Is It Safe To Use Compressed Air?

Think about it…compressed air is, by definition, gas under pressure: potential (stored) energy.  This energy is intended to do work, like operation of pneumatic tools, actuation of pneumatic cylinders, debris removal with an air gun or blow off device, and (even though I haven’t done it in a while) my personal favorite:

High pressure compressed air is meticulously made, prepared, and stored to ensure the number of surfaces equals the number of dives.

Uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of stored energy (regardless of the source) are inherently dangerous, and great care must be taken to guard against such incidents.  This is accomplished, primarily, in three areas:

*Operation.  This might be the most prevalent, because it involves the greatest number of personnel (e.g., everyone) as well as the ways compressed air is used (e.g., all of them.)  It’s also the area where the most involved people (the operators) have the most control:

  • Personal protection.  Don’t even think about operating a compressed air device without eye protection.  Ever.  Hard stop.  Also, if the operation involves flying debris, a full face shield, long sleeves, gloves, etc. might be called for.  Hearing protection may be required as well…keep in mind, even if an engineered device (like any of EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products) generates a relatively low sound level, the impingement noise of the air flow hitting the object can reach dangerous levels.
  •  Personnel cleaning is prohibited.  The risk of injury to the eyes, respiratory system, and other parts is just too great to rely on personal protective equipment that’s designed for use while discharging compressed air AWAY from the body.  While this is expressly prohibited in certain situations, OSHA has long recognized it as good practice for all industries.
  • No horseplay.  ’nuff said.  Plenty of better ways to have fun at work.

*Design.  This one usually has the advantage of being traceable to a small number of people, and is also the one that’s most likely to be documented.  This is where it starts…if the system is designed to fail, it doesn’t matter how much care the operators take:

  • Supply lines, fittings, and hoses must be rated for use with compressed air, up to and exceeding the maximum discharge pressure of the air compressor.
  • This goes for any tools, blow off devices, components, etc., serviced by the air system.  The only thing worse than a component failing is a component failing in your hand.
  • Shut off valves should be located as close as practical to point(s) of operation.  This allows you to quickly secure the flow of compressed air to a failed component, hose, etc., and prevent further damage or risk of injury.
  • Hoses shouldn’t be run across the floor, where they can become a trip hazard or subject to damage from stepping on them.   This is a surefire way to find out the value of shut off valves (see above.)

*Product specification.  Or, more simply put, using the right tool for the job.  A broader discussion could include efficiency and performance, but we’ll stay within the confines of safety for the purposes of this blog:

  • Be mindful of dead end pressure.  Blow off devices, especially hand held ones like air guns, are oftentimes fitted with a simple open-end discharge.  If this is pushed into a part of the body, the pressurized air can break the skin and cause an air embolism.  This is a serious injury, and can be fatal if it reaches the heart, lungs, or brain.
    • This is a key consideration to OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), which limits the downstream pressure when compressed air is used for cleaning to 30psi.
    • EXAIR products are compliant with this Standard by design…there’s always a relief path for the air pressure; they can’t be dead ended.
Because the compressed air exits through a series of holes, recessed between a ring of fins, any attempt to block the air flow will simply send it in another direction.
  • Harmful sound levels are a consideration as well.  As stated above, hearing protection is required in many cases, but sound levels can be mitigated through the use of engineered products.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, as a result of their high entrainment, generate a boundary layer of air flow that leads to dramatically lower sound levels than a similar-sized open end blow off device.

If you’d like to explore ways to make your compressed air system safer, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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OSHA 29 CFR 1910.15(a) – Occupational Noise Exposure Limits

Hearing loss due to high noise levels is a common problem in many industrial facilities. Without the use of proper PPE, hearing loss can occur quickly. This is a serious concern as hearing loss is permanent and once the damage is done there’s no way to reverse it. Due to this risk, OSHA strictly enforces standard 29 CFR-1910.95(a).

This directive discusses the effects of noise and limits exposure based on the dBA. The table below indicates the maximum allowable exposure time to different noise levels. Sound levels that exceed these levels should first be addressed by proper engineering controls such as isolating the source of the sound from personnel or replacing the cause of the sound with something like an engineered compressed air nozzle. When such controls aren’t feasible, proper PPE must be worn to protect the operator.

OSHA Chart

Hearing loss can occur in as little as 30 minutes when exposed to sound levels 110 dBA or greater. Operators have a tendency not to use PPE as directed, if an OSHA inspector comes to your facility and notices that the sound levels exceed the maximum allowable level without protection hefty fines will be soon to follow. In this example from the United States Department of Labor, a company was fined a total of $143,000 for failing to protect their employees.

