Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System – Step 1: Measure

“To measure is to know – if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”
-Lord Kelvin, mathematical physicist, engineer,and pioneer in the field of thermodynamics.

This is true of most anything. If you want to lose weight, you’re going to need a good scale. If you want to improve your time in the 100 yard dash, you’re going to need a good stopwatch. And if you want to decrease compressed air consumption, you’ll need a good flowmeter. In fact, this is the first of six steps that we can use to help you optimize your compressed air system.

Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

There are various methods of measuring fluid flow, but the most popular for compressed air is thermal mass air flow.  This has the distinct advantage of accurate and instantaneous measurement of MASS flow rate…which is important, because measuring VOLUMETRIC flow rate would need to be corrected for pressure in order to determine the true compressed air consumption.  My colleague John Ball explains this in detail in a most excellent blog on Actual (volume) Vs. Standard (mass) Flows.

So, now we know how to measure the mass flow rate.  Now, what do we do with it?  Well, as in the weight loss and sprint time improvements mentioned earlier, you have to know what kind of shape you’re in right now to know how far you are from where you want to be.  Stepping on a scale, timing your run, or measuring your plant’s air flow right now is your “before” data, which represents Step One.  The next Five Steps are how you get to where you want to be (for compressed air optimization, that is – there may be a different amount of steps towards your fitness/athletic goals.)  So, compressed air-wise, EXAIR offers the following solutions for Step One:

Digital Flowmeter with wireless capability.  This is our latest offering, and it doesn’t get any simpler than this.  Imagine having a flowmeter installed in your compressed air system, and having its readings continually supplied to your computer.  You can record, analyze, manipulate, and share the data with ease.

Monitor your compressed air flow wirelessly over a ZigBee mesh network.

Digital Flowmeter with USB Data Logger.  We’ve been offering these, with great success, for almost seven years now.  The Data Logger plugs into the Digital Flowmeter and, depending on how you set it up, records the flow rate from once a second (for about nine hours of data) up to once every 12 hours (for over two years worth.)  Pull it from your Digital Flowmeter whenever you want to download the data to your computer, where you can view & save it in the software we supply, or export it directly into Microsoft Excel.

From the Digital Flowmeter, to your computer, to your screen, the USB Data Logger shows how much air you’re using…and when you’re using it!

Summing Remote Display.  This connects directly to the Digital Flowmeter and can be installed up to 50 feet away.  At the push of a button, you can change the reading from actual current air consumption to usage for the last 24 hours, or total cumulative usage.  It’s powered directly from the Digital Flowmeter, so you don’t even need an electrical outlet nearby.

Monitor compressed air consumption from a convenient location, as well as last 24 hours usage and cumulative usage.

Digital Flowmeter.  As a stand-alone product, it’ll show you actual current air consumption, and the display can also be manipulated to show daily or cumulative usage. It has milliamp & pulse outputs, as well as a Serial Communication option, if you can work with any of those to get your data where you want it.

With any of the above options, or stand-alone, EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter is your best option for Step One to optimize your compressed air system.

Stay tuned for more information on the other five steps.  If you just can’t wait, though, you can always give me a call.  I can talk about compressed air efficiency all day long, and sometimes, I do!


Real Heroes Of Science: James Clerk Maxwell

People who watch way too much TV (like me) will certainly remember the “Real Men of Genius” commercials.  Here’s one of my personal favorites:

Local radio stations all over the country made parodies of these, as did sketch comics.  While trying to come up with something for my weekly blog, I saw that today was the anniversary of the passing of 19th century physicist James Clerk Maxwell.  So, if you’ll try to keep the background music from the video above playing in your head while you read this, let’s see if I can pay proper tribute:

James Clerk Maxwell…even though Albert Einstein is famous for the Special Theory of Relativity, he credited YOU for laying the groundwork.  You not only theorized the relationship between electricity, magnetism, and light, but you also proved it mathematically…so Albert didn’t have to.  He said your work was “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”

Singer: Albert Einstein pretty much called you an “Einstein” the way we call geniuses “Einsteins.”

Professor Maxwell…you devoted your life to learning.  About EVERYTHING.  As if solving Einstein’s problem with the Theory of Relativity (40 years before he knew he had a problem with it) wasn’t enough, you decided to find out what the rings of Saturn were made of.  Over 100 years before we could send the Voyager spacecraft to find out for sure.  And you were right.

Then you discovered how to take color photographs by experimenting with light filters.

Singer: Not only did you tell us what Saturn’s rings were made of, we have color photographs of them thanks to you….

James Clerk Maxwell…your theory that a “friendly little demon” could somehow separate gases into hot and cold flows, while unproven in your lifetime, did actually come to fruition by the development of the Vortex Tube.  Which does just that.

Singer: That’s right, I just drew a straight line from Maxwell’s Demon to EXAIR’s Vortex Tube & Spot Cooling Products!

So here’s to you, James Clerk Maxwell…may we continue to recognize your brilliance, and be inspired by your drive to push forward in scientific developments.

Singer (building to final crescendo): James Clerk Maxwell, a Real Hero Of Sci-i-i-i-i-ence!

If you’d like to hear the musical parts of this actually get sung, or if you’d like to find out more about Vortex Tube products and their uses (it might be best to stick with that second part actually,) give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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How Much Force Does It Take?

In case you weren’t aware, the answer to “How much force does it take?” is always going to be, ALL OF IT.   At least that is what we generally think when trying to blow product off a conveyor belt or diverting parts into bin, etc. Speed and efficiency play a direct role in to what nozzle or blow off device you should use in order to get the job done and be able to repeat the process.

The question we are often asked by customers is, “How much force to I need to move this?”  That is a question that we cannot often answer without asking more questions.  The good part of this is, there is a formula to calculate just how much force you need to move an object.   A good video explaining friction is shown below.

In order to answer the question of how much force do I need, we really need to know all of the following:

Weight of the object
Distance from target
Is it on an incline or level
Distance needed to move
Then, the usually unknown variable, the coefficient of friction between the target and what it is sitting on.

Often times it is the thought process of, my target weighs 5 pounds, I need 5 pounds of force in order to move it from the center of this conveyor belt to the edge, this is not the case.   If you wanted to lift the object over a break between two conveyors then you would need slightly more than 5 pounds in order to ensure you are lifting the front edge of the unit high enough to meet the other conveyor.

Whether you know all of the variables or only a few, if you need to get an object moved and you want to try using compressed air to do so, give us a call and we will help you find the best engineered solution for your application.  Then, we’ll back all stock products with a 30 day guarantee if you don’t like how the system performs – but rest assured, we get it right almost every time.

30 Day Guarantee
The EXAIR 30 Day Guarantee

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager

It Looked Good On Paper

“It looked good on paper…” – this has been the Call to Retreat for many a good-intentioned project, and it’s been on my mind as I prepare for a little construction undertaking this weekend. A few of my fellow Cub Scout leaders and I are going to let our 9 & 10 year-old Scouts build a bridge. See, when we have our Blue and Gold Banquet in a few weeks, the 10 year old Webelos II Scouts will be “crossing over” to Boy Scouts, and the common ceremonial prop we use to do that is a small bridge – their Cub Scout leaders remove the blue loops from their epaulettes before they go across, and their new Boy Scout leaders put the green loops on when they get to the other side. It’s been almost a year since my oldest crossed the bridge, and my pride over that still hasn’t subsided enough to keep me from mentioning it again!

Anyway, we drew up a nice little sketch of this nice little bridge, we’ve dug out our saws and hammers, all of our cordless drills’ batteries are on their chargers, and our materials list is ready for the hardware store, so we’re as prepared as we’re going to get. Until, of course, we get started, and realize what we forgot. We actually did plan for this contingency, though…Mr. Rob and I are the “Second Trip To The Hardware Store” team.

Every once in a while, though, it’s good to have a reminder that there are certain immutable physical principles that bear out from the drawing board to the plant floor. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of assisting a customer with a Super Air Knife system installation. Here’s how it went:

They had recently purchased (2) 54” Super Air Knives, and had installed them to blow debris from sheets of plywood. This should be a slam-dunk: you simply can’t find a more “textbook” application for a Super Air Knife. Unfortunately, the air flow rate wasn’t sufficient to produce good results, so I asked about the compressed air supply. They had 60 feet of ¾” pipe supplying these two units from their 80 PSIG air header, but were getting only 30 PSIG at the inlet to the Super Air Knives. Now, I knew instantly from looking at the Super Air Knife Installation Manual (registration required for access) that this was undersized, since the recommended size for that length of piping, and that amount of Air Knife, would be 1-1/4”. When I calculated the compressed air pipe pressure drop I used these parameters: a flow rate of 313 SCFM (total flow rate of two 54” Super Air Knifes at 80 PSIG supply pressure), 60 ft of ¾” pipe (0.82” ID), and 80 PSIG initial pressure. The results were a pressure drop of 50.45 psi, which is pretty darn close to their 80 PSIG header pressure, minus the 30 PSIG they were seeing at the Air Knives!

I guess the moral to this story – from my perspective, anyway – is that “it looks good on paper” is a harbinger of doom if a trip to the hardware store is involved. When it comes to applying the laws of physics, it comes down to the accuracy of your calculations. As we’re reminded in this  video, the laws of physics are absolute, and, as the engineer in the video says, “if you make physics mad, physics will hurt you!”

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
(513)671-3322 local
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(513)671-3363 fax