Controlling Compressed Air can be Easy, and Save Thousands of Dollars

The history of automated controls can be traced back to inventors in ancient Greece & Egypt, who sought ways to keep more accurate track of time than afforded by sundials and hourglasses.  Their efforts, dating as far back as 300BC, produced devices actuated by water flow, which is actually quite reliable and repeatable: a set amount of water will flow via gravity through a fixed conduit in the exact same amount of time, every time.  These were in fairly common use until the invention of the mechanical clock in the 14th century.

The Industrial Revolution grew the need for automated processes exponentially…the need to control objects or tooling in motion, fluid flow, temperature, and pressure, just to name a few.  As time passed, the sky was literally the limit: modern aircraft & spacecraft rely on a staggering amount of automated processes from production to operation.

All throughout history, though, the benefits of automation remain the same: making processes more efficient.  That’s where the EXAIR EFC Electronic Flow Control comes in, for automating processes involving compressed air use, by turning air flow off when it’s not needed.  In fact, not only do they provide simple on/off control to blow only when a part is “seen” by the photoelectric sensor, there are eight distinct modes to incorporate delay on or off, flicker on or off, signal on/off delay, interval, or “One-Shot,” where the sensor detects the part, delays opening the valve per the timer setting, and blows for one second.

EFC Electronic Flow Control Systems are already assembled & wired for quick & easy installation.

The EXAIR EFC Electronic Flow Control is a true “plug and play” solution for automating a compressed air application.  Mount the sensor, plumb the valve, plug it in, and you’re ready to go.  There’s no complicated PLC wiring or programming, although the aforementioned mode selections do offer a great deal of flexibility other than “on when the sensor sees it; off when it doesn’t” operation, if desired.  Here are some prime examples of that flexibility, and the monetary benefits due to the compressed air consumption savings:

(Left) On/Off Delay setting used in tank refurbishment application to operate a “halo” of Super Air Knives for blow off as tanks exit oven where old paint is burnt off – $3,393 annual air savings. (Center) Interval setting actuates a Super Ion Air Knife for flat panel display dust blow off/static elimination – $2,045 annual air savings. (Right) Interval setting actuates a “halo” of Super Ion Air Knives to clean & remove static charge from plastic automotive bumper covers prior to painting – $5012 annual savings.

If you’d like to find out more about the EFC Electronic Flow Control can save you time, air, and money, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Siphon Fed No-Drip Atomizing Spray Nozzles

With 142 distinct models in stock, the Atomizing Spray Nozzles are easily EXAIR Corporation’s most diverse product line. If you need a reliable method of creating a fine mist of liquid flow with a flow rate as high as 303 gallons per hour (or as low as 0.1 gallons per hour,) with a spray pattern as large as 13 feet (or as small as 2-1/2 inches) in diameter, look no further – we have a spray nozzle for you, on the shelf and ready to go.

Siphon Fed models are the subject of today’s blog – they don’t require that the liquid be under pressure; you can feed them from the vessel the liquid comes in from a siphon height of up to 36 inches, or, for higher flows, from a gravity height of as low as 6 inches.

EXAIR Siphon Fed Nozzles work with non-pressurized liquids, either siphoned (left) or gravity fed (right.)

All Atomizing Spray Nozzles are available with EXAIR’s patented No-Drip option, which positively shuts off liquid flow when the compressed air supply is shut off.  One benefit of this is realized in coating applications, where an errant droplet of liquid would mar an otherwise smooth, even coating.  Operationally, though, it also means you can precisely turn the liquid flow on & off, in short, quick bursts, up to 180 times a second.

By far, the simplest way to do this is with a valve installed in the air supply line to the Atomizing Spray Nozzle.  A manual 1/4 turn ball valve works fine if you want the operator to control it.  Solenoid valves are often used to automate the process, and if you’ve got something to open & close the valve, you’re all set.  For example, if you want to spray coolant onto a cutting tool, just wire the solenoid valve into the on-off switch of the machine, like in the example shown to the right.

Alternately, our EFC Electronic Flow Control System provides a ready-to-go solution.  It comes pre-wired; all you have to do is plumb the valve into the air supply line and plug it in to a 120VAC grounded wall outlet.  When the photoelectric sensor “sees” the part you want to spray, it opens the valve.  When the part passes, it shuts the valve.  Easy as that.

I like this whole video, but if you just want to see the EFC Electronic Flow Control & Atomizing Spray Nozzle in action, skip to the 4:05 mark.

If you have a need to spray a fine, controllable liquid mist, EXAIR has a wide range of solutions.  Give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Six Steps to Optimizing Compressed Air: Step 4, Turn it Off When Not in Use

Step 4 of the Six Steps to Optimizing your compressed air is to turn off your compressed air when it is not in use. This step can be done using two simple methods either by using manual controls such as ball valves or automated controllers such as solenoid valves. Manual controls are designed for long use and when switching on and off are infrequent. Ball Valves are one of the most commonly used manual shut offs for compressed air and other fluids.

Automated controllers allow your air flow to be tied into a system or process and turn on or off when conditions have been met. Solenoid valves are the most commonly used automated control device as they operate by using an electric current to open and close the valve mechanism within. Solenoid valves are some of the more versatile flow control devices due to the fact that they open and close almost instantaneously. Solenoid valves can be used as manual controls as well by wiring them to a switch or using simple programming on a PLC to turn the valve on or off using a button.

EXAIR’s Solenoid Valves
EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controller (EFC)

 

Some good examples of automated controllers are EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controller (a.k.a. EFC) and EXAIR’s Thermostat controlled Cabinet Coolers.  

The EFC system uses a photo eye to detect when an object is coming down the line and will turn on the air for a set amount of time of the users choosing. This can be used to control the airflow for all of EXAIR’s products. EXAIR’s Thermostat controlled Cabinet Coolers are used to control the internal temperature of a control cabinet or other enclosures. This is done by detecting the internal temperature of your cabinet and when it has exceeded a temperature which could damage electrical components it will open the valve until a safe temperature has been reached, then turn off.    

By turning off your compressed air, whether it be with manual or automated controllers, a company can minimize wasted compressed air and extend the longevity of the air compressor that is used to supply the plants air. The longevity of the air compressor is increased due to reduced run time since it does not need to keep up with the constant use of compressed air. Other benefits include less use of compressed air and recouped cost of compressed air. 

EXAIR’s Ball Valves sizes 1/4″ NPT to 1-1/4″ NPT

If you have questions about our compressed air control valves 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.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Super Air Knives Save 63% Electrical Cost for a Food Manufacturer Drying Trays

A food manufacturing company was looking for a more efficient way to dry polypropylene trays that were filled with food product. With their current operation, they would send already packed and sealed food trays through a washing system that used sterilized water. The trays would then have to be dried prior to bulk packaging. The operators would place the trays side by side on a 24” wide open-mesh stainless steel metal conveyor with two or three trays at a time (depending on the tray dimensions). They contacted EXAIR because they wanted to replace their “old and inefficient system” with something better.

In my discussions, they gave some additional details of the operation and the problems that they were seeing. The dimensions of the trays ranged from 150 to 200mm long by 100 to 150mm wide by 35 to 50mm in height. They were cleaning at a rate of 30 trays per minute through the washing and drying system. The washer was designed to recycle the water to improve “green” operations. But the trays were carrying much of the water outside the machine. Thus, they would have to stop and refill the wash system with fresh water.

After the washing cycle, the drying section began. It consisted of two parts; a sponge roller and a heated chamber that would blow hot air. First the trays would run under the sponge roller to absorb the water from the top of the trays. A feature that they did not like was the continuous adjustment to the sponge roller for the different tray heights. They had to make sure that they had good contact without stopping the movement.

Also, with bulk of the water being on top of the trays, the sponge surface would get saturated. They would have to stop the process to change with a dry foam pad or replace due to wear. After the sponge roller, it would move into a heated chamber to remove the remaining portion of the water from the trays. They used a 11 KW heating system to blow hot air. This part of their system required a lot of electricity to run. They wondered if EXAIR could help streamline their process and reduce energy costs.

They sent a photo of their system, reference above. As described, the trays were moving intermittently through the wash cycle and then into the drying operation. When gaps are present in a process, the Electronic Flow Control, or EFC, becomes a great product for energy efficiency. It is designed to use a photoelectric sensor to detect a part and initiate a timing sequence. Using a solenoid valve, it will turn on the compressed air only when needed. With the drying operation, I suggested that they could remove the sponge roller and heated chamber, and replace them with two Super Air Knives. In conjunction with the EFC, we can decrease energy usage, reduce downtime, and increase savings. Profit margins can be critical in the food industry, and EXAIR has many ways to help.

Electronic Flow Control

To expand a bit more about revitalizing the “old and inefficient system” with EXAIR products, I made some suggestions. I recommended two Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Kits, model 110224SS, to be placed near the end of the conveyor. One Super Air Knife would be positioned above the tray to blow across the top; and one would be positioned below the tray under the mesh conveyor to blow across the bottom.

At a slight blowing angle in a counter-flow direction, the air streams would remove the water from the top and bottom of the tray at the same time. This would create a non-contact “wiping” solution. Now they do not have to worry about parts wearing out due to contact. Another unique feature of the Super Air Knife is the strength of the laminar air stream. It is consistent from 3” (76mm) to 12” (305mm) away from the target. Thus, they can easily set the height of the Super Air Knives to dry all the different trays without adjusting it.

And as an added benefit, the water that was being blown off the trays by the Super Air Knives remained within the washing system. The sterilized water was not being wasted and could be recycled. With the Electronic Flow Control, I recommended the model 9056. It is a user-friendly device with eight different timing sequences. They were able to position the photoelectric sensor near the outlet of the washing system. As soon as the trays were detected, the Super Air Knives would turn on to blow two or three trays at the same time. With the EXAIR products installed, the system went from using 11 KW down to 4 KW, a 63% savings.

EXAIR has helped many customers like this one above. When it comes to energy savings, EXAIR leads the way. With two Super Air Knives and an EFC, we were able to modernized their system; save on water, improve productivity, reduce the overall footprint, and save on their energy usage. If you have a similar application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to update your system.

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