Five Things To Know About Single Acting Reciprocating Compressors

With the development of highly efficient air compressors, there’s still a place for the most basic design: the single acting reciprocating compressor.  When the piston moves out of the cylinder, it draws air in, at atmospheric pressure.  When it moves in to the cylinder, it reduces the volume that air occupies, increasing its pressure.  These machines are durable, effective, relatively inexpensive, and pretty easy to maintain.  Here are a few interesting things to know about them:

1. Popularity. Because of the simplicity of their design, they’re the most common air compressor in the 10HP and under sizes.  You can get them from a number of sources, and they’re not going to set you back as much as some other types.
2. Oil free air (part 1) While the most basic design uses oil to lubricate the piston rings in the compression cylinder, oil-less reciprocating compressors have cylinders with very smooth (and hard) bore surfaces, like nickel or chrome plating. A series of guide rings around the whole circumference of the piston prevent metal-to-metal contact, eliminating the need for liquid lubrication in the compression cylinder.
3. Oil free air (part 2) If oil in your compressed air is a problem, an oil-free (as opposed to oil-less) compressor is another option. While an oil-less compressor doesn’t use lubricant for the piston movement, an oil-free compressor’s moving parts are oil lubricated, but that oil is kept away from the compression cylinder(s) with connecting rod(s) so that the oil is confined to the lower moving parts…the crankshaft and bottom ends of the connecting rods, and away from the pistons & compression cylinders.
4. Foundation. Reciprocating machinery, as the name implies, has parts that move back and forth. The sudden reversal of direction of heavy metal pistons & rods, dozens of times a minute, means that their operation is inherently unbalanced. This out-of-balance condition, though, can be absorbed by properly securing the compressor to a properly prepared foundation.
5. Higher pressures. If your facility’s compressed air usage primarily entails pneumatic tools, cylinders, and blow off devices like air guns, the system header pressure is likely maintained at around 100psig. While a one-stage reciprocating compressor is usually rated for discharge pressures up to 125psig, a second stage can increase that to 175psig. Multi-stage compressors are used for applications that require up to 3,000psig compressed air. Examples of these are scuba breathing air, pneumatic excavators, and my personal favorite: ballast tank blowing air, used to surface a submarine.

4-stage reciprocating compressors charge 3,000psig air tanks that are used to rapidly push water from a submarine’s ballast tanks to create positive buoyancy.  Because keeping your ‘diving-to-surfacing’ ratio at 1:1 is important.

At EXAIR Corporation, helping you get the most out of your compressed air system is important to us.  If you’ve got questions about how to do just that, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Compressed Air Filters: What They Are, And Why They Matter

The first time I ever bought a brand new car was in 1995…it was a Ford Escort Wagon. My plan was to pay it off quick and run the tires off it. Well, I DID actually put new tires on it several times over the 11 years and 200,000 miles I had it. But, aside from fuel & tires, that car cost me less than $2,000 in repairs over all that time…an achievement that my mechanic said was due largely to the aforementioned planned maintenance, which largely consisted of regular oil changes, which, of course, included a new oil filter, every 3,000 miles. For the record, I didn’t run the wheels off it; I sold it when I took a job that included a company vehicle. Also for the record, I found out the fellow I sold my car to was still driving it after I left that job (and company vehicle.) He, too, believed in regular oil changes, and he might still have that 1995 Escort on the road for all I know.

So, yeah, I’m a big believer in the importance of fluid filtration.  If you’re a regular reader of the EXAIR Blog page, you likely are too.  The two main culprits that cause the most problems in a compressed air system are solid particulates and water.  These are easily addressed with a Filter Separator, like EXAIR Model 9004 Automatic Drain Filter Separator.  It has a 5 micron particulate element, and a centrifugal element that imparts a spinning motion to the air flow.  Since water is denser than air, any droplets of moisture are “flung” to the inside wall of the bowl, while the moisture-free air continues on through the discharge.

 

The particulate element captures solids larger than 5 microns, and the centrifugal element eliminates moisture.

Another common impurity in compressed air is oil.  Since oil-less compressors came along, this is easy to eliminate at the source…literally.  However, for other types of compressors (piston types in particular,) as they age, the oil that lubricates the moving parts can seep by the piston rings and get to the air side.  Oil doesn’t carry the same wear and corrosion problems that dirt & water do, but it causes particular problems in air conveyance and blow off applications: anything in your air is going to get on your product.  Ask any paint booth operator, for example, what happens when a metal surface hasn’t been cleaned of all traces of oil.  It really does look a “fish eye.”

The most common type of oil removal filter uses a coalescing element.  Oil entrained in pressurized gas flow isn’t as dense as water – so centrifugal elements won’t remove it – and it tends to act like particulate…but very fine particulate – so typical sintered particulate elements won’t remove it.  Coalescing elements, however, are made of a tight fiber mesh.  This not only catches any trace of oil in the air flow, but also much finer particulate than those sintered elements.  EXAIR Oil Removal Filters, like the Model 9027 shown below, provide additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.  That’s some pretty clean air.

The coalescing element of an Oil Removal Filter catches oil and very fine particulate.

For best results, we recommend both the Filter Separator and Oil Removal Filter.  Make sure you install the Filter Separator upstream of the Oil Removal Filter…that way, its 5 micron element catches all the “big” particles that would quickly clog the very fine coalescing element, necessitating an element replacement.  In fact, this arrangement will allow the Oil Removal Filter to operate darn near indefinitely, maintenance free.

If you have questions about keeping your compressed air clean, moisture free, and oil free, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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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