Custom Solution From Stock For A Pick And Place Application

Even if you’re just a casual, infrequent reader of our blogs, you likely know that EXAIR Corporation is proud of our abilities to customize solutions for “out of the box” compressed air product applications. Oftentimes, this is offered as a custom engineered product, developed from a user’s specifications when one of our stock products just won’t work for one reason or another. For instance, when an exotic material of construction is required for heat or corrosion concerns, a special length or size is needed for space constraints, etc.

An Air Amplifier with a PTFE plug (left,) a curved Super Air Knife (center,) and a flanged Line Vac are just a few ways EXAIR has provided custom solutions.

Other times, though, we can use a stock product for something other than what everyone else uses it for.  We’ve sold Air Amplifiers for use in vacuum chucking, and pick-and-place applications – those are normally the realm of our E-Vac Vacuum Generators.  Speaking of E-Vacs, they’ve been used to deflate basketballs.

And speaking of E-Vacs (still,) I had the pleasure of helping a long-time customer solve a new problem in their growing manufacturing business.  They put their consumer products in blister packages, and recently converted one of the lines that picks & places the plastic “blister” onto the cardboard “backer” from two at a time, to six at a time.  They were using a Model 810003M E-Vac High Vacuum Generator, which worked fine, every time, with two Model 900762 1″ x 1/2″ Oval Vacuum Cups, but when they put four more of those Vacuum Cups on, they weren’t able to pick all six “blisters” every time.

These plastic blisters are smooth and non-porous, so this a “textbook” application for a High Vacuum Generator.  They’re also VERY lightweight, and were picked in a horizontal motion, so the 27″Hg that the Model 810003M can generate wasn’t actually necessary.  By replacing it with a Model 800003M E-Vac Low Vacuum Generator, the extra vacuum flow solved the problem, with no increase in compressed air consumption, which was critical for this area of their operation.

EXAIR E-Vac Vacuum Generators and Vacuum Cups are a reliable, low cost solution for most any pick & place application.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products can solve many of your industrial/commercial challenges.  Our catalog documents the ones they’re aimed at.  Others need to be addressed by knowledge and experience…and maybe a little theory to practice.  If that’s the case, call an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We’re here to help, and we’re pretty good at it.

Super Air Knife Reduces Defects and Lowers Freight Costs

The EXAIR Super Air Knife – high force with precision flow

An Argentine food manufacturer recently reached out to our distributor in Buenos Aires (AYRFUL) to discuss a potential application for EXAIR products.  The need became clear when a packaging line for soon-to-be-frozen food began experiencing problems with excessive water on the surface of the packages.  In this process, the packages are rinsed to remove any unwanted debris, and then sent into a large freezer before distribution to local groceries.

The excessive water on the packages would become ice, which would fuse the packages together when stacked in boxes for transporting to retail centers.  This fusing caused rips in the packaging when they were separated, thereby creating unsellable goods, ultimately leading to returns for this manufacturer.  And, the residual water also increased the total weight of the packed packages, enough to increase the actual weight when bulk packed.  This increase in actual weight led to an increase in freight costs from their courier.  So, this manufacturer needed a way to remove the residual water, reduce defects and returns, and simultaneously lessen the freight cost.

Model 110048 Super Air Knife (inside red box) blowing off residual water after rinsing and before freezing. See note on plumbing below.

The solution they found was a 48” EXAIR Super Air Knife, model 110048, mounted using (2) Universal Air Knife Mounting Kits.  The Super Air Knife in this application provided a precision airflow to blow off the water from the top of the packages, after rinsing and before freezing.  Removing the water at this stage, as shown above, eliminated the problem of fused packages, rejected products, returns, and increased freight.  And, the Super Air Knife was able to do this at a low operating pressure, fed from a single compressed air inlet.

(Note – EXAIR recommends plumbing multiple compressed air inlets for Air Knives longer than 18”.  For this model, 110048, we recommend compressed air be supplied to (3) compressed air inlets.  Plumbing less inlets will reduce the compressed air flow into the knife, which reduces possible operating pressure.  In this case, the lower operating pressure was acceptable, however, we still recommend to plumb (3) compressed air inlets on a 48” Super Air Knife.)

Plumbing specifics aside, this solution still brought tremendous value for the customer.  They were able to solve the root cause of a multi-faceted problem with an engineered solution.  If you have an application in need of an engineered solution, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com

Super Ion Air Knife Removes Foil Dots In Lid Cutting Operation

I recently received an inquiry from a food manufacturer about a packaging line they were having issues with.  The plant fills continuous rows of thermo-formed cups which is then sealed with a single foil lid. Once sealed, a machine cuts the row to separate the cups, which creates small scrap pieces of foil. After the cutting operation, they try to collect as much of the waste trim as possible but some small pieces of foil, they call “dots”, cling to the surface of the cup and cutter due to static charge.  The company installed a vacuum collection hood in this area, to try and help keep the foil pieces or any dust from falling onto the cup during the process. While this did help somewhat, some dots would remain and eventually fall off further down the line, making small piles that needed to be manually cleaned to avoid potential jams, which slowed down their production cycle.

The cups are filled and separated on a 44″ wide, mesh-screen conveyor with individual lanes to process multiple rows of cups. After being cut, the cups are moved to the inspection area and then packaged for shipment.  I recommended they mount a 48″ Super Ion Air Knife above and below the cups and direct the airflow to the end where the vacuum collection hood is located. The idea is, as the ions eliminate the charge, the small foil dots will release and the laminar airflow would keep the parts moving toward the vacuum hood, thus removing all foil trim and preventing any piling of trim further down the production line.

The Super Ion Air Knife produces a sheet of ionized air capable of dissipating 5 kV in just a fraction of a second!

EXAIR offers a wide selection of Static Eliminators for use in a variety of industrial processes. If you are experiencing static concerns in a particular area or to discuss a specific process, please contact an application engineer for assistance.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Solving Static Problems with an Ion Point

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An Ion Point can provide static elimination with a small footprint and easy installation

I came into the office today to find an interesting application in my inbox.  A small plastic parts manufacturer was facing a problem when sealing their items inside of plastic bags.  The problem arose from an inability to properly place a small strip of glue on the bags, resulting in unwanted glue on the parts and, at times, the exterior of the bags.  What should have been a small strip of glue ended up as a random spread of adhesive due to a static charge on the plastic bags. So, they contacted EXAIR for a static solution.

In this application the first important parameter to check was the type of glue in use.  Some glues are flammable and the vapors from them can be potentially ignitable, so making sure there was no risk for explosion was our first priority as our products are not recommended for use in potentially flammable or combustible applications.

After determining there was no risk for explosion, we then considered the application in more detail.  The static solution needed to be small, effective, and there was an important aspect for this application – the solution could not have any airflow.  The parts which are placed into these bags have low weights, and even a small airflow could remove them from the bags.  So, we needed an airless solution that was compact and effective.

The solution was an Ion Point.

An Ion Point creates a small ionizing “zone” of approximately 2” x 2” (51mm x 51mm) without any airflow.  At this distance, the static elimination from an Ion Point can dissipate a 5kV charge in 0.24 seconds.  The small footprint and airless operation of the Ion Point made it an ideal candidate for this application.

By installing an Ion Point between the bag opener and the glue applicator, the static charge was eliminated and the process disturbance was removed.  We were able to solve this problem, offering a readily available solution (from stock) that fit the specifics of the application.

As the temperature and humidity in the northern hemisphere drop, static problems become more prevalent.  (Click here or here to read about why this happens.)  If static problems arise in your facilities, consider an EXAIR solution.  We’re available to discuss applications and solutions M-F, 8-5 EST.

 

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Static Electricity – What is it?

Now that the air is cooling and the humidity is dropping, you may often experience the phenomena of static electricity, and the resultant shock when touching something metal. As a child, you may have learned about static electricity by rubbing a balloon on your head and then seeing it stick to the wall. What is the science behind static electricity?

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All materials are made up of atoms, which have a positively charged core called the nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons.  Each material is different, and in some types of materials the positive nucleus has a very strong pull on the electrons while in other materials the pull is very weak.  If we were to put a strong  pull material in contact with a weaker pull material, atoms from the weak pull material will migrate, and when the materials are separated, additional electrons will remain with the strong pull material.  Due to the overall increase in electron quantity, the material becomes negatively charged and the other material becomes positively charged. If the materials are rubbed together, the opportunities for the electron migration increases, and thus more electrons are exchanged.

Electrons build up more easily in dry conditions. When the air has humidity, static build up is less common because a very thin layer of water molecules coat most surfaces, which allows the electrons to move more freely and make most materials conductive and static free.

In some cases, static electricity can be a good thing – laser printers and photocopiers use static electricity to transfer ink from the drum to the paper.  Also, some power plants and chemical factories use static electricity  to remove pollutants in a process that takes place within the smokestack.

But generally when EXAIR gets involved, it is because the static electricity is causing an unwanted build up of static charge that affects a manufacturing process. The results of a static charge imbalance can result in a shock to an operator, materials sticking together, poor print quality, sensor or counter malfunctions, bad surface finish, or any number of other problems.

EXAIR offers systems for total static control, such as the Super Ion Air Knife and Ionizing Bars for wide applications such as paper, film and plastic webs, the Super Ion Air Wipe for narrow, continuously moving materials such as wire, tube, or extrusions.  Also offered are the handheld Ion Air Gun for use on three dimensional parts prior to assembly, packaging painting or finishing. Other options include the Ion Air Cannon for limited space or remote mounting applications, Ion Air Jet for tight spaces and concentrated airflow, and the Ionizing Point to provide close distance and accurate static removal.

