Compressed Air Use In The Agriculture Industry

I didn’t grow up ON a farm, but more than a few of the kids I went to school with did. My wife’s grandpa had a farm, and one of her uncles still does. Farmers have always been the most diversely talented people I’ve ever known. They’re well versed in soil chemistry and plant biology. They have a keen understanding of climate & weather patterns which allows them to sow seed after the last frost in early spring, and gather their last harvest before the first frost of mid-to-late autumn. Most of them are also expert mechanics, welders, and plumbers as well, to avoid costly repair bills on equipment they operate in fairly harsh conditions. And the ones that raised livestock, I’d stack their veterinary knowledge & skills up against just about any vet’s office.

In my twelve years with EXAIR, I’ve had the pleasure of talking with many farmers & other folks in agricultural-type jobs, and a lot of the stuff they use our products for is downright fascinating. Here are two prime examples – one from an agricultural product provider, and one from an actual agricultural job:

*A company that makes irrigation drain pipe uses Model 2485 5″ Standard Air Wipe Kits to cool and dry their extruded 4″ pipe before cutting to length & packaging it for shipment. This replaced a blower operated setup that didn’t completely dry the corrugated outside diameter. The Air Wipe not only blew off almost all the water, all the time, but also allowed them to increase production speed by nearly 10%.

The turbulent air flow from the blower system (left) really just beats on the extruded surface, while the laminar flow of the EXAIR Super Air Wipe (right) strips & sweeps the surface clean & dry.

*Once fruit & vegetables are harvested, most of them go through some sort of cleaning process. EXAIR Super Air Knives are commonly used in conjunction with those processes. Sometimes they’re blowing loose dirt from, say, onions or potatoes, so they don’t turn the wash water into a mud bath. They’re also used to blow the wash & rinse water off, so they’re as dry as possible before packaging or processing. One particular customer uses Super Air Knives for the latter. By replacing blowers with a Model 110236SS 36″ Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Kit to dry freshly washed potatoes, they were able to increase the speed of conveyance…the laminar flow from the engineered Air Knife was better at blowing off the potatoes than the turbulent flow from the blower. Also, since the temperature of the Air Knife’s flow is the same as ambient temperature (because they entrain air from their surrounding at a rate of 40:1 to their compressed air consumption), this extended the time before spoilage. The warmer air from the blower (caused by friction in the rotating elements) was fostering the bacterial growth that leads to spoilage.

Increased potato production + longer shelf life = win/win.

Engineered compressed air products are widely used in agriculture (and, of course, many other industries) for their simplicity, durability, and reliability. If you’d like to find out how EXAIR products can make your life (or at least your job) easier, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
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So Many Holes

I remember the book and movie about a young teenager who gets sent to a prison/ work camp that all they do is dig holes. Yeah, there’s a much deeper story line there and that isn’t the point of this blog. The point is, that movie is all I thought of when I encountered this customer’s nozzle solution. Their ejector nozzle on a recycling conveyor was using too much air and was too noisy.

Upon receiving the nozzle to do a free EXAIR Efficiency Lab, we were absolutely amazed at the level of care taken to make something like this. The nozzle was purpose built and definitely got the job done, it also drained their compressed air system at times and made a lot of noise while it did the work. So what did this nozzle look like, now keep in mind, this was not the customer’s design, it was a solution from the machine manufacturer.

For an idea, the customer nozzle was a 3″ overall length, and had a total of 162 holes in it. There were two inlets for 3/8″ push to connect tubing. The holes were very cleanly drilled and we used a discharge through orifice chart to estimate the consumption before testing. Operating pressure were tested at 80 psig inlet pressure.

Discharge through an orifice table.

Our estimations were taken from the table above. We used a pin gauge to determine the hole size and it came close to a 1/32″ diameter. With the table below we selected the 1.34 CFM per hole and used a 0.61 multiplier as the holes appeared to have crisp edges.

Estimation Calculation

Then, we went to our lab and tested. The volumetric flow came out to be measured at 130.71 SCFM. This reassured us that our level of estimation is correct. We then measured the noise level at 95.3 dBA from 3′ away. Lastly, we tested what could replace the nozzle and came up with a 3″ Super Air Knife with a .004″ thick shim installed. To reach this solution we actually tested in a similar setup to the customer’s for functionality as they sent us some of their material.

Now for the savings, since this customer was focused on air savings, that’s what we focused on. The 3″ Super Air Knife w/ .004″ thick shim installed utilizes 5.8 SCFM per inch of knife length when operated at 80 psig inlet pressure. So the consumption looks like below

That’s an astounding amount of air saved for each nozzle that is replaced on this line. The line has 4 nozzles that they want to immediately change out. For a single nozzle, the savings and simple ROI looks like the table below.

Air Savings / Simple ROI

That’s right, they will save 115.02 SCFM per minute of operation. These units operate for seconds at a time so the amount of actual savings is still to be determined after a time study. In videos shared, there was not many seconds out of a minute where one of the four nozzles was not activated. Once the final operation per minute is received we can rework our calculations and see how many hours of line operation it will take to pay back each knife purchase.

If you have any point of use blowoff or part ejection and even have a “nice looking” blowoff in place, don’t hesitate to reach out. These are still very different from our Engineered Solutions. We will help you as much as we can and provide test data, pictures, and even video of testing when possible.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer