.  We will be happy to help you.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

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