An important part of operating and maintaining a compressed air system is taking accurate pressure measurements at various points in the compressed air distribution system, and establishing a baseline and monitoring with data logging. A Pressure Profile is a useful tool to understand and analyze the compressed air system and how it is functioning.
The profile is generated by taking pressure measurements at the various key locations in the system. The graph begins with the compressor and its range of operating pressures, and continues through the system down to the regulated points of use, such as Air Knives or Safety Air Guns. It is important to take the measurements simultaneously to get the most accurate data, and typically, the most valuable data is collected during peak usage periods.
By reviewing the Pressure Profile, the areas of greatest drop can be determined and the impact on any potential low pressure issues at the point of use. As the above example shows, to get a reliable 75 PSIG supply pressure for a device or tool, 105-115 PSIG must be generated, (30-40 PSIG above the required point of use pressure.) As a rule of thumb, for every 10 PSIG of compressed air generation increase the energy costs increase 5-7.5%
By developing a total understanding of the compressed air system, including the use of tools such as the Pressure Profile, steps to best maximize the performance while reducing costs can be performed.
If you have questions about getting the most from your compressed air system, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.
Incorrect plumbing is an all too common problem we deal with on a regular basis here at EXAIR. Many times we receive calls from a customer saying that their Air Knife isn’t producing a high velocity or they are seeing an uneven airflow. In fact we have written many blogs touching on this subject, such as the one I posted a few weeks ago titled, Proper Air Supply & Installation Provides Best Performance or the one titled Typical Compressed Air Plumbing Mistakes by our International Application Engineer John Ball.
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. We commonly reference trying to supply water to a fire hose with a garden hose, it is the same principle. Using restrictive fittings, like quick disconnects, will also contribute to this effect as the ID of the fitting is much smaller than the NPT connection size. Example: Say you are seeing 80-100 PSIG upstream of an air knife at the pressure gauge, by the time the air passes through a quick disconnect or small ID line and fitting, the actual pressure being delivered to the unit will be much less, possibly as low as 20-30 PSIG depending on the installation. One way to measure the actual pressure being delivered to the air knife would be to install a pipe tee with a pressure gauge right at the inlet of the air knife.
All of our products are shipped with an installation guide referencing the proper recommended pipe sizes for various lengths of supply pipe. When dealing with our Air Knives, since we offer lengths up to 108″, you need to plumb air to multiple inlets for knives that are 24″ and larger. To simplify the installation process, we offer our Air Knife Plumbing Kits. The Plumbing Kits include properly sized nitrile/PVC compressed air hose and brass fittings for our aluminum units. In addition, we now offer 316ss pipe and fittings for our stainless steel and PVDF Super Air Knives for applications requiring superior corrosion resistance. Using the plumbing kits eliminates pressure loss and the need for searching for the proper fittings or possibly using incorrect pipe size.
If you think you are experiencing less than expected performance from one of our products, please give us a call so we can help.
Last week I was working with a customer who was using our 36″ Full-Flow Air Knife to dry a flat copper strip as it exited the rinse cycle of their process. The customer chose the Full-Flow design due to it’s small profile, making it easier to fit into the tight space available to mount to their machine. The customer stated that they flow tested the knife before installation and the knife “worked great” but once mounted, the flow was reduced significantly. They were thinking of returning the unit under our Unconditional 30 Day Guarantee but I offered to help troubleshoot the unit to see if we couldn’t relieve their issue(s).
When they tested the unit external to the machine they were using 1″ hose (our recommendation for a 36″ Air Knife) running to a tee, which stepped down to 1/2″ ID hose going to both rear inlets on the back of the knife. But when they installed the knife, due to space limitations, they reduced the main supply to 3/8″ tubing and plumbed only 1 inlet using a quick disconnect. This explained some of the low output flow with the unit. Using undersized supply lines and quick disconnect cause significant pressure drops due to their small inside diameters. When this occurs, you aren’t able to flow enough volume of air (SCFM) to the knife, which results in reduced performance and uneven flow.
