The Importance Of Air Compressor System Maintenance

 

It should go without saying, but proper operation of anything that has moving parts will depend on how well it’s maintained.  Compressed air systems are certainly no exception; in fact; they’re a critical example of the importance of proper maintenance, for two big reasons:

*Cost: compressed air, “the fourth utility,” is expensive to generate.  And it’s more expensive if it’s generated by a system that’s not operating as efficiently as it could.

*Reliability: Many industrial processes rely on clean or clean & dry air, at the right pressure, being readily available:

  • When a CNC machine trips offline in the middle of making a part because it loses air pressure, it has to be reset.  That means time that tight schedules may not afford, and maybe a wasted part.
  • The speed of pneumatic cylinders and tools are proportional to supply pressure.  Lower pressure means processes take longer.  Loss of pressure means they stop.
  • Dirt & debris in the supply lines will clog tight passages in air operated products.  It’ll foul and scratch cylinder bores.  And if you’re blowing off products to clean them, anything in your air flow is going to get on your products too.

Good news is, the preventive maintenance necessary to ensure optimal performance isn’t all that hard to perform.  If you drive a car, you’re already familiar with most of the basics:

*Filtration: air compressors don’t “make” compressed air, they compress air that already exists…this is called the atmosphere, and, technically, your air compressor is drawing from the very bottom of the “ocean” of air that blankets the planet.  Scientifically speaking, it’s filthy down here.  That’s why your compressor has an inlet/intake filter, and this is your first line of defense. If it’s dirty, your compressor is running harder, and costs you more to operate it.  If it’s damaged, you’re not only letting dirt into your system; you’re letting it foul & damage your compressor.  Just like a car’s intake air filter (which I replace every other time I change the oil,) you need to clean or replace your compressor’s intake air filter on a regular basis as well.

*Moisture removal: another common “impurity” here on the floor of the atmospheric “ocean” is water vapor, or humidity.  This causes rust in iron pipe supply lines (which is why we preach the importance of point-of-use filtration) and will also impact the operation of your compressed air tools & products.

  • Most industrial compressed air systems have a dryer to address this…refrigerated and desiccant are the two most popular types.  Refrigerant systems have coils & filters that need to be kept clean, and leaks are bad news not only for the dryer’s operation, but for the environment.  Desiccant systems almost always have some sort of regeneration cycle, but it’ll have to be replaced sooner or later.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on these.
  • Drain traps in your system collect trace amounts of moisture that even the best dryer systems miss.  These are typically float-operated, and work just fine until one sticks open (which…good news…you can usually hear quite well) or sticks closed (which…bad news…won’t make a sound.)  Check these regularly and, in conjunction with your dryers, will keep your air supply dry.

*Lubrication: the number one cause of rotating equipment failure is loss of lubrication.  Don’t let this happen to you:

  • A lot of today’s electric motors have sealed bearings.  If yours has grease fittings, though, use them per the manufacturer’s directions.  Either way, the first symptom of impending bearing failure is heat.  This is a GREAT way to use an infrared heat gun.  You’re still going to have to fix it, but if you know it’s coming, you at least get to say when.
  • Oil-free compressors have been around for years, and are very popular in industries where oil contamination is an unacceptable risk (paint makers, I’m looking at you.)  In oiled compressors, though, the oil not only lubricates the moving parts; it also serves as a seal, and heat removal medium for the compression cycle.  Change the oil as directed, with the exact type of oil the manufacturer calls out.  This is not only key to proper operation, but the validity of your warranty as well.

*Cooling:  the larger the system, the more likely there’s a cooler installed.  For systems with water-cooled heat exchangers, the water quality…and chemistry…is critical.  pH and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) should be checked regularly to determine if chemical additives, or flushing, are necessary.

*Belts & couplings: these transmit the power of the motor to the compressor, and you will not have compressed air without them, period.  Check their alignment, condition, and tension (belts only) as specified by the manufacturer.  Keeping spares on hand isn’t a bad idea either.