SoundMeter_new_nist225
Model 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter

In order to identify the places or processes in your facility that are causing the problems, you’ll need a tool to measure the sound level. EXAIR’s easy to use Digital Sound Level Meter allows you to measure and monitor the sound level pressure in a wide variety of industrial environments. The source of the loud noise can then be identified and isolated so that corrective action can be taken. For compressed air related noise, EXAIR manufactures a wide variety of engineered compressed air products that can reduce the sound level dramatically. In many cases, EXAIR products are capable of reducing noise levels by as much as 10 dBA. Since the dBA scale is logarithmic, this equates to cutting the sound level in half!

sound-level-comparison
Drilled pipes and open ended tubes are the common culprit for excessive noise levels. Replacing them with an engineered solution often eliminates the need for hearing protection.

If there’s processes within your facility that are above these limits and you’d like to eliminate relying on proper PPE, give an Application Engineer a call. We’ll help walk you through the selection process and make sure that when the OSHA inspector comes knocking you’re prepared!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

The Case For The Flat Super Air Nozzles

What do you think of when someone says “air nozzle?” Is it a crimp or a “crush” on the end of a piece of tubing? Is it a device that attaches to the end of a pipe or a hose? If so, does it have engineered features that focus the stream, amplify the flow (through entrainment, perhaps,) reduce the noise level, or provide an element of safety?

If so…you’re right. Any of the above descriptions, strictly speaking, qualify as an “air nozzle,” in fact, just a plain open-ended pipe or tube meets the criteria. As long as it serves to discharge a stream of air towards a target, it’s an air nozzle.

Even the devices with those efficient, quiet, and safe engineered features come in a variety of styles, types, and models. Consider EXAIR’s product line of Air Nozzles and Jets…we have seventy-two distinct models, in a range of sizes, materials of construction, and performance.  That’s a LOT to choose from, and it doesn’t even take into account the products that can be fitted with different shims that, technically, make them a wholly different nozzle, performance-wise.  Which brings us, dear reader, to the focus of today’s blog: the Flat Super Air Nozzle.

Flat nozzles are not unique to EXAIR…there are dozens of others on the market in a variety of sizes and materials.  What IS unique about EXAIR’s Flat Super Air Nozzles is their performance…

Efficiency: When a competitor’s flat nozzle was replaced with a Model 1122 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle, consumption was reduced from 31 SCFM to 21.8 SCFM.  Since the nozzle was operated 24/7, this resulted in a savings in compressed air cost of $3.31 per day…meaning the nozzle paid for itself in under three weeks.

EXAIR’s Flat Super Air Nozzles have been blowing away the competition since 2003.

Durability: Both our 1″ and 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzles are available in rugged Zinc Aluminum alloy, or heat & corrosion resistant Type 316 Stainless Steel.

Zinc aluminum models are perfect for general purpose blow offs (left,) while 316SS models are specified for food/pharma and high heat or corrosive environments (right.)

Versatility: A 0.015″ thick shim is installed in the Flat Super Air Nozzles.  These provide optimal performance in a wide variety of typical industrial and commercial blow off applications.  We also offer High Power versions, with a 0.025″ thick shim, for additional flow and force.  You can also experiment with other shims, from 0.005″ to 0.030″ in thickness, for customized applications.  These shims are all 316SS, and are available in sets, or individually.  The patented design of these shims, in fact, is key to their high efficiency, as explained in this video:

Ingenuity: While this EXAIR characteristic is not specific to the Flat Super Air Nozzles, our most recent ingenious development features them: the Super Air Scraper.  By combining a scraping blade with the 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle, we’ve turned our very popular Soft Grip Safety Air Gun into the perfect tool for easy removal of sticky or stubborn debris from most any flat surface.

Scrape off, and blow away, stubborn debris with the Model 1244-48 Soft Grip Super Air Scraper.

EXAIR Flat Super Air Nozzles are Intelligent Compressed Air Products with a 15 year history of successfully solving all kinds of air blowing applications.  To find out more about how they can work for you, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Product Overview: Back Blow Safety Air Guns

BackBlowNozzle

EXAIR’s highly engineered and efficient Back Blow Nozzle’s provide a powerful 360° airflow through an array of holes to remove coolant, chips or debris.  Back Blow Nozzle’s are the perfect solution for cleaning out the inside of any pipe, tube, hose or channels.

They are available in three different sizes:

M4 X .5 BB Nozzle

.25 NPT BB

1 NPT BB

The Back Blow Nozzle’s are also offered on the VariBlast, Soft GripHeavy Duty, and Super Blast Safety Air Guns.  They can be configured with different length extensions (up to 72″) to make nearly any cleaning job within reach!   We recommend the optional Chip Shield since the air stream is carrying the debris back towards the operator.

1604SS-6-CS-lftangle
Variblast Safety Air Gun 1604SS-6-CS, Includes 1004SS Back Blow Nozzle With 6″ Extension and Chip Shield. The 1604SS Is Offered In 6″, 12″, 24″ and 36″ Lengths.
1204SS-6-CS
Soft Grip Safety Air Gun 1204SS-6-CS, Includes 1004SS Back Blow Nozzle With 6″ Extension and Chip Shield.  The 1204SS Is Offered In 6″, 12″, 24″ and 36″ Lengths.
1206SS-6-CS559
Soft Grip Safety Air Gun 1206SS-6-CS, Includes 1006SS Back Blow Nozzle With 6″ Extension and Chip Shield.  The 1206SS Is Offered In 12″, 18″, 24″, 36″, 48″, 60″ & 72″ Lengths.
1306SS-6-CS
Heavy Duty Safety Air Gun 1306SS-6-CS, Includes 1006SS Back Blow Nozzle With 6″ Extension and Chip Shield.  The 1306SS Is Offered In 12″, 18″, 24″, 36″, 48″, 60″ & 72″ Lengths.
1219ss800
Super Blast Safety Air Gun 1219SS, Includes 1008SS Back Blow Nozzle With 1′ Extension.  The 1219SS Is Offered In 1′, 3′ & 6′ Lengths.

Take it from me EXAIR’s Safety Air Guns fitted with a  Back Blow Nozzles are a must have for any operation that needs to remove debris from pipes, tubes or hose!

If you would like to discuss Safety Air Guns with Back Blow Nozzles or any of our quiet and efficient compressed air devices, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle Produces High Force to Clean Steel Sheet

I recently worked with a customer at a company that manufactures steel sheets. They grind, polish, and then shot blast the steel sheets. As the material exits the shot blasting chamber, some of the media still sticks to the steel and is carrying over into additional processes. To mitigate this, they installed a 1” pipe with drilled holes at the exit of the conveyor to remove the excess media and keep it contained inside of the machine. While this worked, it was using a substantial amount of compressed air which was resulting in a pressure drop across the rest of the facility when this machine was in operation.

Although their current method was doing the job for them, they couldn’t live with the increased compressed air consumption. After searching the internet, they came across the EXAIR website and were interested in learning about other blowoff methods. Typically for an application involving a wide sheet of moving material we’d look towards one of our Super Air Knives, available from stock in lengths from 3”-108”. But, in this case there was some friction between the shot blasting media and the stainless steel sheet that required brute force. They needed something that was going to give them an increased amount of force, but still reduce their overall consumption.

IMG_20180714_152620.jpg
(10) HP1125 2″ High Power Flat Nozzles installed on 1″ pipe manifold

I recommended our HP1125 High Power 2” Flat Nozzle. With a .025” thick shim installed, the HP1125 nozzle will produce 2.2 lbs of force when operated at 80 psig. This was more than enough to remove the shot blasting media. They’re also much quieter than an open blowoff, producing a sound level of just 83 dBA. While this wasn’t a motivating factor for them, the reduction in noise was definitely welcomed. They placed some on order and replaced the 1/4″ open holes with (10) Model HP1125 2” Flat Super Air Nozzles.

For comparison, (10) 1/4″ holes will consume 690 SCFM at 80 PSIG while (10) of the HP1125 comes in at just 370 SCFM. By simply installing the HP1125 (which conveniently also has a 1/4 NPT air inlet), they reduced their compressed air consumption by a whopping 46%!! By reducing air consumption they eliminated the system pressure drop, they were also able to increase the force as the compressor was able to maintain the 80 PSIG pressure at the header pipe. This also alleviated the pressure drops experienced elsewhere in the plant.

hp1125
HP1125 2″ High Power Flat Super Air Nozzle

At EXAIR we have a wide-range of different products suited to a number of different blowoff  applications. From 4mm nozzles producing just 2 ozs of force, all the way up to our largest nozzle capable of delivering 23 lbs of force and everything in between. No matter the application, EXAIR has something capable of taking care of the job. Odds are it’ll be safer, quieter, and more efficient!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Accessories and the Value Added

The word “accessory” can come with some baggage… it’s become synonymous with “add-on” and “up-sell,” and cost-mindful consumers may see them as just another way for a slick salesperson to make an extra buck. And frankly, they wouldn’t have that reputation if there wasn’t some truth to it.  The server at your favorite restaurant will offer appetizers, or recommend side dishes to go with your entree. If you go to buy a new car, you’ll get a pitch for a variety of aftermarket add-ons.  The paint counter folks at the hardware store always tell me what specific brush and/or rollers I should use with the paint I’m buying…and it’s never the 10-pack of economy brushes that costs less than the single, premium quality brush they recommend.  In all of these cases, these employees are trained, constantly encouraged, and hopefully rewarded on the success of these “up-sell” strategies.

Of course, my boys and I can devour even the largest plate of chili cheese nachos long before the rest of meal comes out.  My wife absolutely loves the remote starter function that the dealership installed on the new car she bought last year.  And, if you’ve ever painted a well-lit room, you know the difference between a $1 paint brush and a $10 paint brush.  So if my server gets a little bigger tip, my car dealer salesperson gets a little more commission, or the paint counter folks get a bonus, then it’s a win-win, as far as I’m concerned.

EXAIR carries a variety of accessories for our Intelligent Compressed Air Products.  Some aid in mounting & installation:

Clockwise from top: Universal Air Knife Mounting System, Stay Set Hoses, Cabinet Cooler Side Mount Kit, Mounting Brackets for Line Vac, Filter Separator, and Pressure Regulator, Swivel Fitting for Super Air Nozzle, Tool Holder for Industrial Vacuum Drums, Spray Nozzle Mounting Clip.

Others make it easy to ensure adequate supply conditions:

The performance of many EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products can be altered by replacing the shim:

From left to right: Super Air Amplifier, Super Air Knife, 1″ Flat Super Air Nozzle, High Velocity Air Jets, and Air Wipe all feature replaceable shims to modify performance.

In addition to these product-specific accessories, EXAIR carries a complete line of:

Filter Separators are rated for air flow up to 400 SCFM; Oil Removal Filters, up to 310 SCFM.

*Filter Separators to remove water, dirt, and rust from your compressed air system.  Our Automatic Drain Filter Separators have a 5 micron particulate element, and a centrifugal vane to remove moisture.

*Oil Removal Filters with coalescing elements that remove any trace of oil, and also provide additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.

 

*Pressure Regulators, so you can “dial in” the performance you need, so you don’t overpower the application, or waste compressed air.  They come in sizes from 1/4 NPT to 1-1/4 NPT, and are rated for flows up to 700 SCFM.  A pressure gauge provides accurate indication of outlet pressure, and the adjustment cap can be removed to prevent tampering.

*Mounting Brackets and Modular Coupling Kits for our Filters and Regulators.  The latter are especially handy for easy, compact, and leak free installation.

*Silencing Mufflers to reduce work area noise from compressed air exhausting from pneumatic cylinders, valves, etc.  There are several styles to choose from, depending on your needs:

  • Sintered Bronze Mufflers are simple in design, with minimal back pressure restriction, and come in sizes from #10-32 thread to 1-1/2 NPT.
  • Straight-Through Mufflers offer noise reduction up to 20 dB, and come in sizes from 1/4 NPT (up to 22 SCFM) to 3/4 NPT (up to 73 SCFM.)
  • Heavy Duty Mufflers have an internal stainless steel screen that not only protects the exhausting components from environmental contamination, but also keeps air system contaminants from being ejected at high speed into the work area.
  • Reclassifying Mufflers are an upgrade to the Sintered Bronze Mufflers and provide the highest level of noise reduction – up to 35 dB.  They also trap oil mist, eliminating breathing hazards to personnel.

*We have manual ball valves (1/4 NPT to 1-1/4 NPT) and Solenoid Valves (120VAC, 240VAC or 24VDC) from 1/4 NPT to 1 NPT, and a Foot Valve, for hands-free operation.

*Swivel Fittings to securely install & aim many of our nozzles, from the Atto to the High Force 1 NPT Super Air Nozzles.  For a little more flexibility, Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases can be used for Air Amplifiers, Super Air Nozzles, and even short Air Knives.

*12 ft Coiled Hoses (1/4″ or 3/8″ ID) and Compressed Air Hose (3/8″ or 1/2″ ID; up to 50ft lengths) can be provided with any Intelligent Compressed Air Product.  We also have a full supply of fittings (tees, elbows, nipples, couplers, reducers, etc.) and adapters to fit our Super Air Nozzles to your existing air guns or blow off devices.

