Compressed Air System Maintenance

When I was seventeen my grandfather took me to a used are dealership and helped me buy my first car. It wasn’t anything special, as it was a 1996  Chevrolet Lumina. It had its fair share of bumps and bruises, but the bones were solid. We took it home and he taught me how to do all the basics, we changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, brakes, pretty much every fluid we could, we changed.

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You see my grandfather retired from Ford Motor Company after 50+ years of service. And he always said, “If you treat it right, it will treat you right.”; and I’ve lived by that ever since.

Just like a car, air compressors require regular maintenance to run at peak performance and minimize unscheduled downtime. Inadequate maintenance can have a significant impact on energy consumption via lower compression efficiency, air leakage, or pressure variability. It can also lead to high operating temperatures, poor moisture control, and excessive contamination.

Most problems are minor and can be corrected by simple adjustments, cleaning, part replacement, or the elimination of adverse conditions. This maintenance is very similar to the car maintenance mentioned above, replace filters, fluids, checking cooling systems, check belts and identify any leaks and address.

All equipment in the compressed air system should be maintained in accordance with the manufacturers specifications. Manufacturers provide inspection, maintenance, and service schedules that should be followed strictly. In many cases, it makes sense from efficiency and economic stand-points to maintain equipment more frequently than the intervals recommended by the manufactures, which are primarily designed to protect equipment.

One way to tell if your system is being maintained well and is operating properly is to periodically baseline the system by tracking power, pressure, flow (EXAIR Digital Flowmeter), and temperature. If power use at a given pressure and flow rate goes up, the systems efficiency is degrading.

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Air Compressor

Types Of Maintenance

Maintaining a compressed air system requires caring for the equipment, paying attention to changes and trends, and responding promptly to maintain operating reliability and efficiency. Types of maintenance include;

  1. Poor Maintenance – Sadly, some plants still operate on the philosophy, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Due to the lack of routine preventative maintenance, this practice may result in complete replacement of an expensive air compressor as well as unscheduled and costly production interruptions.
  2. Preventive  Maintenance – This type of maintenance can be done by plant personnel or by an outside service provider. Usually, it includes regularly scheduled monitoring of operating conditions. Replacement of air and lubricant filters, lubricant sampling and replacement, minor repairs and adjustments, and an overview of compressor and accessory equipment operation.
  3. Predictive  Maintenance – Predictive maintenance involves monitoring compressor conditions and trends , including operating parameters such as power use, pressure drops, operating temperatures, and vibration levels. The Right combination of preventive and predictive maintenance generally will minimize repair and maintenance costs.
  4. Proactive Maintenance – If a defect is detected, proactive maintenance involves looking for the cause and determining how to prevent a recurrence.

Unfortunately, even the best maintenance procedures cannot eliminate the possibility of an unexpected breakdown. Provisions should be made for standby equipment to allow maintenance with out interrupting production.

If you would like to discuss improving your compressed air efficiency or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Images Courtesy of Tampere Hacklab

The Importance of Compressed Air Filtration

In this blog, I would like to turn your attention to our accessories that support our Intelligent Compressed Air® Products; the Filter Separator and the Oil Removing Filter.  EXAIR products use compressed air to coat, conserve, cool, convey and clean.  So, to keep our products running properly and efficiently, we need to supply them with clean, pressurized air.  If we look at the two types of filters that we offer, we can see how they can play an important part in your compressed air system.

Filter Separators

Filter separators are used to remove bulk liquid and contamination from the compressed air stream.  They have a 5-micron filter and work very well if you get a slug of liquid in your compressed air system.  They use mechanical separation to remove the large particles of dirt and water from the air stream.

Most facilities use some type of compressed air dryer in their system to dry and condition the compressed air.  But, if a system failure occurs, then water, oil, and dirt can be pushed into the compressed air lines and perhaps into your EXAIR products.

Even if you have good quality air, it is still important to keep your products protected.  I would consider the Filter Separator as a minimum level of protection that should be used.

Oil Removal Filters

The Oil Removal Filters are used to keep the compressed air even cleaner yet.  They work great at removing very small particles of dirt and oil.  The 0.03-micron media of the Oil Removal Filter is designed to “coalesce” the fine liquid particles into large droplets.

Thus, allowing gravity to remove it from the compressed air stream.  Some common issues allow for dirt and oil particles to collect in “dead” zones within the air lines.  As it piles up and grows, portions can break off and get into the air stream affecting pneumatic devices.

