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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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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Cleaning Glass After a Cutting Machine, Super Air Knives to the Rescue

Glass cutting machine

A glass cutting facility was having issues with small shards of glass leaving the cutting machine.  After scribing and breaking individual panes, small pieces of glass would come apart from the edges of the glass.  These glass fragments would go downstream causing cuts on transport wheels as well as creating blemishes in the surface of the glass.  They needed a non-contact way to clean the glass as the panes left the cutting machine.

Their operation started with a 156” (3.96m) wide sheet of glass placed at the front of the cutting machine.  The glass was moved into the machine where it would scribe different dimensions and sizes to minimize any scrap.  As the machine was scribing, a protective separator would close off the cutting machine to protect the operators.  Once finished, the protective separator would open, allowing the glass sheet to exit on the other side of the machine.  As the glass was coming out, a break device would “crack” the glass panes on the scribed lines.  They wanted to clean the surface as the glass sheet was coming out to keep the fragments in the machine.

EXAIR Super Air Knife model 1100108

EXAIR has always been the leader in manufacturing the longest air knives in the industry.  The EXAIR Super Air Knives can be manufactured up to 108” (2.74m) long in one continuous length.  But, for this application, we had to tackle it in a different manner to reach across the entire width of 156” (3.96m).  EXAIR had a solution, the model 110900 Coupling Bracket Kit.  This can combine aluminum Super Air Knives for additional length.  It has all the hardware to securely attach the Super Air Knives end-to-end to get a continuous air flow along the entire length.  With the Coupling Bracket Kit, I recommended a model 110072, 72” (1.83m) long aluminum Super Air Knife with a model 110084, 84” (2.13m) aluminum Super Air Knife.  The customer was now able to clean the entire section of glass just in front of the exit of the cutting machine.  With the air knives directed to blow at a slight angle in the counter-flow direction, this non-contact form of cleaning was able to keep the shards inside the machine without scratching the surfaces.

Air Knife Coupling Bracket Kit

The Super Air Knives are designed to be the most efficient air knives in the market place.  It has a 40:1 amplification ratio which entrains 40 parts of ambient air to every 1 part of compressed air.  So, it will save you compressed air which in turn, will save you money.  Here at EXAIR, we like to go one step further for our customers.  EXAIR offers an Optimization product line to save the customer even more money, to reduce even more waste, and to become even more energy efficient.  For this customer above, I recommended an Electronic Flow Control, EFC.  This uses a photoelectric sensor to turn on a system only when compressed air is needed.  It is a small PLC unit with a timer control.  I recommended the model 9064-2 which has two solenoid valves to operate each Super Air Knife.  The photoelectric sensor can be adjusted for light and dark object, but for glass, we had to look for an alternative way.  I was able to have the customer place it on the protective separator.  Now, the Super Air Knives will remain turned off until after the scribing was completed. When the separator moved up, it would trigger the timing operation of the EFC.  By adding the EFC to their system, they were able to reduce the amount of compressed air by one-half.

click on picture for mor information

If you have a wide area that needs to be blown off, cooled, or dried; EXAIR may have a solution for you.  For the customer above, EXAIR was able to combine Super Air Knives with optimization for an efficient and effective way to clean a wide surface.  If you would like to discuss a solution for your “wide” application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR to discuss.

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

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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Super Air Knife Cools Laminated Packaging Material

I recently worked with one of our distributors on a Super Air Knife application for a manufacturer of flexible packaging material. They create the plastic material that is commonly wrapped around the outside of a wide variety of different containers. The material exits the laminating machine at about 129°F (54°C) and must be cooled to close to room temperature before it is able to be rolled without the material sticking together.

IMG_20180509_103254_HDR
Model 110012, positioned to maximize counter-flow

They performed a test with a Model 110012, recording the temperature after the knife and determined that it would be suitable for them. Prior to using the Super Air Knife, they had been using a series of fans to cool down the material. This worked to some degree, but they had been experiencing quality issues as a result of inadequate levels of cooling and were forced to slow down the laminating machine in order to compensate. By implementing the Super Air Knife, they were able to cool the material down to ambient temperatures without having to slow production. As an added measure, they ordered a second knife to install on the underside to further decrease the temperature of the material.

sak_cooling
Graph showing the effectiveness of a Super Air Knife vs. fans or no cooling method.

The laminar airflow of the Super Air Knife is critical to the success of any cooling application. A fan “slaps” the air which provides random spikes of air at moderate velocities. The uniform, high velocity, laminar sheet of air from the Super Air Knife, in addition to the low compressed air consumption, makes it a much more effective cooling method than fans. The design of the Super Air Knife allows it to entrain ambient air at a rate of 40:1, maximizing the force and flow from the knife while keeping compressed air usage to a minimum.

super-air-knife-flow
The design of the Super Air Knife allows it to entrain air from the top and bottom, creating a 40:1 air amplification ratio.

Super Air Knives are available in a range of different materials and sizes. From stock EXAIR carries knives from 3”-108” in Aluminum, 303 Stainless Steel, 316 Stainless Steel, and 3”-54” in PVDF (Polyvinylidene Fluoride) for superior resistance to highly corrosive materials. In addition to being an excellent tool for cooling, the Super Air Knife can solve a wide range of drying and blowoff applications. If you have an application that would be better served with one of EXAIR’s Super Air Knives, reach out to us today and get yours on order! We ship same day from stock with orders received by 3:00 pm EST, stop wasting time with ineffective cooling or blowoff methods!

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

Super Air Knife Coupling Kit Helps Customer Save Money and Increase Productivity!

I was recently contacted by a manufacturer of specialty food products that was looking to increase productivity on one of their packaging lines. In order to do so, they needed a longer Super Air Knife.

SS SAK cheese.jpg cropped
Model 110012SS-316 Super Air Knife

They manufacture a variety of different products, but this application was involving small snack-size blocks of cheese. They’re placed into individual plastic containers and before they seal the packaging any residual particles must be blown off or it will affect the seal. Any residual particles of cheese around the container would allow air to come into contact with the product and affect shelf-life.

In the current setup, they were using EXAIR’s Model 110012SS-316 a 12” 316 grade Stainless Steel Super Air Knife and the Model 9060 Universal Mounting System. They wanted to add in an additional two rows of cheese to help increase throughput. To do so, he needed an overall width of 18”. We do have an 18” available from stock, but rather than having a spare 12” model lying around he wanted to try and utilize what he had without having to purchase an entirely new knife.

uakmb
Model 9060 Universal Mounting System

Fortunately, EXAIR’s Super Air Knives can be coupled together to create a wide variety of different lengths. From stock, the Super Air Knife is available from 3”-108”. With the help of a Super Air Knife Coupling kit, we can achieve much longer lengths. In this case, although we did have an 18” knife available, we could also couple the existing 110012SS-316 (12”) with our Model 110006SS-316 (6”). This option was a bit cheaper than going with a new knife, and still allowed them to utilize the 12” that they already had.

gh_Super Air Knife Coupling Kit 750x696
Coupling Kit for Aluminum Super Air Knives

While this isn’t the typical place we’d recommend a coupling kit, it was an option that allowed the customer to save a bit of money but still get the same effect that they’d achieve with the 18” single piece knife. We also manufacture a wide variety of custom knives per customer specifications. If you’ve got an odd application that you don’t think is best served by a stock offering, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to take a look at your application and help recommend the most suitable product.

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

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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