Compressed Air Nozzles – Engineered vs. Commercial vs. Homemade

In the world of compressed air blow off solutions, there are a number of options which customers must consider.  Should the plant maintenance personnel configure something on-site?  Is there a low-cost option available from a catalog warehouse?  Or, is there an engineered solution available – and if there is, what does this even mean?

Blowoff comparison

Ultimately, the exercise in comparing these options will help select the option best for the application and best for the company.  In order to make these comparisons, we will consider each option based on the following attributes:  Force, sound level, safety, efficiency, repeatability, and cost.  These are the factors which impact the ability to perform as needed in the application, and effect the bottom line of the company


How much force do you need in your application?

Blow off applications require a certain amount of force in order to perform the desired task.  If the blow off is in a bottling line, for example, we will aim for a lesser force than if blowing off an engine block.  But, no matter the application need, we will want to consider the ability of the solution to provide a high force, high impact blow off.  Homemade and commercially mass-produced nozzles produce low-to-mid level forces, which translates to a need for more compressed air to complete a task.  Engineered nozzles produce high forces, minimizing compressed air use.

Sound level

Have you ever been to a concert and felt your hearing reduced when you left?  This can be the case for personnel in industrial environments with unregulated noise levels.  Homemade or non-engineered blow off solutions carry the risk of increased sound levels which are outside of the acceptable noise level limits.  EXAIR engineered nozzles, however, are designed to minimize sound level for quiet operation and continual use.


All EXAIR products meet or exceed OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.242(b)

Workplace safety is a serious matter for everyone from shop floor personnel to executive management.  Whether you’re working with or near a compressed air operated device, or your making decisions for your company which have to do with the compressed air system, safety is undoubtedly a priority.  Unfortunately, homemade and commercially available nozzles normally fail to meet OSHA standards for dead-end pressure requirements (OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.242(b)).  This means that these solutions can pose a risk of forcing compressed air through the skin, resulting in an embolism which can cause severe harm or even death.

EXAIR nozzles, however, are designed to NEVER exceed dead-end pressure limits and to provide an escape path for airflow in the even the nozzle is blocked.  This safety aspect is inherent in ALL EXAIR designs, thereby adding safety to an application when an EXAIR product is installed.


EXAIR Super Air Nozzle entrainment

Compressed air is the most expensive utility in any facility.  Energy enters as an electrical source and is converted into compressed air through a compressor where up to 2/3 of this energy is lost as heat.  The resulting 1/3 of converted energy is then piped throughout a facility as compressed air, where up to 1/3 of the air is lost to leaks.  With this in mind, maximizing the efficiency of a nozzle solution becomes imperative.  A homemade solution or commercial nozzle does not maximize the use of the compressed air.  The result is a need to increase flow or increase pressure, both of which result in higher energy costs.

EXAIR nozzles are designed for maximum force per CFM.  This means that any of our nozzles will produce the highest force at the lowest possible compressed air consumption.  This, in turn, reduces demand on the compressed air system and allows for a lower energy requirement.  Less energy demand means less energy costs, which goes straight to the bottom line of your company.


The EXAIR family of nozzles

When installing a nozzle solution, it is important to have the same force and flow from each unit.  If a solution needs to be replicated, balanced, or adjusted in any way, having various forces and flows from a homemade setup will induce difficulty and could make changes impossible.  Line speed or volume increases may not be possible due to variance in the output flow and forces from homemade setups, but an engineered solution will produce the same output every time.  This means you can adjust the nozzles as needed to achieve the perfect solution in your application.


For many customers and businesses, the most important aspect of any solution comes down to cost.  Will the solution work?  And, how much does it cost?  When it comes to a homemade or commercial blow off solution, it may or may not work, and it will have a low purchase cost.  But, the purchase price isn’t the whole story when working with compressed air.  The real cost of an item is in the operation and use.  So, while a homemade solution will be cheap to make and install, it will be EXPOENTIALLY more expensive to operate when compared to an engineered solution.  An excellent example is shown above.  An open copper tube is compared to an EXAIR model 1102 Mini Super Air Nozzle.  The copper tube cost only a few dollars to install, many times less than the EXAIR nozzle, but it costs almost two THOUSAND dollars more to operate in a year.  Translation:  Install a cheap blow off solution and pay for it in utility costs.

EXAIR nozzles and blow off solutions are engineered for maximum force, lowest possible noise level, OSHA safety compliance, maximum efficiency, and maximum repeatability.  These factors allow for options which not only solve application problems, but also do so with the lowest total cost possible.  If you have an application in need of a blow off solution, feel free to contact our Application Engineers.  We’ll be happy to help.  And, if your curious about the benefit of our products in your application, consider our Efficiency Lab.  We will test your existing setup next to our recommended EXAIR solution and provide the impact to your bottom line.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

Cost Savings from Replacing a Drilled Pipe with a Super Air Knife

A few months ago, my counterpart Brian Bergmann wrote a blog providing a detailed explanation of ROI or Return on Investment. Today, I would like to take this information and apply it to a common situation we deal with regularly here at EXAIR – replacing drilled pipe with our Super Air Knife.

Drilled pipe – easy to make but extremely wasteful

Sections of pipe with drilled holes across the length are very common as they are made of relatively inexpensive materials and simple to make.  Where the cost begins to add up is on the operation side as these types of homemade blowoffs waste a ton of compressed air, making them expensive to operate.

For comparison, lets look at a 12″ section of pipe with (23) 1/16″ diameter drilled holes. According to the chart below, each hole will flow 3.8 SCFM @ 80 PSIG for a total of 87.4 SCFM.

With an average cost of $ 0.25 per every 1,000 SCF used (based on $ 0.08/kWh), it would cost $ 1.31 to operate this blowoff for 1 hour. (87.4 SCFM x 60 minutes x $ 0.25 / 1,000)

Super Air Knife – Available from 3″ up to 108″ in aluminum, 303ss and 316ss

Now let’s take a look at replacing the drilled pipe with our 12″ Super Air Knife. A 12″ Super Air Knife will consume 34.8 SCFM (2.9 SCFM per inch) when operated at 80 PSIG. Using the same figure of $ 0.25 per every 1,000 SCF used, it would cost $ 0.52 / hr. to operate this knife. (34.8 SCFM x 60 minutes x $ 0.25 / 1,000)

Now that we know the operating costs, we can make a better comparison between the 2 products.

Drilled pipe operating costs:
$ 1.31 per hour
$ 10.48 per day (8 hours)

12″ Super Air Knife costs:
$ 0.52 per hour
$ 4.16 per day (8 hours)

Cost Savings:
$ 10.48 per day (drilled pipe) –  $ 4.16 per day (Super Air Knife) = $ 6.32 savings per day

A 12″ aluminum Super Air Knife carries a LIST price of $ 297.00. If we take $ 297.00 divided by $ 6.32 (saving per day), we get a ROI of only 47 days.

As you can see, it is quite beneficial to consider ALL of the parameters when looking at a process or application, rather than just the “upfront” details. What seems like a simple and easy fix, can actually be quite  wasteful when it comes to the true cost of ownership.

If you are using similar devices in your plant and would like to see how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can help make the process operate more efficiently, contact an application engineer for assistance.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer


Laminar Flow vs. Turbulent Flow – Calculations and Examples

Super Air Knife

What is laminar flow and turbulent flow?  Osborne Reynolds popularized this phenomenon with a dimensionless number, Re. This number is the ratio of the inertial forces to the viscous forces.  If the inertial forces are dominant over the viscous forces, the fluid will act in a violent and chaotic manner.  The formula to determine the Reynolds number is as follows:

Equation 1:  Re = V * Dh/u

Re – Reynolds Number (no dimensions)

V – Velocity (Feet/sec or Meters/sec)

Dh – hydraulic diameter (Feet or Meters)

u – Kinematic Viscosity (Feet^2/sec or Meter^2/sec)

The value of Re will determine the state in which the fluid (liquid or gas) will move.  If the Reynolds number, Re, is below 2300, then it is considered laminar (streamline and predictable).  If Re is greater than 4000, then it is considered turbulent (chaotic and disarrayed).  The area between these two numbers is the transitional area where you start to get small eddy currents and velocities in a non-linear direction.  When it comes to effective blowing, cleaning and lower noise levels, laminar flow is optimal.

Let’s do a comparison of Reynolds numbers between the EXAIR Super Air Knife and a blower-type air knife.  Both products are designed to clean and blow off wide areas like conveyor belts.  The EXAIR Super Air Knife is powered by compressed air, and the blower-type air knife is powered by an air blower.  The main difference between the two products is the dimension of the slot opening.  The Super Air Knife has a gap opening of 0.002″ (0.05mm).  It uses the force of the compressed air to “push” it through the small opening to create a strong velocity.  A blower does not generate a high force, so the opening of the blower-type air knife has to be larger to overcome any back pressure the opening creates.  The gap opening is typically 0.5″ (13mm).  From Equation 1 above, the gap opening helps determine the hydraulic diameter, Dh.  The hydraulic diameter is an equivalent tube diameter from a non-circular flow area.  Since both the Super Air Knives and blower-type air knives have rectangular cross sections, the Dh can be calculated as follows:

Equation 2: Dh = 2 * a * b/ (a + b)

Dh – Hydraulic Diameter (feet or meter)

a – Gap Opening (feet or meter)

b – Gap Width (feet or meter)

If we compare for example a standard 12″ wide air knife, we can calculate the hydraulic diameter, Dh, by using Equation 2:

Hydraulic Diameter Calculations


The exit velocity of the Super Air Knives can be changed by regulating the air pressure.  The higher the air pressure, the higher the velocity.  The blower type air knives can use a blower with a variable frequency drive (VFD) to change the exit velocity .  A reasonable air pressure for the Super Air Knife is 80 PSIG, and the exit velocity is near 540 ft/sec (164 m/s).  To equate this to a blower system, the size of the blower will determine the maximum velocity.  To do this comparison, I will use the same velocity as the Super Air Knife.  With the kinematic viscosity of air, it has a value of 0.000164 ft^2/sec (0.000015 m^2/sec) at 70 deg. F (21 deg C).  Now we have all the information for the comparison, and we can now find the Reynolds number from Equation 1:

Reynolds Number Calculation

As you can see from the above calculations, the Super Air Knife has a Reynolds number, Re, below 2300.  The flow characteristic is in the region of laminar (predictable and streamline).  The blower air knife has a Reynolds number, Re, above 4000.  The flow dynamic coming out of the blower-type air knife is turbulent (chaotic and disoriented).  To better show the difference in laminar flow and turbulent flow, I have a picture below that shows both states with water as a fluid (being that air is an invisible fluid).   Here is an example of water  coming out of a drain pipe at Cave Run Lake (first picture below).  With the inertial forces much higher than the viscosity of the water, it is in a turbulent state;  loud and disorderly.  Reynolds number is greater than 4000.  The water is traveling in different directions, even upstream.  As the water flows into the mouth of the river after the channel (second picture below), the waves transform from a violent mess into a quiet, calm stream flowing in the same direction.  This is laminar flow (Re is less than 2300).

Turbulent Water from Pipe
Turbulent Water from Pipe


From Channel to River
From Channel to River

With the engineered design of the Super Air Knife, the thin slot helps to create that laminar flow.  All the air is moving in the same direction, working together to give a higher force to remove debris.  If you have turbulent flow like that of a blower air knife, the noise level is much higher, and the disoriented forces are less effective in blowing.  Turbulence is useful for mixing, but horrible for trying to clean or wipe a conveyor belt.  If you have any open pipes, drilled pipes or blower-type air knives in your application, you should try an EXAIR product to see the difference.  An Application Engineers can help you take advantage of laminar airflow.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Receiver Tank Principle and Calculations


Visualization of the receiver tank concept

A receiver tank is a form of dry compressed air storage in a compressed air system.  Normally installed after drying and filtration, and before end use devices, receiver tanks help to store compressed air.  The compressed air is created by the supply side, stored by the receiver tank, and released as needed to the demand side of the system.

But how does this work?

The principle behind this concept is rooted in pressure differentials.  Just as we increase pressure when reducing volume of a gas, we can increase volume when reducing pressure.  So, if we have a given volume of compressed air at a certain pressure (P1), we will have a different volume of compressed air when converting this same air to a different pressure (P2).

This is the idea behind a receiver tank.  We store the compressed air at a higher pressure than what is needed by the system, creating a favorable pressure differential to release compressed air when it is needed.  And, in order to properly use a receiver tank, we must be able to properly calculate the required size/volume of the tank.  To do so, we must familiarize ourselves with the receiver tank capacity formula.

An EXAIR 60 gallon receiver tank

Receiver tank capacity formula

V = ( T(C-Cap)(Pa)/(P1-P2) )



V = Volume of receiver tank in cubic feet

T = Time interval in minutes during which compressed air demand will occur

C = Air requirement of demand in cubic feet per minute

Cap = Compressor capacity in cubic feet per minute

Pa = Absolute atmospheric pressure, given in PSIA

P1 = Initial tank pressure (Compressor discharge pressure)

P2 = minimum tank pressure (Pressure required at output of tank to operate compressed air devices)

An example:

Let’s consider an application with an intermittent demand spike of 50 SCFM of compressed air at 80 PSIG.  The system is operating from a 10HP compressor which produces 40 SCFM at 110 PSIG, and the compressed air devices need to operate for (5) minutes at this volume.

We can use a receiver tank and the pressure differential between the output of the compressor and the demand of the system to create a reservoir of compressed air.  This stored air will release into the system to maintain pressure while demand is high and rebuild when the excess demand is gone.

In this application, the values are as follows:

V = ?

T = 5 minutes

C = 50 CFM

Cap = 40 SCFM

Pa = 14.5 PSI

P1 = 110 PSIG

P2 = 80 PSIG

Running these numbers out we end up with:

This means we will need a receiver tank with a volume of 24.2 ft.³ (24.2 cubic feet equates to approximately 180 gallons – most receiver tanks have capacities rated in gallons) to store the required volume of compressed air needed in this system.  Doing so will result in a constant supply of 80 PSIG, even at a demand volume which exceeds the ability of the compressor.  By installing a properly sized receiver tank with proper pressure differential, the reliability of the system can be improved.

This improvement in system reliability translates to a more repeatable result from the compressed air driven devices connected to the system.  If you have questions about improving the reliability of your compressed air system, exactly how it can be improved, or what an engineered solution could provide, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We’re here to help.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

About Rotary Screw Air Compressors

Recently, EXAIR Application Engineers have written blogs about reciprocating type air compressors: Single Acting (by Lee Evans) and Dual Acting (by John Ball.) Today, I would like to introduce you, dear EXAIR blog reader, to another type: the Rotary Screw Air Compressor.

Like a reciprocating compressor, a rotary screw design uses a motor to turn a drive shaft. Where the reciprocating models use cams to move pistons back & forth to draw in air, compress it, and push it out under pressure, a rotary screw compressor’s drive shaft turns a screw (that looks an awful lot like a great big drill bit) whose threads are intermeshed with another counter-rotating screw. It draws air in at one end of the screw, and as it is forced through the decreasing spaces formed by the meshing threads, it’s compressed until it exits into the compressed air system.

Rotary Screw Air Compressor…how it works.

So…what are the pros & cons of rotary screw compressors?


*Efficiency.  With no “down-stroke,” all the energy of the shaft rotation is used to compress air.

*Quiet operation.  Obviously, a simple shaft rotating makes a lot less noise than pistons going up & down inside cylinders.