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Super Ion Air Wipe

To discuss your static elimination concerns , feel free to contact EXAIR and one our  Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

Spark Photo Credit – Eric Skiff – via Creative Commons License

Static Problem in Plastic Tube Manufacturing is Solved

A common question that we get about Static Eliminators is “Where is the best place to install them within our process?” While there is a definite strategy to mount the Static Eliminator at the last possible point before the application problem occurs, in some instances, you still may have to use more than one Static Eliminator in different locations.

A customer was working with plastic tubes for packaging that were roughly 1” (25mm) in diameter by 6” (152mm) long. At the beginning of the process, an operator would remove the plastic tubes from boxes and manually stack them in a hopper.  They had a model 111012 Super Ion Air Knife mounted at the top of the hopper blowing down on the tubes.  This helped to remove the “shock” hazard that previously existed in loading the hopper.  To continue with the process from the hopper, the tubes are moved into an elevator and raised up to a feed chute in single file.  They would roll down a feed chute before they would be dropped onto a conveyor belt.  Just as the plastic tube would drop, static created from friction generated by the rolling action would cause one side of the plastic tube to “stick” to the prior tube, causing a jam in the system.

Jamming Area of Plastic Tubes
Jamming Area of Plastic Tubes

The customer was looking for a solution to stop the jamming. He had already mentioned that he was using the model 111012 Super Ion Air Knife at the hopper and wondered if it was working properly.  A quick question quickly verified its operation.  I asked if the operators were getting shocked from loading the plastic tubes into the hopper.  He stated that they were not.  So, the Super Ion Air Knife was removing the static charges as intended to keep the operators safe. The customer also sent pictures of the operation so I could better understand his process.  From the photos, the plastic tubes were right up against each other lengthwise in the chute.

Static charges were re-generating through the movement of the parts going through the loading elevator, moving up to the feed chute, and sliding down to the conveyor; the plastic tubes were rubbing and rolling against each other.  As with any non-conductive materials that are rubbed, slide against one another, or peeled, static electricity has a very good possibility to be generated or re-generated as in this case.  Even though the static was being removed at the hopper, the friction between the plastic tubes caused the static to regenerate.

Since static was affecting the feed of plastic tubes onto the conveyor, we needed to re-focus our attention in this area. The problem area in this application has now become the feed chute. After talking things over with the customer, model 111006 Super Ion Air Knife  was mounted above the end of the feed chute to provide an ionized airflow.  It would be facing the length of the plastic tube and angled upward along the incline of the chute, setting up a good counter flow between the parts and the ionized air.  Because static is a surface phenomenon, the ions have to hit the exposed surfaces to neutralize the charge. This arrangement would blanket the top surfaces of all the plastic tubes in the feed chute with ions as they roll by, neutralizing the charges before they became a problem at the end of the chute.

Super Ion Air Knife
Super Ion Air Knife

This is only one example of EXAIR Static Eliminators reducing a static charge in packaging applications. The product works well at eliminating the jamming, feeding, tearing, discharges to operators and other similar problems encountered within the packaging environment. Do you have a similar feeding application that you feel could use some help from static elimination?  If so, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us with your application questions today!

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

Super Air Knife Replaces Homemade Manifold

I recently worked on an application with a manufacturer who was having issues with their labeling process. The sticker label is applied to the side of their container by a print roller and then passes by a 6” homemade manifold system with 3 nozzles to help permanently affix it n(see below). They were experiencing irregularities/air bubbles in the label and realized they were getting an uneven airflow which was stronger at each end nozzle but the middle nozzle had very little flow. They were operating at around 80 PSIG and previously tried to lower the pressure but the label would start peeling off. If they increased the pressure they were experiencing tearing and ripping in certain areas of the label. Another issue was the loud noise level. They were having to stop the line and turn off the air so an operator could manually replace the label. They emailed me a picture of the manifold and asked if EXAIR could improve their process.

Homemade Manifold

After reviewing the picture and further discussing their application, I recommended using one of our 6” Aluminum Super Air Knives. The Super Air Knife , with a 40:1 amplification rate (surrounding ambient air to compressed air), provides a high velocity laminar sheet of airflow the entire length of the knife. By continuing to operate at 80 PSIG, the Super Air Knife will produce a velocity of 11,800 feet per minute (6” away from target object) and consume only 17.4 SCFM (2.9 SCFM per inch of knife) with a low noise level of only 69 dBA.

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By replacing the manifold, the customer was able to improve their process, decrease their air consumption and increase their personnel’s safety.

If you are experiencing a similar issue or need help with a different compressed air application, please give us a call.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN