Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System – Step 1: Measure

“To measure is to know – if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”
-Lord Kelvin, mathematical physicist, engineer,and pioneer in the field of thermodynamics.

This is true of most anything. If you want to lose weight, you’re going to need a good scale. If you want to improve your time in the 100 yard dash, you’re going to need a good stopwatch. And if you want to decrease compressed air consumption, you’ll need a good flowmeter. In fact, this is the first of six steps that we can use to help you optimize your compressed air system.

Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

There are various methods of measuring fluid flow, but the most popular for compressed air is thermal mass air flow.  This has the distinct advantage of accurate and instantaneous measurement of MASS flow rate…which is important, because measuring VOLUMETRIC flow rate would need to be corrected for pressure in order to determine the true compressed air consumption.  My colleague John Ball explains this in detail in a most excellent blog on Actual (volume) Vs. Standard (mass) Flows.

So, now we know how to measure the mass flow rate.  Now, what do we do with it?  Well, as in the weight loss and sprint time improvements mentioned earlier, you have to know what kind of shape you’re in right now to know how far you are from where you want to be.  Stepping on a scale, timing your run, or measuring your plant’s air flow right now is your “before” data, which represents Step One.  The next Five Steps are how you get to where you want to be (for compressed air optimization, that is – there may be a different amount of steps towards your fitness/athletic goals.)  So, compressed air-wise, EXAIR offers the following solutions for Step One:

Digital Flowmeter with wireless capability.  This is our latest offering, and it doesn’t get any simpler than this.  Imagine having a flowmeter installed in your compressed air system, and having its readings continually supplied to your computer.  You can record, analyze, manipulate, and share the data with ease.

Monitor your compressed air flow wirelessly over a ZigBee mesh network.

Digital Flowmeter with USB Data Logger.  We’ve been offering these, with great success, for almost seven years now.  The Data Logger plugs into the Digital Flowmeter and, depending on how you set it up, records the flow rate from once a second (for about nine hours of data) up to once every 12 hours (for over two years worth.)  Pull it from your Digital Flowmeter whenever you want to download the data to your computer, where you can view & save it in the software we supply, or export it directly into Microsoft Excel.

From the Digital Flowmeter, to your computer, to your screen, the USB Data Logger shows how much air you’re using…and when you’re using it!

Summing Remote Display.  This connects directly to the Digital Flowmeter and can be installed up to 50 feet away.  At the push of a button, you can change the reading from actual current air consumption to usage for the last 24 hours, or total cumulative usage.  It’s powered directly from the Digital Flowmeter, so you don’t even need an electrical outlet nearby.

Monitor compressed air consumption from a convenient location, as well as last 24 hours usage and cumulative usage.

Digital Flowmeter.  As a stand-alone product, it’ll show you actual current air consumption, and the display can also be manipulated to show daily or cumulative usage. It has milliamp & pulse outputs, as well as a Serial Communication option, if you can work with any of those to get your data where you want it.

With any of the above options, or stand-alone, EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter is your best option for Step One to optimize your compressed air system.

Stay tuned for more information on the other five steps.  If you just can’t wait, though, you can always give me a call.  I can talk about compressed air efficiency all day long, and sometimes, I do!

 

What’s In A Name?

Well, a lot, actually…if that name is EXAIR. I wrote a blog just last week about how a set of Super Air Knives solved a MAJOR problem with a brand new aluminum sawing application – the company got those Super Air Knives on the recommendation of the Maintenance Supervisor, who had used them, with great success, at a previous company.

Even more recently, I had the pleasure of helping a caller from an engineering firm that specifies a wide range of our products for use in their OEM machinery:

*Air Knives & Nozzles for automated blow offs.
*Cabinet Cooler Systems for electrical/electronics heat protection.
*E-Vac Vacuum Generators for end-of-arm robotics “pick & place.”

Turns out, they use a good amount of compressed air in their manufacturing facility and (did I mention they’re an engineering firm?) they’re interested in implementing a facilities resource management program. For one part of this, they want to know how much compressed air they’re using, when they’re using it, and what they’re using it for. And when presented with a question about compressed air, they thought about EXAIR…and wanted to know more about the Digital Flowmeter.

EXAIR's Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger
EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

We discussed everything from theory of operation, to best practices for installation (location, position, etc.,) to accuracy, to getting the flow data…and we’ve got a few options for that:

*The Digital Flowmeter itself can output a 4-20mA signal, or there’s an optional RS-485 output board available.
*The USB Data Logger connects directly to the Digital Flowmeter and records flow rate data – about 9 hours’ worth if measured once a second; 2 years’ worth if measured every 12 hours. When removed from the Digital Flowmeter and plugged into your computer, you can use its software, or Microsoft Excel, to view & analyze the data.
*The Summing Remote Display offers instant indication of current flow rate, previous 24 hours’ air consumption, and cumulative total usage, all at the push of a button.

EXAIR's Remote Summing Display - see current flow rate, previous 24 hours' consumption, or total cumulative usage, at the push of a button!
EXAIR’s Summing Remote Display – see current flow rate, previous 24 hours’ consumption, or total cumulative usage, at the push of a button!

The latter turned out to be the best fit for my caller – the main supply header runs right past his office, and, if he can sell his facilities folks on it, he can install the Summing Remote Display on the wall, right next to his desk.  Easy as that.

EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products have made a name for themselves in many places like this. Here at the factory, we’re all dedicated to spreading, and reinforcing, that reputation for excellence. If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Low Pressure Alarms Got You Down?

When the operating air pressure within a manufacturing facility drops it is easily noticed.  This is because the equipment that is depending on that air pressure to stay above a set point will generally stop working and halt in an alarm state safely.  (This is not always the case and in fact I have personally seen machines crash due to low compressed air pressure.)  This creates down time, safety hazards, equipment hazards and is all around not good for production.  This is why low pressure alarms are taken very seriously in most facilities.(See the video below.)

 

Sometimes the reason behind low air pressure in areas is easy to find.  If the alarm happens every time a machine reaches a point in the production cycle where air is used to blow parts off then the point of use blow off can be looked at to see how its efficiency can be maximized.   Other times it is not so simple.  There may not be a pattern to when the low pressure alarm goes off and therefore cannot be easily traced.   This is where the 6 Steps To Compressed Air Optimization comes in to play.  The best way to narrow down what area the fault is generating in is to get some base line measurements on the total air usage for the system by using a product like the Digital Flowmeter with USB Data logger.

EXAIR's Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger
EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

Once the baseline is known for the complete system, measuring the main branch lines for the systems will then need to be performed. This could be on the main header where it branches off to individual areas of the plant, or if it is a small shop any line that is off the main header.  By recording the usage over a period of time it will highlight use trends including low use/high use times and random spikes in demand you may not be aware of. The next step would be to then look further into the high use and random spikes. If a flow meter is placed on individual legs of the air system, it will be easier to determine what area of the plant is causing high use, or knowing what processes occur during the time period shown in the data.

By having flow meters on individual branches the cause of the high demand on the compressed air system will become very clearer, whether it be an open pipe blow off, stuck valve on a drain, or just an operator not paying attention, the cause will be able to be determined and eliminated.

EXAIR offers a full range of Digital Flowmeters with USB data loggers and we offer custom calibrations as well as sizes to fit virtually any compressed air piping you may have within your facility.   Feel free to contact an Application Engineer to discuss the possibilities.

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

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

And this was never more true than in a conversation I had with the facilities engineer at a manufacturing plant recently. Their business has grown so much over the past few years to cause a move into a larger building. They took this opportunity to install some engineered compressed air products, and, with the brand-new building, they also got brand-new compressed air piping, which the contractor has just completed post-installation testing on, and it’s leak free. Good news!

They noticed, however, that the run time hours on their air compressors (which were in fine shape, and simply moved from the old facility) hadn’t appreciably decreased. The engineer was looking for another way to measure…and quantify…their compressed air usage, and was interested in our Digital Flowmeters.

Available for a wide range of SCH40 Iron or Type "L" Copper, EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are quick to install and easy to operate.
Available for a wide range of SCH40 Iron or Type “L” Copper, EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are quick to install and easy to operate.

Of primary concern during our conversation was, how could they track their usage? Would someone have to check the Digital Flowmeter reading periodically? What about intermittent uses? They have a TON of hand-held air guns throughout the plant…what if they read the meter when only a few were in use? Or if they ALL were in use?

There are a couple of options for that…our Digital Flowmeters are all supplied with both 4-20mA and RS-485 Serial connections, which are easily outputted to an appropriate device. You can run this right to your computer, and there are a variety of programs that will allow you to collect and manage this data.

They intend to install this Digital Flowmeter in the compressor room, though…and even though it’s well within the maximum distance for RS-485 serial – it’s good for distances up to 4,000 feet (1,200 meters,) it would be impractical to run a cable through the building.

Enter the USB Datalogger: this is going to allow them to “take a snapshot” of their usage, at specified intervals…in this case, every 10 seconds, which means the USB Datalogger will collect and store data for over three days. It has its own proprietary software, which you’ll use to set the frequency of readings, choose units & graph scale, high/low alarm points (if desired) and even when you want to start recording. This would, for example, let you record data on the mid-shift, without staying at work until midnight to start recording. VERY convenient, as far as I’m concerned.

Once it’s installed and running, I hope to work with them on the next steps towards optimizing their compressed air system…but we’re off to a good start!

Looking to "go green?" We can help.
Looking to “go green?” We can help.

If you want to talk about getting the most out of your compressed air system, give us a call. We’re here to help.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Video Blog: Digital Flowmeter Installation

Brian Farno and I were working on a conveyor project recently. Part of the piping installation included installation of a Digital Flowmeter. We thought we would capture the process so you can see how easy it is to put one into service.  Enjoy!

Neal Raker, Application Engineer
nealraker@exair.com