Compressed Air System Maintenance

Air Compressor and Storage Tanks

Compressed air is the life blood of a manufacturing plant, and the air compressor would be considered the heart. To keep things “fit”, it is important to check all areas and to optimize your system to keep your plant running safely and efficiently. You do not have to be a doctor to do these “operations”. If your compressor fails, the entire facility will stop working. In this blog, I will cover some simple preventative maintenance that can really help you.

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into other areas to be more economical. A big focus today is the compressed air system. Compressed air is considered to be a “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity, and it is a necessary to run your pneumatic systems. But it is the least efficient of the utilities. So, it is very important to use this utility as practical as possible and to use a PM program to keep it going.

If we start at the beginning of your compressed air system, this would jump us to the air compressor. This is the machine that uses an electric or gas motor to spin a crank. It compresses the ambient air into a small volume to generate stored energy to be used by your pneumatic systems. Because the air compressor is complex and intricate, I would recommend a trained service personnel to do the maintenance. But, if your staff is familiar with air compressors, I wrote a blog to help look at certain parts periodically. You can read it here: “6 Basic Steps for Good Air Compressor Maintenance (And When to Do Them)”.

The next part after the air compressor is to look at the aftercoolers, compressed air dryers, receiver tanks, filters, and condensate drains. Some facilities may only have some of these items.

The aftercoolers are designed to cool the exit air from your air compressor. It uses a fan to blow ambient air across coils to lower the compressed air temperature. It is easy to check the fan to verify that it is spinning and to keep the coils clean from debris.

The compressed air dryers can range in size and type. For the refrigerant type air dryers, you should periodically check the freon compressor with ohm and amp readings, the condensers for cleaning, and the super heat temperature as well. For desiccant type air dryers, you will need to check the operation of the valves. Valves are used to regenerate one side of the desiccant bed. The valves can fail and stick either open or closed. In either way, if the desiccant cannot regenerate, then it will allow moisture to go down stream and eventually destroy the desiccant beads.

The receiver tanks have safety relief valves that will need to be checked to make sure that they are not leaking. If they are, they should be changed.

As for the filters, they collect contamination from the compressed air stream. This will include liquid water, oil, and dirt. A pressure drop will start to increase with the contaminants, which will reduce the potential energy. If they do not have pressure drop indicators, you should have two points of references for pressure readings. You should change the filter elements when the pressure drop reaches 10 PSID (0.7 bar) or after 1 year.

With all these items above, water is created. There should be condensate drains to discard the water. The most efficient types of condensate drains are the zero loss drains. Most condensate drains will have a test button to be pressed to verify that they open. If they do not open, they should be replaced or fixed. Do not place a valve on them and partially open for draining. For float type drains, they will have a pin inside that can be pressed to open. You can verify that all the liquid has been expelled.

The distribution system are the pipes and tubes that run compressed air from the supply side to the demand side of your pneumatic system. One of the largest problems affecting the distribution system are leaks. That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company much money. A study was conducted by a university to determine the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant. In a poorly maintained system, they found on average of 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.

To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130/year. That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines. Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean; so, leaks will not appear at the source. So, you have to find them by some other means.

Digital Flowmeter

 

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains. EXAIR has two products in our Optimization product line that are designed to help find leaks in your compressed air system.

The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for loss of air. When an air leaks occur, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence. These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above audible hearing for human. The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies to make inaudible leaks audible.

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously check your system for waste and record it with a USB Datalogger.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic system.  With a Digital Flowmeter, you can also isolate an area to watch for any flow readings; telling you that the air is leaking in that section.  With both products included in your leak-preventative program, you will be able to reduce your waste and optimize your compressed air system.

Family of Nozzles

At the point-of-use areas, this is the easiest target area for compressed air maintenance. If you are using open tubes or drilled pipes for blowing, they are loud, inefficient, and unsafe. They can be easily change to an engineered blow-off product from EXAIR which are very efficient and OSHA safe. EXAIR offers a range of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives to simply replace the current blow-off devices that overuse compressed air. If we go back to the beginning of your system, the air compressor is a mechanical device which will have a MTBF, or Mean Time Between Failures. The hour meter on your air compressor is like a life monitor. By using less compressed air, your air compressor will extend that time in MTBF.

Keeping your compressed air system running optimally is very important for a business to run. With a simple maintenance program, it can help you with your pneumatic operations and energy savings. Like stated above, your compressed air system is the life blood of your company, and you do not need a PhD to keep it well maintained. Just follow the target areas above. If you would like to discuss further about the health of your compressed air system, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to help “diagnose” a solution.

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

Promos, Freebies, and Some Amazing Products

Like many companies, here at EXAIR we generally always have a promotional offering.  These rotate throughout the months and this month is no different.  The current offering involves the EXAIR Cold Gun Aircoolant Systems.

These systems help to reduce cutting fluid use, increase production speeds, increase tool life, and has helped more customers than I know.  One customer in particular is a maintenance worker from a welded tube manufacturer.  This facility had very little amount of downtime permitted due to the high efficiency and high volume of orders.  When a machine went down the maintenance team were in like a trauma team to determine the cause of failure and get it remedied to get the line back up and running. One of the biggest problems they would have is when they would have to dry machine a quick part to get the machine back up and running, this would either ruin tools or they would have to slow down the machining time to get the surface finish and dimensions they truly needed.  After talking with us the team ordered a Single Point Cold Gun Aircoolant System as these parts were generally smaller shafts or machine dogs.