The Oil Removal Filter will be able to help eliminate this long-term problem in your compressed air system.  As a note, Oil Removal Filters are not great for bulk separation.  If you have a system with lots of water, you should use a Filter Separator in front of the Oil Removal Filter to optimize the filtration.

Now that we went through each type, how do we use them together to get the best supply of compressed air?  We always want them to be installed upstream of a Regulator.  This is because the velocity is lower at higher pressures.

Lower velocities mean lower pressure drops which is great for supplying the proper amount of compressed air to EXAIR products.  If you are using a combination of both filters, the Filter Separator will be upstream of the Oil Removal Filter.  The Filter Separator will knock down the large particles and liquid slugs allowing the Oil Removal Filter to remove the smaller droplets and particles.

EXAIR offers a range of sizes to help support our products.  They range from ¼” NPT ports up to 1 ½” NPT ports.  The size of the ports determines the flow rating for each unit.  EXAIR also has Mounting Brackets to mount the filters to walls or frames.

To support each type of filter, we have replacement elements and bowl kits.  Since the function of the filter is to remove debris, we recommend to change the filter element once a year or when it reaches 10 PSID pressure drop; whichever comes first.

If we can analyze the compressed air systems, I would like to categorize it into a good and premium quality.  For the good quality of compressed air, you can have the compressed air run through the Filter Separator.  For the premium quality of compressed air, you can have your compressed air run through the Filter Separator and then through the Oil Removal Filter.

With clean quality air, your EXAIR products will provide you with effective, long-lasting performance without maintenance downtime.

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

What’s The Big Deal About Clean Air?

Compressed air isn’t called manufacturing’s “Fourth Utility” (the first three being electricity, water, and natural gas) for nothing. Pneumatic tools are popular because they’re often so much lighter than their electric counterparts. Compressed air can be stored in receiver tanks for use when other power supplies are unavailable or not feasible. Many compressed air operated products can be made to withstand environmental factors (high/low temperature, corrosive elements, atmospheric dust, oil, other contaminants, etc.,) that would make electric devices very expensive, unwieldy, or impractical.

One of the most valuable considerations, though, is that your compressed air system is, by and large, under your control.  The type and capacity of your air compressor can be determined by your specific operational needs.  The header pressure in your supply lines is based on the applications that your air-operated devices are used for.  And the performance & lifespan of every single component in your compressed air system is determined by the care you take in maintaining it.

I covered the importance of compressed air system maintenance in a blog a while back…today, I want to focus on clean air.  And, like the title (hopefully) makes you think, it’s a REALLY big deal.  Consider the effects of the following:

Debris: solid particulates can enter your air system through the compressor intake, during maintenance, or if lines are undone and remade.  If you have moisture in your air (more on that in a minute,) that can promote corrosion inside your pipes, and rust can flake off in there.  Almost all of your air operated products have moving parts, tight passages, or both…debris is just plain bad for them.  And if you use air for blow off (cleaning, drying, etc.,) keep in mind that anything in your compressed air system will almost certainly get on your product.

Your compressed air system may be equipped with a main filter at the compressor discharge.  This is fine, but since there is indeed potential for downstream ingress (as mentioned above,) point-of-use filtration is good engineering practice.  EXAIR recommends particulate filtration to 5 microns for most of our products.

Water: moisture is almost always a product of condensation, but it can also be introduced through faulty maintenance, or by failure of the compressor’s drying or cooling systems.  Any way it happens, it’s also easy to combat with point-of-use filtration.

EXAIR includes an Automatic Drain Filter Separator in our product kits to address both of these concerns.  A particulate filter element traps solids, and a centrifugal element “spins” any moisture out, collecting it in the bowl, which is periodically drained (automatically, as the name implies) by a float.

Point of use filtration is key to the performance of your compressed air products, and their effectiveness. Regardless of your application, EXAIR has Filter Separators to meet most any need.

Oil: many pneumatic tools require oil for proper operation, so, instead of removing it, there’s going to be a dedicated lubricator, putting oil in the air on purpose.  Optimally, this will be as close to the tool as possible, because not all of your compressed air loads need oil…especially your blow offs.  If, however, a blow off device is installed downstream of a lubricator (perhaps due to convenience or necessity,) you’ll want to do something about that oil. Remember, anything in your system will get blown onto your product.

If this is the case, or you just want to have the cleanest air possible (keep in mind there is no downside to that,) consider an EXAIR Oil Removal Filter.  They come in a range of capacities, up to 310 SCFM (8,773 SLPM,) and the coalescing element also offers additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.

