Going Outside The Box With Vortex Tubes

Among EXAIR’s comprehensive line of Intelligent Compressed Air Products, the Vortex Tube stands out as a unique, and fascinating, solution for a variety of applications requiring a flow of cold air:

  • Cabinet Cooler Systems: clean, cold air to protect electrical and electronic components housed in an enclosure.  Installs in minutes; no moving parts; reliable & maintenance free.
  • Cold Gun Aircoolant Systems:  Direct, focused flow of cold air to replace messy coolant in machining, cutting, drilling, grinding, etc., applications.  Integral magnet base for quick & easy installation; single or dual outlet hose kits; standard or High Power to meet any need.  Optimized flow for maximum cooling and freeze prevention.
  • Adjustable Spot Cooler: Similar to the Cold Guns in many ways, but with variable performance for specific applications.  Cold air to -30°F (-34°C) on demand.
  • Mini Cooler: Similar to the Cold Guns and Adjustable Spot Coolers – magnetic base mounting and single or dual outlet hose kits, but more compact.  Lower flows for smaller jobs.

Then there are the Vortex Tubes themselves…at the heart of all of these products, but perfectly capable all on their own.  In fact, in certain situations, “plain old” Vortex Tubes have been used to do the exact same jobs as all of the above products.  They can even be customized, in and of themselves, to meet specific installation, operation, and/or performance needs:

  • High Temperatures: It should come as no surprise that cold air is often needed because a heat-sensitive item is located in a high heat environment.
    • Vortex Tubes come standard with plastic Generators and Buna o-rings, which are good for ambient temperatures up to 125°F (52°C).
    • High Temperature Vortex Tubes are fitted with brass Generators and Viton o-rings for environments where the temperature can reach 200°F (93°C).
High Temperature Vortex Tubes are suitable for use in environments up to 200F (93C).
  • Preset temperature & flow: Many times, the ability to adjust the performance of a Vortex Tube is a big benefit, but occasionally it’s a liability.
    • I know none of your co-workers are like this (nor are mine) but I’ve heard of people who think they “know better” and are prone to tampering with something that is (or WAS) working just fine, thank you very much.
    • Perhaps you actually DO know better, through experimentation and experience, the optimal performance setting for your application.  Let’s say, for example, you install Vortex Tubes on a line of your products, and a technician has to “dial it in” to a specific Cold Fraction.
    • Any Vortex Tube can be fitted with a drilled orifice (or “Hot Plug”) to replace  the Hot Valve, which presets performance to a specific, non-adjustable value.  If you know the Cold Fraction you need, it’s as easy as that.  If not, it’s as easy as getting a stock Vortex Tube, setting the Cold Fraction where you want it, securing the Hot Valve in position (piece of tape works just fine,) and sending it in.
Preset Vortex Tubes feature a fixed plug, replacing the Hot Valve shown in this picture.

If you’ve got any other specific requirements – special materials, fittings, custom flow/temperature parameters, etc., give me a call; let’s talk.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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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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Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives Remove Pesky Dust from Crepe Paper Manufacturing Process

Paper Measuring Equipment

A paper manufacturer was having issues with their measuring equipment (reference photo above).  They were producing 6” (152mm) wide crepe paper which is very thin and dusty.  As it would pass through the machine, a real-time measurement of basis weight and moisture content was being performed.  The basis weight of the sheet was around 14g/m2 which is like facial tissue.  The machine was giving false errors in the basis weight measurement.  As they opened the device, they noticed dust particles on the optical lens.  Because the basis weight was so small, any dust would cause a false reading.  They contacted EXAIR to see if we could help with their problem.

With a dry fibrous material like crepe paper, static can be a big issue.  Static has a strong force that can cause small fragments to “stick” to surfaces.  As you can see in the photo, the paper material is sticking to the sides and lens of the measuring device.  For this application,  I recommended two pieces of the model 112206 Gen4 Super Ion Air Knife Kits.  The Gen4 Super Ion Air Knife is uniquely designed to have two functions; remove static and blow off dust.  The Gen4 Ionizing Bar creates both positive and negative ions to remove any type of static charge.  The Super Air Knife creates a laminar air stream to carry the ions and also generate an even blowing force to remove the dust particles from the surface.  With this combination, it becomes a very effective non-contact way to remove the contamination.  This was an important requirement as the crepe paper is very thin and could break very easily.  They were able to mount one Super Ion Air Knife above and below the paper in order to blow the dust particles in a counter-flow direction.  This would keep the particles from entering the measurement device.

Super Ion Air Knife Kit

The Super Ion Air Knife Kit includes the Super Air Knife with a Gen4 Ionizing Bar attached.  The kit also includes a power supply, filter, regulator, and a shim set.  The power supply is specifically designed for the Gen4 Static Eliminators.  The Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives use the high voltage from the power supply to generate enough ions to remove static from the paper at a running speed of 49.5 ft/sec (15m/sec).  The filter will remove any contamination and liquid water from the compressed air system before it enters the Super Ion Air Knife.  This is important to keep the product clean.  The shim set is a set of three different shims with a thickness of 0.001” (0.025mm), 0.003” (0.076mm), and 0.004” (0.1mm).  They are used to dramatically change the blowing force from the stock shim at 0.002” (0.05mm) thick.  Being that the paper was extremely thin, they opted to put the 0.001 (0.025m) thick shim inside the Super Ion Air Knife.  With the regulator in the kit, the customer could “dial” in the correct amount of force to keep the machine running optimally without breaking the delicate paper.

When the customer installed the Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives just before the entrance into the measuring device, the air stream was able to carry the ions to neutralize the static and to remove the dust from the paper surface.  The system was now able to make accurate measurements without disruptions.

For this customer above, the Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives made their system run accurately and consistently by removing any pesky dust particles.  If you have an optical device that needs to stay clean, you can contact an Application Engineer to review your application.

John Ball

Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
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Return On Investment: Does It Matter, And How Much?

I have a friend who participates in a process known as “extreme couponing.” She has multiple subscriptions to the Sunday edition of our major newspaper, and a couple of local papers that also have coupon inserts. When I see her at the grocery store, she’s got two 4″ binders full of baseball card holders, all stuffed with multiples of clipped coupons, organized by store aisle. The insane amount of money saved is a big factor in her being able to be a stay-at-home mother, which is something else she’s pretty good at.

If you get stuck at step one…or even two…extreme couponing may not be for you!

Now, extreme couponing isn’t for everyone. Even beginners to the process can buy a year’s worth of paper towels for next to nothing. However, that may take up so much room in their house that they need to rent a storage facility for other belongings that folks like you and me simply keep in the garage or basement. It also takes a LOT of time and effort to do it right – as well as discipline. Saving half (or more) on a truckload of stuff you don’t need (or will never use) is a waste of money, time, and space. In fact, I know people who have abandoned extreme couponing for those very reasons…the “return on investment” just isn’t there.

That’s the deal in industry too.  Anyone tasked with finding and exploiting efficiencies – or finding and eliminating inefficiencies – is going to be looking at return on investment.  Like extreme couponing, though, it has to make sense in all aspects of the operation.  For example:

*An OEM taking advantage of a quantity discount for components or subassemblies has to not only have the storage space available, but also has to consider the turnover rate…it costs money to keep product on the shelf.

*A machine shop considering a tooling upgrade has to compare the cost difference with the increased performance and/or lifespan of the “new and improved” product.  A tool that costs 10% more but lasts twice as long is probably a good deal.  A tool that costs twice as much but lasts 10% longer might not provide the “bang for the buck.”

*Any facility, before switching a service or utility provider, will “run the numbers” on promotional rates, contract terms, etc. before making a commitment.

Unlike extreme couponing, EXAIR makes it easy – and beneficial – to evaluate the return on investment:

*Our catalog (if you don’t have the latest, get it here) has complete performance & operational data on all of our products.  This is great if you know what you want it to do.

*If you’re not quite sure, our catalog also has a good number of actual application write-ups for most of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products.  You may be able to find something that’s similar to what you want to do, and further inform your selection from there.

*Once you’ve chosen a product, you can use the Calculator Library on our website to determine actual dollar cost savings associated with replacing a current compressed air powered device with an EXAIR product.

*Application Engineers are available to discuss your application and/or product selection via phone, email, or Live Chat.

*No matter how detailed the discussion, and how confident a plan we may make, the age-old saying about how it “looked good on paper” proves itself every now and again.  When this happens, all catalog products are covered by our 30 Day Unconditional Guarantee.  If you’re not satisfied for any reason within 30 days of purchase, we’ll arrange return for full credit.

*Let’s assume that we’re pretty good at this (because we are) and it actually DOES work out (because it usually does) – we can calculate your new (and improved) operating costs and compare them with the cost of your previous devices.  If you don’t have the instrumentation (flow meters, sound level meters, etc.,) this is a free service we provide in our Efficiency Lab.  Send it in, and we’ll do a full performance test & issue a comprehensive report, all at no charge.  And if you qualify for a Case Study, we can even save you some money on your next order.  Contact me for more details if you’re interested.

Free testing. Verifiable data. EXAIR Efficiency Lab.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Coupon Pile Stock Photos courtesy of Carol Pyles  Creative Common License

Standards, Compliance, And You. And EXAIR.

I’m pretty impressed with the number of safety features my car has. Aside from the literal lifesaving functions like seat belts and air bags, it’s got anti-lock brakes…if you’ve ever had to counter-steer out of a skid on an icy road, you will appreciate the value of this for sure.  Those are just some of the ones I’m keenly aware of – the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards comprise dozens of regulations in three categories: crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability.  None of these prevent me from operating my vehicle at an unsafe rate of speed…an expensive reality that an Ohio State Highway Patrolman dutifully reminded me of last Sunday afternoon.

Likewise, there are many regulations to ensure safety and prevent hazards of all kinds in industry, administered by a host of agencies that are either subordinates of, or accountable to, the federal government.  When you manufacture products that are used with high energy sources (compressed air or high voltage electricity,) a strong commitment to safety is not negotiable.  So, at EXAIR, we commit considerable resources towards the best engineering and manufacturing practices to make our products as safe as possible.  That includes compliance with a number of standards and certifications:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Their mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”  They are a regulatory body in the truest sense, in that they don’t offer certification or approval of products, processes, etc.; they publish guidelines and standards for manufacturers and users to comply with.  OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), for instance, limits the downstream pressure of a compressed air operated device used for cleaning purposes to 30psi. Now, you can regulate the supply pressure to meet this, but that also limits the effectiveness of the air flow generated.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products are all designed and manufactured to be in compliance with this standard, at any supply pressure.  Take, for example, our Super Air Nozzles:

Because none of our products can be dead-ended, there’s always a relief path preventing the downstream pressure from exceeding that level.

OSHA also has Standard 1910.95(a), that sets limits for maximum allowable noise exposure.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, with the exception of some our largest and most power Super Air Nozzles (which aren’t normally used in areas that don’t already require hearing protection anyway) meet the 8-hour exposure limits of this standard.

Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

CE marking indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold withing the European Economic Area.  Unlike OSHA standards, responsibility for CE marking falls solely with the seller of the product – a CE marked product has been tested and certified to have been made in such a way to meet safety & quality benchmarks specified for that type of product.  All EXAIR products that are defined under applicable directives have been tested according to these standards, and carry the CE mark.

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, is another standard borne from the European Union, and is geared towards public & workplace safety by restricting the use of hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic & electrical equipment.  Since its inception in 2006, similar standards have been vigorously adopted around the globe.  Electrical portions of EXAIR’s Static Eliminators, EFC Electronic Flow Controls, ETC Electronic Temperature Controls, Digital Flowmeters, Solenoid Valves, and Thermostats all comply with the RoHS Directive.

Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act doesn’t address a concern for product users, but rather a particularly troubling human rights issue – Conflict Minerals.  For almost two decades, trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been used by some very bad people to finance violent campaigns against their neighbors.  EXAIR thoroughly and systematically documents our supply chain compliance with this act.  We are proudly committed to our support for this effort to the world a better place for everyone…especially those in desperate circumstances beyond their control.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products have been successfully implemented into a variety of uses where application- or industry-specific standards are in force.  We’re happy to work with you to determine if our products meet those standards…or can be made to meet them.  If you’ve got such an application, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Heat Transfer – 3 Types

When you have two objects and they are of different temperatures, we know from experience that the hotter object will warm up the cooler one, or conversely, the colder object will cool down the hotter one.  We see this everyday, such as ice cooling a drink, or a fan cooling a person on a hot day.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that heat (energy) transfers from an object of a higher temperature to an object of a lower temperature. The higher temperature object has atoms with higher energy levels and they will move toward the lower energy atoms in order to establish an equilibrium. This movement of heat and energy is called heat transfer. There are three common types of heat transfer.13580963114_f222b3cdd9_z

Heat Transfer by Conduction

When two materials are in direct contact, heat transfers by means of conduction. The atoms of higher energy vibrate against the adjacent atoms of lower energy, which transfers energy to the lower energy atoms, cooling the hotter object and warming the cooler object. Fluids and gases are less heat conductive than solids (metals are the best heat conductors) because there are larger distances between atoms.  Solids have atoms that are closer together.

Heat Transfer by Convection

Convection describes heat transfer between a surface and a liquid or gas in motion. The faster the fluid or gas travels, the more convective heat transfer that occurs. There are two types of convection:  natural convection and forced convection. In natural convection, the motion of the fluid results from the hot atoms in the fluid moving upwards and the cooler atoms in the air flowing down to replace it, with the fluid moving under the influence of gravity. Example, a radiator puts out warm air from the top, drawing in cool air through the bottom. In forced convection, the fluid, air or a liquid, is forced to travel over the surface by a fan or pump or some other external source. Larger amounts of heat transfer are possible utilizing forced convection.

Heat Transfer by Radiation

Radiation refers to the transfer of heat through empty space. This form of heat transfer does not require a material or even air to be between the two objects; radiation heat transfer works inside of and through a vacuum, such as space. Example, the radiation energy from the sun travels through the great distance through the vacuum of space until the transfer of heat warms the Earth.

EXAIR‘s engineered compressed air products are used every day to force air over hot surfaces to cool, as well as dry and/or blow off hot materials. Let us help you to understand and solve your heat transfer situations.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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The picture “Energy Transfer – Heat” by Siyavula Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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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