Optimal performance of your compressed air products literally starts with your compressor system.  Proper preventive maintenance is key to maximizing it.  Sooner or later, you’re going to have to shut down any system to replace a moving (or wear) part.  With a sound preventive maintenance plan in place, you have a good chance of getting to say when.

If you’d like to talk about other ways to optimize the performance of your compressed air system,  give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Image courtesy of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet, Creative Commons License 

It’s Earth Day! Do Your Part Tomorrow and Throughout the Year.

Saturday, April 22nd marks the 47th annual Earth Day and it will be observed in over 193 countries.  For EXAIR, this year marks our 34th year helping compressed air users save compressed air energy and electrical resources. It is also another year that we continue to focus on manufacturing our products with minimal impact and doing our part to help protect our planet. We are proud to manufacture efficient products, implement processes and programs throughout our facility to help use our resources wisely and recycle everything we possibly can. 

First and foremost, we manufacture and sell Intelligent Compressed Air Products that are specifically designed to reduce the use of compressed air throughout facilities.  On top of that, when you purchase an EXAIR product it will arrive in fully recyclable packaging and, in most cases, is made from a material that will be recyclable should it reach a point it is no longer useful.

EXAIR recycles 100% of the metal scrap from our machining processes, which equates to 6.5 tons. Our cardboard and mixed paper products are also recycled 100%. Of the waste we place into our trash dumpsters – 80% is recycled and 20% is sent to the landfill.  The paper products even get down to all of paper towels that are used and all the scratch paper that the office utilizes.   In total, EXAIR recycled tons 36.6 tons of paper and cardboard in 2016 which equates to 80% of the solid waste we produce is recycled.  We focus on more ways to improve this percentage every year (I am still trying to convince everyone to reuse the coffee and filters in the coffee maker).  Something about it got so thick you needed a spoon to “drink” your coffee.

Another waste reducing factor that has proven to work out well for EXAIR is asking every customer if they accept digital invoices rather than requiring them to be printed and mailed.   Thanks to our wonderful customers we have been able to eliminate 91% of all printed and mailed invoices which helps to reduce our resources used as well as the amount of materials that are possibly turned into solid wastes at their facilities. This also prevents the gas and vehicles necessary to deliver all of these invoices by mail. 

We also generate and recycle our wastewater for reclamation – in 2016 we recycled 1008 gallons. 

To get back to what EXAIR products have done to help reduce waste, we were also able to optimize our own compressed air system by eliminating air leaks and have saved 1 million cubic feet of compressed air.  We have also utilized our very own Chip Trapper Systems in our manufacturing areas and extended the water soluble coolant life from 6 weeks per changeover to 6 months per changeover. Keeping our coolant clean allows us to minimize the total amount of wastewater we recycle each year. 

On top of all the efforts above, we also continue to maintain RoHS compliance on all electronic products, as well as actively track our supply chains to ensure no Conflict Minerals are being sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If you have any questions on how we can help your facility reduce their use of compressed air or why we continue to reduce our wastes and increase our recycling efforts, contact us.

To see our full Sustainability Plan follow this link.

Enjoy Your Weekend,
EXAIR Corporation

Thank you to Kate Ter Haar for the Happy Earth Day image. Creative Commons License. 

Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Solves Problem In Molding Application

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These stainless steel molds have residual material after forming which needs to be blown off

 

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The table of this machine spins, with identical mold setups in the front and rear

The images above show a molding machine process with a spinning table.  The “front” side of the setup is used to remove finished product, while the “back” side forms new product over the stainless steel mold.  Each side of the table uses an identical setup with application temperatures as high as 140°F.

The end user of this machine contacted EXAIR in search of a blowoff solution to be permanently installed and operated automatically.  Any solution offered needed to use minimal compressed air, meet OSHA safety standards for dead end pressure (OSHA CFR 1910.242(b)), and be suitable for installation in a 140°F workspace.

The purpose of the blowoff would be to remove any debris/residual material left on the stainless steel mold after the finished product is removed.  So, as the mold spins back into the machine, they wanted a way to remove any burrs or residual debris.  The current process is to stop the machine and have a machine operator blow off the molds by hand (shown below).  This reduces the efficiency of the machine and reduces the throughput of the process.