In closing, here’s a video that shows you, up close and personal, the difference that proper filtration can make:

If you’d like to discuss or debate (spoiler alert: I’ll win) the importance of clean air, and how EXAIR can help, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Oil Removal Filters – Keeping Compressed Air Clean

Compressed air filters help to keep the air clean and condensate free to protect equipment from dust, dirt, pipe scale, oil and water. Even though the compressed air system will typically have a main dryer, additional treatment is often necessary. For this discussion, we will focus on the oil removal process and filter type.

After the compressed air has passed through a particulate filter, the dirt, dust and water droplets have been removed.  Oil that is present is much smaller in size, and mostly passes though the particulate filter.  The installation of a coalescing filter will provide for the removal of the majority of the fine oil aerosols that remain. The coalescing filter works differently than the particulate filters. The compressed air flows from inside to outside through the coalescing filter media. The term ‘coalesce’ means to ‘come together’ or ‘form one mass.’  The process of coalescing filtration is a continuous process where the small aerosols of oil come in contact with fibers of the filter media. As other aerosols are collected, they will join up and ‘come together’ and grow to become an oil droplet, on the downstream or outside surface of the media.  Gravity will then cause the droplet to drain away and fall off the filter element.

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Example of a 0.03 Micron Coalescing Oil Removal Filter

Some important information to keep in mind –

  • Change the filter regularly, not just when the differential pressures exceeds recommended limits, typically 5 PSI
  • Coalescing filters will remove solids too, at a higher capture rate due to the fine level of filtration, using a pre-filter for solids will extend the life
  • Oil free compressors do not provide oil free air, as the atmospheric air drawn in for compression contains oil vapors that will cool and condense in the compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about oil removal filters or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, 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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What Makes A Compressed Air System “Complete”?

It’s a good question.  When do you know that your compressed air system is complete?  And, really, when do you know, with confidence, that it is ready for use?

A typical compressed air system. Image courtesy of Compressed Air Challenge.

Any compressed air system has the basic components shown above.  A compressed air source, a receiver, dryer, filter, and end points of use.   But, what do all these terms mean?

A compressor or compressed air source, is just as it sounds.  It is the device which supplies air (or another gas) at an increased pressure.  This increase in pressure is accomplished through a reduction in volume, and this conversion is achieved through compressing the air.  So, the compressor, well, compresses (the air).

A control receiver (wet receiver) is the storage vessel or tank placed immediately after the compressor.  This tank is referred to as a “wet” receiver because the air has not yet been dried, thus it is “wet”.  This tank helps to cool the compressed air by having a large surface area, and reduces pulsations in the compressed air flow which occur naturally.

The dryer, like the compressor, is just as the name implies.  This device dries the compressed air, removing liquid from the compressed air system.  Prior to this device the air is full of moisture which can damage downstream components and devices.  After drying, the air is almost ready for use.

To be truly ready for use, the compressed air must also be clean.  Dirt and particulates must be removed from the compressed air so that they do not cause damage to the system and the devices which connect to the system.  This task is accomplished through the filter, after which the system is almost ready for use.

To really be ready for use, the system must have a continuous system pressure and flow.  End-use devices are specified to perform with a required compressed air supply, and when this supply is compromised, performance is as well.  This is where the dry receiver comes into play.  The dry receiver is provides pneumatic capacitance for the system, alleviating pressure changes with varying demand loads.  The dry receiver helps to maintain constant pressure and flow.

In addition to this, the diagram above shows an optional device – a pressure/flow control valve.  A flow control valve will regulate the volume (flow) of compressed air in a system in response to changes in flow (or pressure).  These devices further stabilize the compressed air system, providing increased reliability in the supply of compressed air for end user devices.

Now, at long last, the system is ready for use.  But, what will it do?  What are the points of use?

Points of use in a compressed air system are referred to by their end use.  These are the components around which the entire system is built.  This can be a pneumatic drill, an impact wrench, a blow off nozzle, a pneumatic pump, or any other device which requires compressed air to operate.

If your end use devices are for coating, cleaning, cooling, conveying or static elimination, EXAIR Application Engineers can help with engineered solutions to maximize the efficiency and use of your compressed air.  After placing so much effort into creating a proper system, having engineered solutions is a must.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

EXAIR Accessories – We’ve Got you Covered

When you work with us here at EXAIR, we strive to have all the ancillary items that you might need to make your installation a success, without having to find components at the last minute or perhaps using the wrong sized components. Each specific product line such as Super Air Knives or Line Vac air operated conveyors have specific accessories such as mounting brackets or plumbing kits which EXAIR has made to simplify the installation of those particular products. We also carry generalized accessories which work across all of the product lines so you do not have to use multiple vendors or purchase orders.

