Methods, Patterns, and Continuous Improvement

I’ve blogged about the fact that I am married to an amazing woman and we have been blessed with three incredible daughters before. My wife and I are constantly being reminded of just how different raising kids in this digital and rapidly changing world is compared to when we were kids. And, just writing those statements makes me realize I have truly entered the next (I’m old) chapter of my life.

My oldest, who is 12, is at that point where she is gaining some independence at middle school, and at the same time is getting sucked into social norms where she can easily be consumed by social media and screen time. The challenge I took on was to find something analog that we could both pick up and enjoy, maybe even challenge each other with. Enter a classic that I was never able to master, and still can’t without the aid of another (my 12 year old), the Rubik’s Cube. I was honestly shocked when she took the time to review a video from our library and learned the patterns to solve the cube. Turns out a few of her friends are even able to solve them and thus the education began.

A traditional 3×3 Speed Cube in a solved state then converted to a checkerboard pattern.

What I once thought was an impossible task was broken down into patterns and a logical path to correct and straighten out the tangled squares. The are a number of methods to solve the standard 3×3 cube. No matter what, the pattern has to be recognized, implement the steps to solve, and then improve through repetition. Not many people pick something like this up, solve it once and then sit it down. It becomes a process of continuous improvement and that is exactly what my daughter took on. For me, it reminded me of Lean Manufacturing and every process I have ever looked at professionally. It was truly rejuvenating for me to see her take on the challenge and then have an urge to improve her process time.

When I came into work the next day, it clicked. That same process of methodical movements could all connect to our Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization. Each of these steps is solving another layer of a mixed up cube. While at first, the process of optimizing a compressed air system can easily seem out of reach it is easily broken down into steps that result in a solution. Then, instead of taking all of that new found knowledge to only conduct the six steps once, you can easily make this a recurring event. Because even though your facility may not change, the air system will, new leaks may appear, items on the supply side may wear, demand side application may change as processes are added or modified.

Processes lead to continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is a method that propels a system forward toward efficiency and improved outcomes and it is something that is needed to stay relevant. Even with the methods of solving a 3×3 cube, those methods continue to evolve and the main level of improvement is often on the person spending time with the process. If you want to discuss a compressed air application in your facility that could stand some improving or maybe you want to share your solve times on the 3×3 cube, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Optimization:  Step 6 – Control the air pressure

Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important that you use it as efficiently as possible.  EXAIR generated a chart with six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system.  Following these steps will help you to cut overhead costs and improve your bottom line.  In this blog, I will cover the sixth step; controlling the air pressure at the point of use.

Pressure Regulators

One of the most common pressure control devices is called the Regulator.  It is designed to reduce the downstream pressure that is supplying your system.  Regulators are commonly used in many types of applications.  You see them attached to propane tanks, gas cylinders, and of course, compressed air lines.  Properly sized, regulators can flow the required amount of gas at a regulated pressure for safety and cost savings.

EXAIR designs and manufactures compressed air products to be safe, effective, and efficient.  By replacing your “old types” of blowing devices with EXAIR products, it will save you much compressed air, which in turn saves you money.  But, why stop there?  You can optimize your compressed air system even more by assessing the air pressure at the point-of-use.  For optimization, using the least amount of air pressure to “do the job” can be very beneficial and practical.

Model 1100

Why are regulators important for compressed air systems?  Because it gives you the control to set the operating pressure.  For many blow-off applications, people tend to overuse their compressed air.  This can create excessive waste, overwork your air compressor, and steal from other pneumatic processes.  By simply turning down the air pressure, less compressed air is used.  As an example, a model 1100 Super Air Nozzle uses 14 SCFM of compressed air at 80 PSIG (5.5 bar).  If you only need 50 PSIG (3.4 bar) to satisfy the blow-off requirement, then the air flow for the model 1100 drops to 9.5 SCFM.  You are now able to add that 4.5 SCFM back into the compressed air system. And, if you have many blow-off devices, you can see how this can really add up.

