There is hardly a day I work that I am not talking about the importance of properly installed pressure gauges. These small devices can often get overlooked or thought of as not necessary on an installation. When troubleshooting or evaluating the compressed air consumption of an application, this is one of the first items I look for in the installation.
As Russ Bowman shows in the above video discussing proper piping sizes, you can see the importance of properly placed pressure gauges. This shows the worst-case scenario where the pressure drop due to improper line sizes gives the false sense to the operator that they are achieving full line pressure when in fact they are not. In order to accurately measure consumption rates, pressure AT THE INLET (within a few feet) to any compressed air product is necessary, rather than upstream at a point where there may be restrictions or pressure drops between the inlet and the gauge. So how exactly do these analog gauges measure the pressure of the compressed air at the installed locations?
The video below shows a great example of pressure increasing and decreasing moving the Bourdon tube that is connected to the indicating needle. The description that follows goes more in-depth with how these internals function.
Most mechanical gauges utilize a Bourdon-tube. The Bourdon-tube was invented in 1849 by a French watchmaker, Eugéne Bourdon. The movable end of the Bourdon-tube is connected via a pivot pin/link to the lever. The lever is an extension of the sector gear and movement of the lever results in rotation of the sector gear. The sector gear meshes with spur gear (not visible) on the indicator needle axle which passes through the gauge face and holds the indicator needle. Lastly, there is a small hairspring in place to put tension on the gear system to eliminate gear lash and hysteresis.
When the pressure inside the Bourdon-tube increases, the Bourdon-tube will straighten. The amount of straightening that occurs is proportional to the pressure inside the tube. As the tube straightens, the movement engages the link, lever, and gear system that results in the indicator needle sweeping across the gauge.
If you would like to discuss pressure gauges, the best locations to install them, or how much compressed air an application is using at a given pressure, give us a call, email, or chat.
There’s nothing quite like an ice-cold Coke from McDonald’s. While there’s many reasons for this, one of the reasons for the unique experience of a McDonald’s Coke lies in the straw itself. In their drinks, they provide wider straws that are designed to help enhance the taste of Coca-Cola, or so they claim. Another impact of this is it allows you to drink significantly faster. The wider the opening for liquid to pass through, the more volume you’re able to drink. Imagine trying to drink your Coke, or any other beverage, through a coffee stirrer. I imagine you’re going to have a difficult time and a dry mouth as you try and force what little amount of liquid you can through the small I.D. of a coffee stirrer. Try that with a milkshake and the problems compound…..
The same is true when it comes to plumbing of your point-of-use compressed air products. I recently assisted a customer that was experiencing lackluster performance from the Super Air Knife they purchased. The application was fairly straightforward, they were hoping to reduce the rate of rejected material on their production line of plastic sheets. The sheet goes through a washing process to remove any residual contaminants, then would air dry as it made its way down the line. As the material dried, there were water spots left on the material that would have to then be cleaned off. In the hopes of speeding up the drying process, they purchased a Model 110060 60” Super Air Knife to provide a wide laminar sheet of air to dry the material.
When they hooked everything up, the flow from the knife seemed far less than they were expecting. They were supplying full line pressure (just over 90 PSIG), so in theory they should feel a strong blast of air from the knife. When they installed a pipe tee and pressure gauge directly at the inlet, they noticed the pressure was dropping to 35 PSIG while the knife was in operation. When this occurs, it’s indicative of a lack of volume of air. This can be caused by undersized compressor, or improper plumbing. In their case, they were only plumbing compressed air to one center inlet of the knife. For a 60” knife, EXAIR recommends a minimum of (4) air inlets to ensure adequate volume.
The size of these lines is also critical. You can’t force greater volumes of air through a smaller hose or pipe, just like you can hardly drink through a coffee stirrer with any great success. A 60” knife requires a supply pipe size of 1-1/2” for up to a 50’ run, if you’re trying to supply a knife of this length with a 100’long, ¼” ID hose, you’re not going to get the performance you expect. If you’re experiencing less than optimal performance from any of your EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, there’s a good chance air supply is the culprit. The first step is determining what the actual inlet pressure is, install a pipe tee and pressure gauge right at the inlet. Then, give us a call and we’ll help work through the proper line sizes and ensure that you’re getting the most out of our products.
I hope I didn’t make you hungry or thirsty… But I think I know where and what I’m having for lunch 😊!
How do I make our compressed air system efficient?
This is a critical question which plagues facilities maintenance, engineering, and operational personnel. There are concerns over what is most important, how to approach efficiency implementation, and available products/services to assist in implementation. In order to address these concerns (and others), we must first look at what a compressed air system is designed to do and the common disruptions which lead to inefficiency.