The second issue was how they had the unit mounted to the machine. Wanting to keep the air inlets easily accessible, they mounted the face of the knife (the surface the compressed air runs along) right up to the outside wall of the machine, leaving just a small gap for the output flow and built a protective shield around the unit. The Full-Flow Air Knife will entrain 30 parts of surrounding, ambient air for every 1 part (SCFM) of compressed air used. With the unit being unable to entrain any free air, the output flow is further diminished.
After increasing the supply line to both inlets, removing the quick disconnect and protective shield and moving the knife back to allow for the air entrainment, the customer called back to advise that the strip was now completely dry.
If you are experiencing reduced performance or need help with the installation of your EXAIR product, give us a call at 1-800-903-9247.
Another factor in the six steps is identifying and addressing leaks within your system. Finding leaks in your compressed air system can be done several ways, one of the oldest methods is to use a soap and water mixture to spray on every joint and see if there is a leak that causes bubbles. The next method would be to use ball valves and pressure gauges to test each run of pipe to ensure they are holding their pressure over a period of time, similar to a leak down test. The final method, and by far the easiest, would be to utilize our Ultrasonic Leak Detector.
This can be used to sense leaks in compressed air systems up to 20′ away and can also pin point a leak by closely monitoring each joint. Neal Raker made a great video on how to use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector a while back and it is shown below.
If you have any questions on how to find leaks or how to optimize your compressed air system, give us a call.
Every day I speak with engineers who are having trouble using compressed air products. A common problem they have is not providing an adequate air supply to their unit. I go through a basic troubleshooting technique to ensure that their pressure and flow rate is adequate. I ask them to install tee on the inlet to the compressed air product in order to install a pressure gauge right at the inlet to the pipe. This allows us to know exactly what pressure we are supplying to the product. Customers are always surprised how the gauge on the compressor or the regulator may read 120 PSIG, but the gage on the inlet to the compressed air product is significantly less.
Last year, my colleague, Russell Bowman, made an excellent video showing how the inlet pressure at the knife will have a significant impact on the performance of the Super Air Knife. In the video, he changes the length and ID of the compressed air supply to illustrate the difference a proper supply line will have on the performance of a compressed air products.
Not providing adequate air supply is commonly caused by these three mistakes, when plumbing compressed air systems.
1. Incorrectly Sized Piping – This can be the single biggest problem. A lack of planning before installing a compressed air product. Not all compressed air systems are created equal. Though a 1/4″ shop air hose may work for a number our products, some of our products require a larger air line because they require more volume of air to be effective. We often speak with customers an illustrate this problem by stating small air lines are like trying to feed a fire hose with a garden hose – there simply is not enough volume to create the pressure necessary to reach the fire, or solve the application in our scenarios. We publish the flow rates for all of our products and make inlet pipe size recommendation in the installation and maintenance guide furnish with the products so you may avoid this common problem. We also have air data tables in our Knowledge Base or you may consult an application engineer who will be happy to make the proper recommendation.
2. Quick Disconnects – These handy connectors are great when operating a brad nailer, or a small blow gun, but the small through diameter can severely limit the flow rate into a long air knife, large diameter air operated conveyor, or big vortex tubes. Due to this fact it is strongly advised to use threaded fittings or over-sized quick disconnects.
3. Adding extra hose or pipe – Extra hose is never a bad thing, right? No, an extra 30 feet of air hose can significantly drop the pressure of a compressed air system. 20 feet of ½ Pipe can flow 70 CFM with a 5 PSI pressure drop. 50 feet of ½” pipe will only flow 42 SCFM with the same 5 PSIG pressure drop. Keep your hose or pipe lengths to a minimum to improve the volume of air you can deliver to a compressed air product.
EXAIR uses our blog platform to communicate everything from new product announcements to personal interests to safe and efficient use of compressed air. We have recently passed our 5 year anniversary of posting blogs (hard for us to believe) and I thought it appropriate to share a few of the entries which explain some more of the technical aspects of compressed air.
Here is a good blog explaining EXAIR’s 6 steps to optimization, a useful process for improving your compressed air efficiency:
One of the Above 6 steps is to provide secondary storage, a receiver tank, to eliminate pressure drops from high use intermittent applications. This blog entry addresses how to size a receiver tank properly:
Thanks for supporting our blog over the past 5 years, we appreciate it. If you need any support with your sustainability or safety initiatives, or with your compressed air applications please contact us.