They received the system in and sure enough a machine went down.  The crew went to work and once the part needed was found they got to work on their lathe trying to make a new piece.  The Cold Gun held itself straight to the headstock thanks to the integrated magnet and the flexible single point hose kit routed the cold air straight to the cutting point.  They didn’t have to fill up the liquid tank or setup the mist system on the lathe, they simply turned on the compressed air and let the lathe do the work.  They were able to take what had recently been around a three hour machine job with heavy wear on tooling to a two hour job, no finish pass was needed on the part, and their tools weren’t completely spent by the end of the job.

They got the part back into the machine, made adjustments, and then went to work getting the machine back into production.

Right now, if you would like to try out a Cold Gun Aircoolant System you can order before 12/31/2019 and use the link to order through our promotion in order to receive a free Dual Point Hose Kit with your qualified purchase.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Webinar by EXAIR: Use This, Not That – Four Common Ways to Save Compressed Air in Your Plant

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Not much in life is free anymore. So, make sure and take advantage of EXAIR’s upcoming FREE webinar at 2:00 PM ET on 10/17/2019. Not only are we providing it for free, but in this webinar we’ll be discussing how you can save money by reducing your compressed air consumption. Something for free, that will help save you money? Almost unheard of these days!!! Hosted by one of our highly-trained Application Engineers, Jordan Shouse, you’ll learn about four common ways that you can easily save air in your facility.

Compressed air is often referred to as the fourth utility in industry. When used improperly, compressed air is extremely expensive. Homemade devices such as open-ended and drilled pipes, inefficient air nozzles, leaks, etc. all contribute to increased energy costs. In addition to being wasteful, these devices are not safe and compliant with OSHA standards and regulations. By using an Intelligent Compressed Air Product, you’ll be both saving money and creating a safer environment for your operators.

In this webinar, you’ll gain an understanding of the places in your facility that are wasting the most compressed air. We’ll educate you on the various engineered solutions available from EXAIR to help eliminate unnecessary compressed air usage. You’ll gain the knowledge necessary to determine the best solution based on the application, sound level, compressed air usage, and compliance with OSHA safety requirements. You’ll also learn about the various solutions available to help understand and optimize your compressed air system. You can’t begin implementing a plan to reduce air consumption until you fully understand the usage in your own facility and processes. EXAIR’s line of Optimization products are ideal to help you gain a baseline measurement and begin implementing new products and processes that’ll only help add to your bottom line.

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After the conclusion of the webinar will be a brief Q&A session where you can ask any questions you have about any of the topics covered. Unable to attend the webinar live? Don’t let that stop you from registering! Afterwards, each registrant will receive a link via e-mail where they’ll be able to access the full webinar at any time. Make sure and take advantage of this opportunity to gain some knowledge about the usage of your compressed air. You’ll be glad you did!

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

How to Manage Condensate in Your Compressed Air System

If you operate an air compressor, you’re drawing water vapor into your compressed air system.  Factors like climate control (or lack thereof,) and humidity will dictate how much.  If (or more to the point, when) it condenses, it becomes an issue that must be addressed.  There are several types of dryer systems to choose from, usually when you buy your compressor…we’ve covered those in a number of blogs.  Some of these can leave a little more water vapor than others, but remain popular and effective, when considering the cost, and cost of operation, of the different types.

So, how do you handle the condensate that the dryer doesn’t remove?

  • Receivers, or storage tanks (like EXAIR Model 9500-60, shown to the right,) are commonly used for several reasons:
    • By providing an intermediate storage of compressed air close to the point of use, fluctuations across the system won’t adversely affect an application that needs a constant flow and pressure.
    • This also can keep the air compressor from cycling rapidly, which leads to wear & tear, and additional maintenance headaches.
    • When fitted with a condensate drain (more on those in a minute,) they can serve as a wet receiver.  Condensate collects in the bottom and is manually, or automatically emptied.
  • Condensate drains, while popularly installed on receivers, are oftentimes found throughout larger systems where the vapor is prone to condense (intercoolers, aftercoolers, filters and dryers) and where the condensation can be particularly problematic (drip legs or adjacent to points of use.) There are a couple of options to choose from, each with their own pros & cons:
    • Manual drains are self explanatory: they’re ball valves; cycled periodically by operators.  Pros: cheap & simple.  Cons: easy to blow down too often or for too long, which wastes compressed air.  It’s also just as easy to blow down not often enough, or not long enough, which doesn’t solve the condensate problem.
    • Timer drains are self explanatory too: they cycle when the timer tells them to. Pros: still fairly cheap, and no attention is required.  Cons: they’re going to open periodically (per the timer setting) whether there’s condensate or not.
    • Demand, or “zero loss” drains collect condensate until their reservoir is full, then they discharge the water.  Pros: “zero loss” means just that…they only actuate when condensate is present, and they stop before any compressed air gets out.  Cons: higher purchase price, more moving parts equals potential maintenance concerns.
  • The “last line of defense” (literally) is point-of-use condensate removal.  This is done with products like EXAIR Automatic Drain Filter Separators.  They’re installed close to compressed air operated devices & products, oftentimes just upstream of the pressure regulator and/or flow controls…the particulate filter protects against debris in these devices, and the centrifugal element “spins” any last remaining moisture from the compressed air flow before it gets used.
Good engineering practice calls for point of use filtration and moisture removal, such as that provided by EXAIR Filter Separators.

Efficient and safe use of your compressed air includes maintaining the quality of your compressed air.  If you’d like to find out more about how EXAIR Corporation can help you get the most out of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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