The Importance Of Air Compressor System Maintenance

 

It should go without saying, but proper operation of anything that has moving parts will depend on how well it’s maintained.  Compressed air systems are certainly no exception; in fact; they’re a critical example of the importance of proper maintenance, for two big reasons:

*Cost: compressed air, “the fourth utility,” is expensive to generate.  And it’s more expensive if it’s generated by a system that’s not operating as efficiently as it could.

*Reliability: Many industrial processes rely on clean or clean & dry air, at the right pressure, being readily available:

  • When a CNC machine trips offline in the middle of making a part because it loses air pressure, it has to be reset.  That means time that tight schedules may not afford, and maybe a wasted part.
  • The speed of pneumatic cylinders and tools are proportional to supply pressure.  Lower pressure means processes take longer.  Loss of pressure means they stop.
  • Dirt & debris in the supply lines will clog tight passages in air operated products.  It’ll foul and scratch cylinder bores.  And if you’re blowing off products to clean them, anything in your air flow is going to get on your products too.

Good news is, the preventive maintenance necessary to ensure optimal performance isn’t all that hard to perform.  If you drive a car, you’re already familiar with most of the basics:

*Filtration: air compressors don’t “make” compressed air, they compress air that already exists…this is called the atmosphere, and, technically, your air compressor is drawing from the very bottom of the “ocean” of air that blankets the planet.  Scientifically speaking, it’s filthy down here.  That’s why your compressor has an inlet/intake filter, and this is your first line of defense. If it’s dirty, your compressor is running harder, and costs you more to operate it.  If it’s damaged, you’re not only letting dirt into your system; you’re letting it foul & damage your compressor.  Just like a car’s intake air filter (which I replace every other time I change the oil,) you need to clean or replace your compressor’s intake air filter on a regular basis as well.

*Moisture removal: another common “impurity” here on the floor of the atmospheric “ocean” is water vapor, or humidity.  This causes rust in iron pipe supply lines (which is why we preach the importance of point-of-use filtration) and will also impact the operation of your compressed air tools & products.

  • Most industrial compressed air systems have a dryer to address this…refrigerated and desiccant are the two most popular types.  Refrigerant systems have coils & filters that need to be kept clean, and leaks are bad news not only for the dryer’s operation, but for the environment.  Desiccant systems almost always have some sort of regeneration cycle, but it’ll have to be replaced sooner or later.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on these.
  • Drain traps in your system collect trace amounts of moisture that even the best dryer systems miss.  These are typically float-operated, and work just fine until one sticks open (which…good news…you can usually hear quite well) or sticks closed (which…bad news…won’t make a sound.)  Check these regularly and, in conjunction with your dryers, will keep your air supply dry.

*Lubrication: the number one cause of rotating equipment failure is loss of lubrication.  Don’t let this happen to you:

  • A lot of today’s electric motors have sealed bearings.  If yours has grease fittings, though, use them per the manufacturer’s directions.  Either way, the first symptom of impending bearing failure is heat.  This is a GREAT way to use an infrared heat gun.  You’re still going to have to fix it, but if you know it’s coming, you at least get to say when.
  • Oil-free compressors have been around for years, and are very popular in industries where oil contamination is an unacceptable risk (paint makers, I’m looking at you.)  In oiled compressors, though, the oil not only lubricates the moving parts; it also serves as a seal, and heat removal medium for the compression cycle.  Change the oil as directed, with the exact type of oil the manufacturer calls out.  This is not only key to proper operation, but the validity of your warranty as well.

*Cooling:  the larger the system, the more likely there’s a cooler installed.  For systems with water-cooled heat exchangers, the water quality…and chemistry…is critical.  pH and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) should be checked regularly to determine if chemical additives, or flushing, are necessary.

*Belts & couplings: these transmit the power of the motor to the compressor, and you will not have compressed air without them, period.  Check their alignment, condition, and tension (belts only) as specified by the manufacturer.  Keeping spares on hand isn’t a bad idea either.

Optimal performance of your compressed air products literally starts with your compressor system.  Proper preventive maintenance is key to maximizing it.  Sooner or later, you’re going to have to shut down any system to replace a moving (or wear) part.  With a sound preventive maintenance plan in place, you have a good chance of getting to say when.

If you’d like to talk about other ways to optimize the performance of your compressed air system,  give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Image courtesy of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet, Creative Commons License 

Reversible Drum Vac Empties Sumps For Demolition Company

A demolition company was looking for a way to remove the liquid from sumps and tanks in the industrial buildings they were contracted to provide their service upon. The liquids in question were mainly coolant and oil that had been left behind when the machinery was removed…anything that could be re-used was already gone; this was the “bitter dregs,” as it were.  Since these buildings are about to be demolished, electricity is rarely available.

They had a pumping system that ran off a diesel engine that they COULD take with them, but they ALWAYS had a large mobile air compressor for the pneumatic tools used in other processes in the demolition of the building. Since they had steel drums in abundance, the Reversible Drum Vac Systems sounded very attractive to them, so they got a Model 6295 Deluxe High Lift Reversible Drum Vac System for 55 Gallon Drum to try out.

The High Lift Reversible Drum Vac System converts a drum and dolly into a mobile pumping system.

Now, instead of committing an additional truck (and driver) to getting the diesel engine driven pumping system to the site, they simply move the Reversible Drum Vac pump unit from 55 gallon drum to 55 gallon drum as they’re filled. Once the drums are returned to their facility, they switch the the Reversible Drum Vac to the “empty drum” configuration, and use it to pump the liquid out into their recycling tanks, where they await collection and processing by their waste handling service.  Even when they have to use a number of drums, the High Lift Reversible Drum Vac Systems still streamline the process over the use of the diesel engine pumping system.

If you’d like to find out more about our Industrial Vacuums, or any of our compressed air operated products, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Removing Oil Residue with Flat Super Air Nozzles

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When a machine or process requires lubrication, things can (and often do) get covered in the lubricant.  Whether it is oil, coolant, grease, or any other substance reducing friction, containing and/or removing the lubricant can be a real challenge.

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Such was the case for our customer in the application shown above.  They had developed a method for collecting and channeling the base (journal cross with trunnions – technically termed “spiders”) of a u-joint, used in the assembly at the next processing station.  Initially the method worked well, but problems began to arise with the accumulation of lubricant in the bottom of the collection device (shown below).

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The solution to this problem was two-fold.  Firstly, a chain conveyor has been designed to replace the existing hopper.  Secondly, a series of EXAIR Flat Super Air Nozzles, model 1122, will be used along with 12″ Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases to provide a blow off station.

The conveyor will allow much of the residual oil to drip off of the u-joint crosses and into a collection bin below.  The Flat Super Air Nozzles will take the process a step further and actively remove any remaining oil, blowing the residue off of the u-joints and into the collection bin below.  By using Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases we’re able to position the nozzles exactly where they need to be, making installation easy, quick, and adjustable when needed.

In removing the excess oil from the surface of these u-joints we’re able to make the entire workflow process more efficient by producing a steady, repeatable condition for the u-joints at the end of this process stage.  And, by removing imbalances in throughput due to reworking or stalling at this production stage we’re able to add confidence to our customer’s application.

If you have a similar application or would like to work with EXAIR to find an application solution, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Oil And Water Don’t Mix, But Oil And Air Sure Do

Do you have oil in your compressed air system? It may be there on purpose…air operated tools require it, and there are a number of devices on the market that provide a precise amount of oil to keep the moving parts in these tools well lubricated and properly operating.

If it’s not there on purpose, it’s not necessarily a problem, though, and it’s hardly uncommon. Many air compressors are oil lubricated, which means there’s oil being pumped at a constant rate, directly towards the piston rings, and a little bit is always going to end up in the air. As the rings wear, even more makes it past…this is impossible to prevent, but, with proper maintenance, it’s kept to a very minimal amount. There are, of course, oil-less compressor designs, which can eliminate this entirely, but they’ve been known to carry a little heavier price tag. Some situations, though, make them worth every penny.

Trace amounts of oil like this don’t affect a lot of compressed air applications, including the performance of most of our products. There are times, however, when oil needs to be addressed…for instance:

*Blow off prior to painting or coating. Even trace amounts of oil on a surface to be painted can cause big problems.
*Electrical enclosure cooling. Oil won’t affect the heat removal performance of an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler System, but it can indeed cause serious issues with electrical/electronic components and devices if it’s present in the cold air that’s blowing on them.
*Air operated conveyors. Likewise, oil won’t hurt the performance of a Line Vac, but keep in mind that anything in the air supply will get on the material or product you’re conveying.
*Static Eliminators. Here’s a situation where oil in the air WILL have an effect on product performance…the emitter points of your EXAIR Static Eliminator need to be kept clean (including oil free) for proper operation. And, again, anything in your air is going to get onto your product.