The primary object of a compressed air system is to transport the compressed air from its point of production (the compressors) to its point of use (applications) in sufficient quantity and quality, and at adequate pressure for proper operation of air-driven devices. In order for a compressed air system to do so, the compressed air must be able to reach its intended destination in proper volume and pressure. And, in order to do this, pressure drops due to improper plumbing must be eliminated, and compressed air leakage must be eliminated/kept to a minimum.
But, before these can be properly addressed, we must create a pressure profile to determine baseline operating pressures and system needs. After developing a pressure profile and creating a target system operating pressure, we can move on to the items mentioned above – plumbing and leaks.
Proper plumbing and leakage elimination
The transportation of the compressed air happens primarily via piping, fittings, valves, and hoses – each of which must be properly sized for the compressed air-driven device at the point of use. If the compressed air piping/plumbing is undersized, increased system (main line) pressures will be needed, which in-turn create an unnecessary increase in energy costs.
In addition to the increased energy costs mentioned above, operating the system at a higher pressure will cause all end use devices to consume more air and leakage rates to increase. This increase is referred to as artificial demand, and can consume as much as 30% of the compressed air in an inefficient compressed air system.
But, artificial demand isn’t limited to increased consumption due to higher system pressures. Leaks in the compressed air system place a tremendous strain on maintaining proper pressures and end-use performance. The more leaks in the system, the higher the main line pressure must be to provide proper pressure and flow to end use devices. So, if we can reduce leakage in the system, we can reduce the overall system pressure, significantly reducing energy cost.
How to implement solutions
Understanding the impact of an efficient compressed air system is only half of the equation. The other half comes down to implementation of the solutions mentioned above. In order to maintain the desired system pressure we must have proper plumbing in place, reduce leaks, and perhaps most importantly, take advantage of engineered solutions for point-of-use compressed air demand.
Once proper plumbing is confirmed and no artificial demands are occurring due to elevated system pressures, leaks in the system should be addressed. Compressed air leaks are common at connection points and can be found using an ultrasonic noise sensing device such as our Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD). The ULD will reduce the ultrasonic sound to an audible level, allowing you to tag leaks and repair them. We have a video showing the function and use of the ULD here, and an excellent writeup about the financial impact of finding and fixing leaks here.
With proper plumbing in place and leaks fixed, we can now turn our attention to the biggest use of compressed air within the system – the intended point of use. This is the end point in the compressed air system where the air is designed to be used. This can be for blow off purposes, cleaning, conveying, cooling, or even static elimination.
These points of use are what we at EXAIR have spent the last 34 years engineering and perfecting. We’ve developed designs which maximize the use of compressed air, reduce consumption to absolute minimums, and add safety for effected personnel. All of our products meet OSHA dead end pressure requirements and are manufactured to RoHS, CE, UL, and REACH compliance.
If you’re interested in maximizing the efficiency of your compressed air system, contact one of our Application Engineers. We’ll help walk you through the pressure profile, leak detection, and point-of-use engineered solutions.
A few weeks back I chatted with a customer on an Air Knife application where they were using our 48″ aluminum Super Air Knife to remove leftover dough from a baking pan. The knife was working somewhat, but they were seeing some residual dough being left in certain areas on the pans due to what they perceived as “weak” airflow. After reading through our catalog and installation guide, they noticed that there were available shim sets that would allow them to increase the gap setting to get more force and flow out of the knife.
Our aluminum Super Air Knives are shipped from stock with a .002″ shim installed. The optional shim set includes a .001″, .003″ and .004″ shim that would allow you to decrease or increase the performance. By operating the Super Air Knife with the .003″ shim installed, this would increase the force and flow by 1.5 times and using the .004″ shim would double the performance. Sometimes achieving greater force and flow may be required but with the customer saying they were seeing weak airflow, it seemed there may be a restriction on the supply side.
I asked the customer how the knife was plumbed and what size supply lines he was using. He advised that they were plumbing air to all 3 inlets on the bottom of the knife but they were using 3/4″ hose with a run of about 30′. I advised the customer that plumbing air to all 3 inlets is required for a 48″ Super Air Knife but we actually recommend 3/4″ Schedule 40 Pipe up to 10′ or 1″ pipe up to 50′. If using hose, he would need to go up a size to maintain a large enough ID to carry the volume required for the unit. In his case, since the length of the supply is close to 30′, he would need to use 1-1/4″ ID hose.
Improper plumbing line size is a common issue we deal with here at EXAIR. Using undersized supply lines can cause excessive pressure drops because they aren’t able to carry the volume of air necessary to properly supply the compressed air device. In this particular application, if the customer were to install either the .003″ or .004″ shim, while keeping his current plumbing size, the performance would actually be worse as now the lines are even more undersized due to the increased air volume requirement from the larger Super Air Knife gap.
If you are looking to change the performance with one of our Air Knives or if you would like to discuss a particular application or product, please contact one of our application engineers for assistance at 800-903-9247.