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The current process is to stop the machine and blow off the molds by hand

With the full scope of the application uncovered and discussed, we found the perfect solution for this application in a stainless steel Super Air Knife.  The stainless steel Super Air Knife can provide an efficient and repeatable blowoff solution, all while meeting OSHA safety standards and the temperature needs of the application.  Plus, the Super Air Knife can be configured alongside a PLC or Electronic Flow Controller to allow for a “trigger-on” installation in which blowoff is only provided when needed.  This setup saves compressed air, reducing operational cost and further increasing efficiency in the application.

The exact product used in this application was the model 110012SS, which provides a laminar blowoff 12” wide using a 303 grade stainless steel Super Air Knife.  But, we also have knives ranging from 3” to 108” with the ability to machine custom lengths upon request.  So, if you have an application in need of an efficient and laminar blowoff solution, reach out to us.  We’ll be happy to help.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Super Air Knives Clean Slide Ways, Rails and Tracks of Machinery

Until a few days ago I was relatively unfamiliar with flying cold saws, their operation, and purpose.  I knew they were used in manufacturing, particularly with regards to piping, but had no real idea as to how or why.

So, when prompted with a need to examine an application for a flying cold saw, I thought to find a schematic or video online.  Thankfully, I found the video above of the exact machine being used in the application, and it helped me to fully understand the application needs.

What was needed, was a method to keep the rails of the flying saw clean and clear of debris created during the cutting process.  There is a waste material removal system incorporated into the saw, but it cannot prevent stray scrap material from deflecting during cutting and landing on the rails used to position the saw.

We’ve found success in similar applications using Super Air Knives to clear debris off slide ways on large CNC machines and from the tracks for rail cars, so I felt confident we could find a solution here.  In selecting the proper air knife for this application we considered size (width) of the rails, ambient temperature, and required force from the knife.  This application uses 6″ rails in a typical factory setting (with ambient temperatures up to 110F max), with small stainless steel debris on the rails – a “perfect” fit for the aluminum 6″ Super Air Knife, model 110006.

This customer chose to use (4) 110006 Super Air Knives, two on each side of the knife used on the leading edge and on the trailing edge.  Limit switches of the saw will trigger the air knives positioned on the leading edge to turn on, clearing debris from the rails as the saw travels back and forth.

This was a great application for use with Super Air Knives, and we were happy to help solve the customer’s problem.  If you have a similar application, give us a call, send us an email, or use our online chat feature to contact an Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Video Blog: Super Air Knife with Plumbing Kit Installed

 

This short video features our new Stainless Steel Plumbing kits. Ordering a Super Air Knife with the Plumbing Kit installed, provides the best performance and makes for an easy installation.

 

 

Please contact an application engineer for assistance @ 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Use The Force…Or Not…It’s Up To You, Really

The month of May, in 1977, was a great time to be ten years old. I was finishing up my fifth grade year, a pivotal one, thanks to Miss Walker, who ended up being my favorite teacher ever. She had a pet rat named A.J. that we took turns taking home for the weekend. She rewarded us for class performance by taking us outside to play softball on warm & sunny spring afternoons. I trace my love for math (and hence, my inspiration for a career in engineering) to the excitement she instilled in me for the subject…I was among the first to master the multiplication tables.

And then there was Star Wars. There were commercials for the movie and the toys and the merchandise on TV; I swear they ran every five minutes. A fast food chain released a series of posters (free with purchase) and every time a new one came out, Miss Walker promptly hung it on the classroom wall. None of us, her included, could hardly wait until the premiere. I could go on (and on and on and on,) but suffice it to say (for the purposes of this blog,) I’ve been a BIG fan ever since.

Which brings us to today…opening day for “Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” The first time, by the way, a Star Wars movie hasn’t premiered in the month of May, but I digress. The 10 year old inside me wants to go see it RIGHT NOW, but the grownup I have to be has a company Christmas party, two Boy Scout events, and a pre-holiday “honey-do” list to attend to first.