*Higher volume, lower energy cost.  Again, with no “down-stroke,” the moving parts are always compressing air instead of spending half their time returning to the position where they’re ready to compress more air

*Suitable for continuous operation.  The process of compression is one smooth, continuous motion.

*Availability of most efficient control of output via a variable frequency drive motor.

*They operate on the exact same principle as a supercharger on a high performance sports car (not a “pro” strictly speaking from an operation sense, but pretty cool nonetheless.)


*Purchase cost.  They tend to run a little more expensive than a similarly rated reciprocating compressor.  Or more than a little, depending on options that can lower operating costs.  Actually, this is only a “con” if you ignore the fact that, if you shop right, you do indeed get what you pay for.

*Not ideal for intermittent loads.  Stopping & starting a rotary screw compressor might be about the worst thing you can do to it.  Except for slacking on maintenance.  And speaking of which:

*Degree of maintenance.  Most maintenance on a reciprocating compressor is fairly straightforward (think “put the new part in the same way the old one came out.”)  Working on a rotary screw compressor often involves reassembly & alignment of internal parts to precision tolerances…something better suited to the professionals, and they don’t work cheap.

Like anything else, there are important factors to take under consideration when deciding which type of air compressor is most suitable for your needs.  At EXAIR, we always recommend consulting a reputable air compressor dealer in your area, helping them fully understand your needs, and selecting the one that fits your operation and budget.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Video blog : VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun

The following short video is a brief overview of our VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun. The VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun’s unique design features a variable flow trigger allowing you to achieve varying levels of force from the same nozzle.

If you have any questions, please  contact an application engineer at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer

Super Air Knives vs. Other Alternatives

There are many ways to blowoff, cool, and/or dry materials.  A few of these methods are the drilled pipe, an array of flat nozzles, using a blower driven air knife and the EXAIR Super Air Knife.  We’ll examine each in further detail, for blowoff of water after a bottling cleaning operation.  Testing was done at 60 PSIG of supply pressure.  The blower utilized a 10 hp motor and was a centrifugal type spinning at 18,000 RPM.  Sound levels were taken with product not present to test the sound of each of the blowoff types.

SAK black1 (2)

pipe-black (2)Drilled pipe is a common blowoff because it is very inexpensive and easy to make.  But drilled pipe performs poorly.  The low cost to make the drilled pipe is quickly outpaced by the inefficiency and high compressed air costs.  The holes are easily blocked and the noise level is excessive, both of which violate OSHA requirements.  Also, the air pattern across the length can be very inconsistent, with areas of low flow and areas of turbulent flow.

flatnozzle (2)Flat air nozzles installed along a length of pipe is another inexpensive option, but it can be a poor performer.  The flat nozzles are available in many materials, from many manufacturers.  The flat nozzles do offer some efficiencies, but similar to drilled pipe, the operating costs and noise levels are high. Air pattern across the length can be inconsistent with areas of high and low flows, leading to incomplete drying or cooling. Also, many of these nozzles are made from plastic material which breaks or cracks when it it hit which causes additional expense and maintenance to replace broken nozzles.

blower (2)A blower air knife can prove to be an expensive and noisy option.  Typically, the initial purchase price is high.  Operating costs are lower than the drilled pipe and flat nozzles and in line with the Super Air Knives.  The blowers can be very large and space for two 3″ diameter hoses requires extra mounting space compared to low profile other options. Noise levels are high, at 90 dBA.  Annual costs for bearing and filter maintenance can be significant.

gh_SAK_750x696EXAIR Super Air Knives performed exceptionally well in removing the water in one pass due to the strong, laminar flow of air.  Sound level was low at just 69 dBA, well within OSHA requirements for an hour 8 hour exposure time. Safe operation is assured, as the Super Air Knife design cannot be dead-ended.  Maintenance costs are low, as the Super Air Knife has no moving parts to breakdown or wear out.

** A pair of 12″ Super Air Knives was used for this comparison

Ultimately, the Super Air Knife is a low cost way to blowoff, dry, clean and cool.

If you have questions about Super Air Knives, or would like to talk about 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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