*Receiver Tanks are used to store a ready supply of compressed air.  If you have an intermittent demand of sufficient size, it can cause a pressure transient in your system, which can drag down the ability to supply other points of use.  Installed near the point of intermittent demand, they prevent pressure & volume fluctuations, keeping the operators at all points of use happy.  Model 9500-60 Receiver Tank has a capacity of 60 gallons, is rated to 200psig, and meets ASME pressure vessel code.

In closing, let me offer the following advice that’s served me well over the years:

*Be mindful of the valued added by the accessories & add-ons you’re presented during a purchase of capital equipment…or anything else, really.  Don’t buy something you don’t need, but if you need it…well…it’s OK to buy it.

*Don’t skimp on quality.  Odds are, if an accessory is offered by the manufacturer of the product, it’s going to work well for you.  They should be able to tell you if it will or won’t if you discuss your needs with them.  I know I will if you call me to discuss a compressed air product application.

*Get the big plate of nachos, especially if you’re dining with teenagers.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Where Has The VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun Been All My Life?!?

Have you ever happened across something that would have been a real “game changer” at some time in the past? I’ll never forget the time that I went camping with my sons’ Boy Scout Troop, and I was introduced to the peanut butter and bacon sandwich. I still enjoy one from time to time, but my doctor does not enjoy hearing about it…

I’ve also written before (and before) about when I found out EXAIR Vortex Tubes were being used in some shipyards for freeze sealing pipes…a task that (when I worked in a shipyard) we used tanks of liquid nitrogen for.  I was amazed that such a cumbersome ordeal was replaced by something so simple and easy.

When we were developing the VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun, a key feature…the variable flow trigger…also would have been real handy at a time in my not-so-distant past.  See, I used to run a small industrial equipment service department, and one time I found myself in a pinch to get a structural steel tube frame made for a support for a particular piece of equipment.  This wasn’t something we did all the time, and this particular job was a bit larger scale than most of what we’d done before.   It wasn’t really a big deal; I just had to cut some rectangular tubing to length with our band saw, drill some small holes (for bolts) and bore some larger holes (for cables & hose) along the length.

We had a small air compressor and a cheap commercial grade air gun, which served the purpose of our infrequent usage. Blowing the shavings away from those holes, and the inside of the tubing was a challenge…that air gun would just barely move them all the way from the holes near the middle, and when I blew out the holes near the ends, the spray of coolant-soaked shavings was making a heck of a mess in our relatively small shop.  After a while, I found that I could kind of “mash” the trigger a little to one side and get a rough measure of control…I was only going to have to mop about half the floor, instead of the whole thing, and I wasn’t going to have to wash the service truck parked in the closest garage bay to the shop area.

Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly ergonomic, and it was  real pain (literally) to use my left hand for a few days following.  Which, being left-handed, was kind of a drag.

Fast forward to just last year, when we rolled out the latest and greatest (in a distinguished line of latest and greatest) EXAIR product: the VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun.  Now, individually, the key features might not be all that mind-blowing to the casual observer, but taken together, they’re a pretty big deal. Consider:

*Aluminum construction – lightweight, durable, corrosion resistant.

*Two compressed air inlets – one on the bottom (below your pinkie finger) and one on the rear (above your thumb;) your choice…whichever makes your task easier.

*Cast-in hanger – to keep it out of the way, but still handy, when you’re not using it.

*Chip Shield – you still have to wear safety glasses, but this will keep them cleaner.

*Wide selection of engineered nozzles – from our Atto Super Air Nozzle (2.5 SCFM; 2.0 oz force) to the 1″ High Power Flat Super Air Nozzle (17.5 SCFM; 16 oz force,) there are 20 distinct models in stock.  We can customize the performance of the VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun to the specific needs of your intended use for it.

*Extensions – for applications that require a little (or a little more) reach, we offer the VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun with rigid aluminum extensions up to 72″ in length.  These are particularly handy when used with the Atto Back Blow Nozzle.

*Variable pull trigger – as the name implies, you can “vary the blast” by how hard (or not) you pull the trigger.  Like I said before, you can do this – kind of – with a run of the mill commercial grade air gun, but it’s not very precise, and far from ergonomic.  Here’s a short video showing just how sensitive that trigger pull is:

If you’d like to give one a try, EXAIR offers these – and any catalog product for that matter  – with a 30 Day Unconditional Guarantee.  We invite you to put it through its paces for up to a month.  If it’s not going to work out for you, for any reason, we’ll arrange return for full credit.  Give me a call – we can talk about how you intend to use it, and which one’s right for you.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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