Of course, the “other” epic space movie series couldn’t resist launching THEIR new trailer this week…

All this talk about The Force (capital “F”) and the fact that I write this blog on company time has me thinking about compressed air applications that involve force (lower case “f”) and how using force (unlike “The Force”) is not always prudent.

This is the case in just about any blow off application that uses air under pressure. Open ended copper tubing, drilled pipes, etc., are common and easy ways to discharge compressed air for debris removal, drying, or cooling a part. But the fact is, they waste a LOT of the energy devoted to compressing the air by simply turning it into brute force and noise.

This is where EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products(r) come in: by using the energy of the compressed air to entrain air from the surrounding environment, the total air flow is amplified, resulting in a high velocity blast, at minimal consumption. No; it doesn’t have the same amount of force as an open ended discharge device, but most blow off applications don’t need all that much force anyway.

Of course, there ARE situations where you need to use the force, and we’ve got efficient and OSHA compliant ways to do that too: additional shims in Air Knives, Air Wipes & Air Amplifiers, or larger Super Air Nozzles.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” the continuing theme of the Star Wars saga is to use The Force properly. For the past 32 years, the continuing theme at EXAIR is to help you use the force (of your compressed air) properly. Let me know how we can help.

May The Force be with us all…this weekend, and always.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Calculating Compressed Air Cost & Savings Made Easy

If you have ever looked through our catalog, website, blog, twitter feeds, or even our Facebook page, you will see that we can almost always put a dollar amount behind the amount of compressed air you saved by installing EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products.   No matter which platform we use to deliver the message, we use the same value for the cost of compressed air which is $.25 per 1,000 Standard Cubic Feet of compressed air. This value is derived from average commercial and industrial energy costs nationwide, if you are on either coast this value may increase slightly. On the positive side, if your cost for compressed air is a bit more, installing an EXAIR product will increase your savings.

So where does this number come from?   I can tell you this much, we didn’t let the marketing department or anyone in Accounting make it up.   This is a number that the Engineering department has deemed feasible and is accurate.

To calculate the amount we first look to what the cost per kilowatt hour is you pay for energy.  Then we will need to know what the compressor shaft horsepower  of the compressor is, plus the run time percentage, the percentage at full-load, and the motor efficiency.

If you don’t have all of these values, no worries.   We can get fairly close by using the industry accepted standard mentioned above, or use some other general standards if all you know is the cost of your electricity.

The way to calculate the cost of compressed air is not an intense mathematical equation like you might think.  The best part is, you don’t even have to worry about doing any of the math shown below because you can contact us and we can work through it for you.

If you prefer to have us compare your current compressed air blow off or application method to one of our engineered products, we can do that AND provide you a report which includes side by side performance comparisons (volume of flow, noise, force) and dollar savings. This refers to our free Efficiency Lab service.

EXAIR's Efficiency Lab is a free service to all US customers.

EXAIR’s Efficiency Lab is a free service to all US customers.

If you already know how much air you are using, you can use the Air Savings Calculators (USD or Euro) within our website’s knowledge base. Just plug in the numbers (EXAIR product data is found on our website or just contact us) and receive air savings per minute, hour, day and year. We also present a simple ROI payback time in days.

Now, back to the math behind our calculation.
Cost ($) =
(bhp) x (0.746) x (#of operating hours) x ($/kWh) x (% time) x ( % full load bhp)
——————————————————————————————————————————
Motor Efficiency

Where:
bhp
— Compressor shaft horsepower (generally higher than motor nameplate Hp)
0.746 – conversion between hp and KW
Percent Time — percentage of time running at this operating level
Percent full-load bhp — bhp as percentage of full load bhp at this operating level
Motor Efficiency — motor efficiency at this operating level

For an average facility here in the Midwest $0.25/1,000 SCF of compressed air is accurate.   If you would like to attempt the calculation and or share with us your findings, please reach out to us.   If you need help, we are happy to assist.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

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