Silencing Mufflers – Per OSHA Standard 1910.95(a), a worker must not be exposed to sounds levels above 90 dBA for any eight hour shift of a 40 hour work week.  EXAIR offers several types of mufflers including – Reclassifying, Sintered Bronze, Straight-Through and Heavy Duty.  For reducing the noise associated with an EXAIR E-Vac Generator, Vortex Tube, Cabinet Cooler System, or the exhaust air from cylinders, valves and other air powered equipment, we’ve got a muffler that will help to keep the noise level at an acceptable level.

Mufflers

Solenoid and Manual Valves – The easiest way to reduce compressed air usage and save on operating expense is to turn off the compressed air to a device when it isn’t needed. EXAIR carries a wide assortment of solenoid valves, with offerings in the NEMA 4/4X classification, and supply voltages of 24VDC, 120VAC, and 240VAC.  We also have manual ball valves from 1/4 NPT to 1-1/4 NPT and a foot operated valve, with 1/4 NPT connections.

Valves

Swivel Fittings, Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases – To provide a great degree of flexibility for positioning an EXAIR Super Air Nozzle, Air Jets or Air Amplifiers, EXAIR offers several items.  The Swivel Fittings have 25 degree of movement from the center axis, providing a total of 50 degree of adjustability.  The position is locked in place and holds until adjustment is needed. For applications where frequent re-positioning of the air device is required, the Stay Set Hoses are ideal.  Simply mount the hose close to the application, bend it to the shape preferred, and because the hose has “memory”, it will not creep or bend.  Lastly, the Magnetic Bases are another option for flexible, movable installations.  The base has a on/off valve, and a powerful magnet to hold in any vertical or horizontal mounting arrangement.

Swivels, StaySets,MagBases2

 

Hoses – EXAIR can provide hoses for your application.  For the Line Vac air operated conveyor applications, we offer conveyance hose – a durable, clear reinforced PVC hose, in diameters of 3/8″ to 3″ ID, and lengths up to 50′. On the compressed air side, we can provide 12′ Coiled Hoses with 1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 NPT connections, and also 3/8″ and 1/2″ ID hose in lengths to 50′.

Hoses

Filter Separators, Oil Removal Filters and Pressure Regulators – Perhaps the most important accessories for use on a compressed air device are filters and regulators. Filtering the compressed air of dirt, debris, moisture and oil will help to prevent build up inside the EXAIR products, leading to longer service life, and less time spent cleaning, while providing optimum performance. Regulating the air pressure allows for tuning of the performance, using the proper amount of compressed air to obtain satisfactory results.

Filter and Regualtors

If you have questions regarding accessories for use with 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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Super Air Wipe Controls Coating Thickness On Tubing

A large manufacturing company called looking for a better solution to control the thickness of a curing agent being applied to the outside of tubing used in the automotive industry. The tubing is formed in an extruder and travels through a liquid cooling chamber and then air dried. After the tubing is dried, it is sent to a spray chamber where the curing agent is applied to the exterior. On the exit side of the spray chamber, the customer had installed several flexible air lines placed around the perimeter of the tubing to blow air across the surface to help control the coating thickness. This worked somewhat but they were seeing an increase in the amount of rejected material as the air pattern was sporadic and uneven, which caused streaking and dry spots in certain areas of the tubing. They reviewed our web site and familiarized themselves with our Air Wipes but were unsure of the best design and size to fit their need so they reached out for assistance.

After further discussing the process, their tube O.D. sizes range from 3/8″ – 1/2″, making our 1″ Air Wipe the ideal solution. As far as the design, the Standard or Super Air Wipe, I recommended they use our Model # 2451 Super Air Wipe kit due to the aluminum construction and stainless steel wired braided hoses being able to withstand the potential temperature in the area of 200°F. The kit includes a filter separator to remove any water or contaminants in the supply and a pressure regulator which would allow them to control the flow and force of the exiting air, to help “dial” it in to fit the demand of the application.

Super Air Wipe is available in sizes from 1/2″ up to 11″ in Aluminum construction and up to 4″ in Stainless Steel construction.

 

EXAIR Air Wipes features a split design, which can easily be clamped around the material, to provide a 360° uniform airflow, perfect for treating the surface of round shapes, like extruded tubing. If you have an application where you are needing to dry, cool or clean the outside of a pipe, hose or cable, contact an application engineer for help making the best product selection.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN