The Case For Desiccant Compressed Air Dryers

Most people are familiar with desiccant from the small packets we find enclosed with a new pair of shoes, in a bag of beef jerky, or in some medication bottles.  These packets almost always say “Do Not Eat,” and I get that for the ones in the beef jerky or the pill bottles, but I just don’t understand why they put it on the desiccant packets bound for a shoe box…

Anyway, desiccant (in MUCH larger volumes than the household examples above) are also used to get water vapor out of compressed air.  Desiccant dryers are popular because they’re effective and reliable.  The most common design consists of two vertical tanks, or towers, filled with desiccant media – usually activated alumina or silica gel.

These materials are prone to adsorption (similar to absorption, only it’s a physical process instead of a chemical one) which means they’re good at trapping, and holding, water.  In operation, one of these towers has air coming in it straight from the compressor (after it’s become pressurized, remember, it still has just as much water vapor in it as it did when it was drawn in…up to 5% of the total gas volume.)

When that tower’s desiccant has adsorbed water vapor for long enough (it’s usually controlled by a timer,) the dryer controls will port the air through the other tower, and commence a restoration cycle on the first tower.  So, one is always working, and the other is always getting ready for work.

There are three methods by which the desiccant media can be restored:

  • Regenerative Desiccant Dryers send a purge flow of dry air (fresh from the operating tower’s discharge) through the off-line tower’s desiccant bed.  This dry air flow reverses the adsorption process, and carries the water away as it’s exhausted from the dryer.  This is simple and effective, but it DOES use a certain amount of your compressed air.
  • Heat Of Compression Desiccant Dryers use the heat from pressurized air straight from the compressor(s).  This hot air is directed through one tower, where it removes moisture from the desiccant.  It then flows through a heat exchanger where it’s cooled, condensing the moisture, before it flows through the other tower to remove any remaining moisture.  This method doesn’t add to your compressed air usage, but it only works with oil-free compressors.
  • The third method uses a hot air blower to flow heated air through the off-line desiccant bed.  It’s similar to the Regenerative type, but it doesn’t use compressed air.  However, they DO require a certain amount of wattage for the heater…remember, electricity isn’t cheap either.

As an EXAIR Application Engineer, it’s my job to help you get the most out of our products, and your compressed air system.  If you have questions about compressed air, call me.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Compressed Air Pressure Regulators Conserve And Protect

Imagine you’re enjoying a nice shower. A cascade of warm water is soothing your body – and spirit – then, someone starts the dishwasher. Or a load of laundry. Or flushes the toilet. Suddenly, the “soothe” turns to “scald” or “freeze,” depending on whether you’ve been robbed of hot, or cold water.  So, what happened?

What happened is, all of those “loads” on your house’s water supply that can ruin your shower experience are controlled by simple on/off valves…they open to permit a certain amount of water FLOW to pass.  When the dishwasher starts, or someone decides to wash a load of whites, the HOT water from your nice warm shower is diverted, leaving a stream of cold water.  When a toilet flushes, or it’s a load of colors, the COLD water is diverted…and that’s not just unpleasant, but downright painful.  Either way, (in my house anyway,) a teenager is getting read the riot act.

The same phenomenon can apply in a compressed air system, if simple flow control valves are used to throttle the appropriate supply of air to a pneumatic device.  If someone, for example, hooks up an air gun to blow off their tools or parts, the valves on EVERYTHING else will need to be opened up some to keep those devices working the same.  In the case of an air gun like this, it usually happens too quick to make the necessary adjustments (by hand) and you’re probably left with a machine tripped off-line, or a ruined part.

Pressure Regulators can prevent this by keeping (or regulating) their downstream pressure to a set value.  If a load elsewhere in the system is activated, the Pressure Regulator opens up, automatically, to keep its output constant.  When that load is secured, the Pressure Regulator closes back down accordingly.  Either way, no single load affects the operation of any others.

That’s only half the value of the use of Pressure Regulators, though.  The other half is, well…the value.  Just looking at a typical function of many EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products – blow off – they’ll all pretty much accomplish the task if you run them, unrestricted, straight off your header.  That’ll give you a good, strong blast of air flow…and it may be more than what’s required, and a waste of good air.  Pressure Regulators will prevent this by allowing you to “dial in” the supply pressure to whatever it takes to get the job done, and no more.

EXAIR offers a range of Pressure Regulators capable of handling air flow of up to 700 SCFM.

Compressed air isn’t free.  Heck, it isn’t even cheap.  Don’t use any more than you have to, and get the most out of what you do use.  Pressure Regulators are one important step in doing this.  If you’d like to talk about optimizing your use of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Adjustable Air Amplifiers Aren’t Just About Adjustability

Adjustability is a key feature for a great many devices:

  • An adjustable wrench – or as I like to call it, the trusty “all 16ths” – is my go-to for work around the house involving anything with a hex…fittings under the sink when I’m cleaning out a drain, nuts & bolts on furniture or household items needing some tightening (or loosening,) etc.  I don’t get out my combination-end wrenches for much except automobile maintenance.
  • Speaking of sinks, my kitchen faucet lets me adjust water flow (and temperature) which is important because I use different flow rates (and temperatures) if I’m getting a tablespoon of water, or if I’m rinsing my hands, or if I’m filling the sink to do dishes.
  • Speaking of tablespoons, I’ve even got an adjustable measuring spoon that lets me get a full tablespoon, a half a teaspoon, or anywhere in between, by moving a lever block back & forth in the spoon head.

Adjustability is a key feature for several EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products too…like our Adjustable Air Amplifiers.  The ‘adjustable’ part has to do with setting the air flow:

Just loosen the locking ring, and you can thread the plug out of, or in to, the body to increase, or decrease the flow and force of the developed flow.  There’s a hole in the plug (opposite the “EXAIR.com” stamp) so you can use a spanner wrench (another adjustable tool!) to thread the plug in or out.

You can get an amazing range of flow from a little twist*:

These are the performance values for a Model 6042 2″ Aluminum Adjustable Air Amplifier with a compressed air supply pressure of 80psig. Regulating the pressure can give you even lower…or higher…flows.                                              *0.002″ to 0.010″ is about 1/4 turn of the plug.

A gap of about 0.010″ is about the max for 80psig supply pressure.  Above that, the air flow overwhelms the Coanda profile, creating a turbulent ‘storm’ in the throat, hampering the efficiency and effectiveness.  The proper “adjustment” for that is to select the next larger Air Amplifier!

While the range of air flow is certainly impressive, their versatility is another major factor in their selection.  I reviewed our Application Database (registration required) for real-life details on Adjustable Air Amplifiers “in the field” and found a litany of other benefits that made them better suited to particular installations than a Super Air Amplifier:

  • A customer who builds automated equipment incorporates the Model 6031 1-1/4″ SS Adjustable Air Amplifier to blow open bags with a puff of air as they move into position on an automated filling machine. They use it because it’s available in stainless steel construction, and it’s still compact & lightweight.
  • A mattress manufacturer uses Model 6043 3″ Aluminum Adjustable Air Amplifiers to  cool mattress springs.  They’re lightweight, the perfect size to match the springs’ profile, and they can “dial them out” for high heat removal before putting springs on a rubber conveyor.
  • A tier 1 automotive supplier has Model 6234 4″ SS Adjustable Air Amplifier Kits installed on their robotic paint line to blow off moisture from parts to prevent water spotting between the wash cycle and the oven.  They use them because the stainless steel construction holds up to high heat due to the proximity to the ovens.
  • A food plant uses Model 6031 1-1/4″ SS Adjustable Air Amplifiers to improve the drying time of 3,000 liter mixers that must be washed between batches of different products.  The stainless steel construction holds up to the rigors of the frequent washdown in this area.
  • A bedding manufacturer replaced a regenerative blower with a Model 6041 1-1/4″ Aluminum Adjustable Air Amplifier for trim removal on stitched fabric at bedding manufacturer.  The blower was prone to failure from lint & dust; the Air Amplifier, with no moving parts, is not.  It’s also compact, lightweight, and virtually maintenance free.
  • A light bulb manufacturer installed Model 6030 3/4″ SS Adjustable Air Amplifiers on the ends of open pipes that were used to cool mercury lamp wicks.  This reduced noise levels significantly while providing the same cooling rate, and the stainless steel construction holds up to the heat of the operation.

Because of the simplicity of their design, Adjustable Air Amplifiers are also extremely adaptable to custom applications.  We’ve added threads or flanges to the inlets and outlets of several different sizes, to accommodate ease of mounting & installation:

Among other custom Air Amplifiers, we’ve put (left to right) threads on the outlet, ANSI flanges on the inlet/outlet, Sanitary flanges on the inlet/outlet, and Sanitary on the inlet/ANSI on the outlet. How are you installing your Air Amplifier?

Adjustable Air Amplifiers are available in both aluminum and 303SS construction, to meet most any environmental requirements…except extreme high heat.  In those cases, the Model 121021 High Temperature Air Amplifier is rated to 700°F (374°C) – significantly higher than the Aluminum – 275°F (135°C) or the Stainless Steel – 400°F (204°C).  They’re commonly used to circulate hot air inside furnaces, ovens, refractories, etc.

A Model 121021 1-1/4″ High Temp Air Amplifier directs hot air to a rotational mold cavity for uniform wall thickness of the plastic part.

Adjustability.  Versatility.  Durability.  If you’d like to know more about the Adjustable Air Amplifier, or any of EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Video Blog: EXAIR’s Efficiency Lab

If you’d like to know how efficient (or not,) quiet (or not,) and effective (or not) your current compressed air devices are, the EXAIR Efficiency Lab can help.  For more details, we hope you’ll enjoy this short video.

If you’d like to talk about getting the most out of your compressed air system, we’d love to hear from you.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Ultrasonic Leak Detector: Because Leaks Won’t Find (Or Fix) Themselves

I once worked in an equipment repair shop with a small and simple compressed air system…just a 5HP single acting piston compressor that sat atop a 50 gallon tank, in the corner by “The Big Truck”. The majority of our work was field service, and management was big on maintaining our service trucks, so we checked tire pressures every Monday morning as we rolled out, and kept a tire chuck handy to ensure proper inflation. It was also used to supply a couple of air guns that were used at our drill press and soldering/assembly station. One morning, I noticed the air compressor was running when I arrived…I thought it was odd, because I knew for a fact it hadn’t been used in at least 16 hours, but that compressed air went someplace, right? We had a leak. Well, at least one.

This was mid-December, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was characteristically slow, and typically devoted to a thorough shop cleaning. We also took the opportunity to get some bottles of soapy water and check for leaks at the handful of pipe fittings that comprised the system…for the uninitiated, if you have a leaky fitting, the escaping air blows bubbles in the soapy water (a cheap, messy way in other words). We found some bubbling, undid those fittings, cleaned them, and applied fresh pipe thread sealant (I don’t want to start any arguments, but I was taught that tape is more of a thread protectant than an effective sealing agent) and, in addition to replacing a couple of well-worn hoses, we were up and running.  And we never heard the compressor running first thing in the morning again.

Not all compressed air systems are as simple as that, though.  Many go from a room with several large & sophisticated air compressors, to corners of every building on the grounds.  Through valves & manifolds, to cylinders, machinery and blow offs, with more connections than you could soap-and-water check in a month.

In those cases, the EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector makes short(er) work of finding the leaks.  With both visual (LED’s on the face) and audible (headphones) indications, even very small leaks are easy to detect with the parabola installed.  The precise location can then be found with the tubular extension.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector “hones in” on the exact location of a leak in a compressed air line.

You’ll still have to fix the leaks yourself, but finding them is oftentimes more than half the battle.  And, once fixed, it can be worth a million (cubic feet of compressed air, that is.)

EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detectors are not only useful for finding compressed air leaks; they’re popular in a variety of other areas:

Additionally, they can be used to identify faulty bearings, brake systems, tire & tube leaks, engine seals, radiators, electrical relay arcing…anything that generates an ultrasonic sound wave.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Great Stuff About Jets

There are a number of fascinating facts about jets…both the aircraft engines and the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products:

  • Because they don’t require dense air to engage spinning blades (like their propeller driven counterparts,) they can operate at much higher altitudes. (Jet aircraft engines only)
  • They provide a high thrust, directed airstream, which makes them great for part ejection, chip removal, and part drying. (EXAIR Air Jets only)
  • With few or no moving parts, they are extremely reliable, durable, and safe. (Both jet aircraft engines and EXAIR Air Jets)
  • They use the Coanda effect (a principle of fluidics whereby a fluid flow tends to attach itself to a nearby surface, and follow that surface regardless of the flow’s initial direction) to do what they do.
    • EXAIR Air Jets use this principle to generate a vacuum in their throat, pulling in a large amount of “free” air from the surround environment, making their use of compressed air very, very efficient.
    • Jet (and propeller driven) aircraft wings employ the Coanda effect to create aerodynamic lift, enabling the plane to fly.

Now, since I’m not a pilot, nor do I particularly like to fly, but I AM a fluid dynamics nerd, the rest of this blog will be about the Air Jets that EXAIR makes.

All of our Air Jet products operate on the same principle…using the Coanda effect (as described above) to generate a high volume air flow while minimizing compressed air consumption:

(1) Compressed air enters and is distributed through an annular ring, and directed towards the discharge via the Coanda effect.
(2) This causes entrainment of surrounding air, both through the throat, and at the discharge.
(3) The total developed flow has tremendous force and velocity, for a minimal consumption of valuable compressed air.(1) Compressed air enters and is distributed through an annular ring, and directed towards the discharge via the Coanda effect.
(2) This causes entrainment of surrounding air, both through the throat, and at the discharge.
(3) The total developed flow has tremendous force and velocity, for a minimal consumption of valuable compressed air.

There are four distinct models of the EXAIR Air Jet:

  • Model 6013 High Velocity Air Jet is made of brass for economy and durability.  The annular ring gap (see 1, above) is fixed by a 0.015″ thick shim.  Performance can be modified by changing to a 0.006″ or 0.009″ thick shim, which come in the Model 6313 Shim Set.
  • Model 6013SS is a Type 303 Stainless Steel version, for higher temperatures – good to 400°F (204°C) – and superior corrosion resistance.
  • Model 6019 Adjustable Air Jet is brass construction, and dimensionally identical to the Model 6103.  Instead of a shim that sets the annular ring gap, though, it has a threaded plug, with a micrometer-style indicator, to “fine tune” the gap.
  • Model 6019SS is the Type 303 Stainless Steel version…fine tuning adjustability, good for high heat and/or corrosive elements.
Four distinct models to meet the needs of your air blowing application.

If you’d like to find out more about EXAIR’s quiet, efficient, and safe Air Jets, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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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