This is where proper filtration comes in: properly installed downstream of a Filter Separator, EXAIR’s coalescing Oil Removal Filters take out even trace amounts of oil from the air flow, ensuring your process doesn’t see anything but clean, dry air.

EXAIR Model 9027 Oil Removal Filter, installed between Model 9004 Filter Separator and 9008 Pressure Regulator, using our Modular Coupling Kits

EXAIR Model 9027 Oil Removal Filter, installed between Model 9004 Automatic Drain Filter Separator and 9008 Pressure Regulator, using our Modular Coupling Kits.

Again, oil in your air isn’t always a problem. If you have questions about your application, though, give us a call…if it IS a problem, we’ve got a solution.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Removing Oil From A Conveyor In South Africa

About three years ago, during the summer of 2012, I discussed an application with a palm oil producer who needed to clean and dry palm fruits as part of their oil production process.  I remember the application well because I knew nothing about palm fruits and came to learn of their popularity on other continents.

Now, years later and again from another continent, our South African distributor has a similar need.  However, rather than removing the cleaning residue from the outside of a palm fruit, this application needed to address the control and collection of the extracted palm oil on a production line.

The need in this application is the collection of spilled and residual oil that is filled into large containers and provided to culinary facilities.  The end user needed a way to keep any spilled oil from contaminating the process downstream, and a method to collect the oil once it was within a controlled space/container.

Conveyor with oil 1

Compromised conveyor line

To block the oil from travelling any further into the process, we recommended a series of 316 Stainless Steel Super Air Knives aimed at the conveyor belt, blowing opposite the direction of container travel.  This setup operated at the right pressure can not only keep the oil from any downstream components, but also blow the oil into a specified container.

Once the oil is removed from the conveyor and collected in a hopper, trough, or similar container, it can be removed with a High Lift Reversible Drum Vac.  Our High Lift Reversible Drum Vac is suitable for viscous fluids such as oils, coolants, and paints up to 1400 centipoise.  The High Lift Reversible Drum Vac can then be used to pump the oil into a final container, or back into the process for cleaning and recycling.

Its always great to pull from a previous application when speaking with an EXAIR customer.  And, with our full team of Application Engineers, we have plenty of applications to reference.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Why 5 PSIG Matters

Last week I pointed out the important locations for measuring your compressed air system pressure throughout your compressed air system.   One of the critical points to measure system pressure was before and after each filter.  This leads into another question that I receive every once in a while, “How do I tell when the filter needs to be changed?”  The answer to this is easy, when you see more than a 5 PSIG pressure drop across the filter.  This means that the element within the filter has become clogged with sediment or debris and is restricting the volume available to your downstream products.

Filter

EXAIR 5 micron Auto Drain Filter Separator

 

This can lead to decreased performance, downtime, and even the possibility of passing contaminants through the filter to downstream point of use components.  In order to maintain an optimal performance when using EXAIR filter separators and oil removal filters, monitoring the compressed air pressure before and after the unit is ideal.

Replacement filter elements are readily available from stock, as well as complete rebuild kits for the filter units. Changing the filters out can be done fairly easily and we even offer a video of how to do it.

The life expectancy of a filter element on the compressed air is directly related to the quality of air and the frequency of use, meaning it can vary greatly.  If you tie a new filter onto the end of a compressed air drop that has not been used in years, you may get a surprise by the filter clogging rather quickly.   However, if you maintain your compressor and your piping system properly then the filters should last a long time. Generally we recommend checking your filters every 6 months.

If you have questions about where and why to filter your compressed air contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Video Blog: Effectiveness of Filtering Your Compressed Air

The video below will give a brief demonstration on the importance of point of use filtration in order to remove unwanted material such as water, scale, particulate and oil from your compressed air stream. Point of use or end-use filtration will keep your air clean and your compressed air products running smooth.  If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us.

 

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

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