In following the “EXAIR Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System”, you can reduce your energy consumption, improve pneumatic efficiencies, and save yourself money.  I explained one of the six steps in this blog by controlling the air pressure at the point of use.  Just as a note, by reducing the pressure from 100 PSIG (7 bar) to 80 PSIG (5.5 bar), it will cut your energy usage by almost 20%.  If you would like to review the details of any of the six steps, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be happy to help. 

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

Turn It Off: Saving Compressed Air The Easy Way

A major benefit to utilizing compressed air is the speed at which it can be shut off and re-energized for use – in fact, this can be done instantaneously. Shutting down the supply of compressed air to an application while it is not needed can drastically reduce the compressed air consumption of the process. This is an easy remedy that can produce significant savings.

Think about a place where you have a compressed air blow off with spaces between the parts or dwell times in conveyor travel. What about break times, do operators continue to keep the air on when they leave for a break or even worse, for the day?

Step number four in EXAIR’s Six Steps to Optimization is:

A simple manual ball valve and a responsible operator can provide savings at every opportunity to shut down the airflow. But an automated solution is a no-brainer and can provide significant savings.

Quarter Turn Ball Valves are low-maintenance and easy to install/use.

For a more automated approach, you can add a solenoid valve that would tie into your existing PLC or e-stop circuit, into your compressed air supply lines to aid in turning the compressed air on and off.

For an automated on/off solution can be found by using the EXAIR EFC (Electronic Flow Control). The EFC is made to accept 110V or 220V AC, and convert it to 24V DC to operate a sensor, timer, and solenoid valve. Its multiple operating modes allow you delay on, delay-off, and delay on/off among others. The operating mode can then be set to the specific time necessary for a successful application.

The spaces between parts can be turned into money saved. Every time you reach the end of a batch run, the EFC can turn the air off. You can also add solenoid valves and run them from your machine controls. If the machine is off, or the conveyor has stopped – close the solenoid valve and save the air. The modes are all defined in the video below.

So, take a look, or even better a listen, around the plant and see what you can find that could benefit from turning the air off; even if it is just for a moment it will help put money back into your bottom line.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Why Use Oil Removal Filters For Compressed Air

If you’re even an occasional visitor to the EXAIR Blog, you’ll know we like to write about compressed air filtration.  One reason is that many of our products have relatively small passages that can become fouled with dirt from the compressed air supply, and performance will suffer.   Even if you find yourself in that situation, though, the good news is, it’s easy to clean many of those products…worst case, some disassembly is required, but we’re here to help with that if needed.

The more pressing reason for many users is, whatever’s in your compressed air is going to get on whatever it’s coming in contact with.  That means if you’re blowing dirt or water off a part with a Safety Air Gun, you could be blowing dirt, or water ONTO it if you’re not using proper filtration.  Clean, moisture free air is a MUST for a lot of Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor applications where exclusion of contamination (food and pharma, we’re looking at you) is critical.  It’s also quite important to Cabinet Cooler System applications – dust, water, and electronics DON’T mix.

That’s why all EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product Kits include a Filter Separator with a particulate element to remove solids, and a centrifugal element that spins out any moisture in the air flow supplying the product.  Sometimes, though, another  contaminant may be present, and may need to be addressed: oil.

Oil is often introduced into a compressed air system on purpose, via a lubricator installed in the supply line to pneumatic tools, to keep their moving parts, well…moving.  This is generally not a problem, as long as the lubricator’s downstream line only leads to said tools.  The most common method for UNWANTED oil to enter is from the compressor.  This happens when internal parts start to wear (like the piston rings of a reciprocating compressor,) allowing oil from the gearbox into the air side.

Just as water & dirt in your air will get on whatever you’re blowing onto, so will oil.  That’s where our Oil Removal Filters come in.  The coalescing element removes any trace of oil from the air flow, and also provides additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.

When properly installed downstream of an Automatic Drain Filter Separator (left,) an Oil Removal Filter (center) will provide clean, oil free air to the Pressure Regulator (right) and all downstream components.

If you want to get the most out of your compressed air system and the devices it operates, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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