Compressed Air Regulators: The Design and Function

Regulator

Compressed air regulators are a pressure reducing valve that are used to maintain a proper downstream pressure for pneumatic systems.  There are a variety of styles but the concept is very similar; “maintain a downstream pressure regardless of the variations in flow”.  Regulators are very important in protecting downstream pneumatic systems as well as a useful tool in saving compressed air in blow-off applications.

The basic design of a regulator includes a diaphragm, a stem, a poppet valve, an orifice, compression springs and an adjusting screw.  I will break down the function of each item as follows:

  1. Diaphragm – it separates the internal air pressure from the ambient pressure. They are typically made of a rubber material so that it can stretch and deflect.  They come in two different styles, relieving and non-relieving.  Relieving style has a small hole in the diaphragm to allow the downstream pressure to escape to atmosphere when you need to decrease the output pressure.  The non-relieving style does not allow this, and they are mainly used for gases that are expensive or dangerous.
  2. Stem – It connects the poppet valve to the diaphragm. This is the “linkage” to move the poppet valve to allow compressed air to pass.  As the diaphragm flexes up and down, the stem will close and open the poppet valve.
  3. Poppet valve – it is used to block the orifice inside the regulator. It has a sealing surface to stop the flowing of compressed air during zero-flow conditions.  The poppet valve is assisted by a spring to help “squeeze” the seal against the orifice face.
  4. Orifice – it is an opening that determines the maximum amount of air flow that can be supplied by the regulator. The bigger the orifice, the more air that can pass and be supplied to downstream equipment.
  5. Compression springs – they create the forces to balance between zero pressure to maximum downstream pressure. One spring is below the poppet valve to keep it closed and sealed. The other spring sits on top of the diaphragm and is called the adjusting spring.  This spring is much larger than the poppet valve spring, and it is the main component to determine the downstream pressure ranges.  The higher the spring force, the higher the downstream pressure.
  6. Adjusting screw – it is the mechanism that “squeezes” the adjusting spring. To increase downstream pressure, the adjusting screw decreases the overall length of the adjusting spring.  The compression force increases, allowing for the poppet valve to stay open for a higher pressure.  It works in the opposite direction to decrease the downstream pressure.

With the above items working together, the regulator is designed to keep the downstream pressure at a constant rate.  This constant rate is maintained during zero flow to max flow demands.  But, it does have some inefficiencies.  One of those issues is called “droop”.  Droop is the amount of loss in downstream pressure when air starts flowing through a regulator.  At steady state (the downstream system is not requiring any air flow), the regulator will produce the adjusted pressure (If you have a gage on the regulator, it will show you the downstream pressure).  Once the regulator starts flowing, the downstream pressure will fall.  The amount that it falls is dependent on the size of the orifice inside the regulator and the stem diameter.  Charts are created to show the amount of droop at different set pressures and flow ranges (reference chart below).  This is very important in sizing the correct regulator.  If the regulator is too small, it will affect the performance of the pneumatic system.

The basic ideology on how a regulator works can be explained by the forces created by the springs and the downstream air pressures.  The downstream air pressure is acting against the surface area of the diaphragm creating a force.  (Force is pressure times area).  The adjusting spring force is working against the diaphragm and the spring force under the poppet valve.  A simple balanced force equation can be written as:

Fa  ≡ Fp + (P2 * SA)

Fa – Adjusting Spring Force

Fp – Poppet Valve Spring Force

P2 – Downstream pressure

SA – Surface Area of diaphragm

If we look at the forces as a vector, the left side of the Equation 1 will indicate a positive force vector.  This indicates that the poppet valve is open and compressed air is allowed to pass through the regulator.  The right side of Equation 1 will show a negative vector.  With a negative force vector, the poppet valve is closed, and the compressed air is unable to pass through the regulator (zero flow).

Let’s start at an initial condition where the force of the adjusting spring is at zero (the adjusting screw is not compressing the spring), the downstream pressure will be zero.  Then the equation above will show a value of only Fp.  This is a negative force vector and the poppet valve is closed. To increase the downstream pressure, the adjusting screw is turned to compress the adjusting spring.  The additional spring force pushes down on the diaphragm.  The diaphragm will deflect to push the stem and open the poppet valve.  This will allow the compressed air to flow through the regulator.  The equation will show a positive force vector: Fa > Fp + (P2 * SA).  As the pressure downstream builds, the force under the diaphragm will build, counteracting the force of the adjusting spring.  The diaphragm will start to close the poppet valve.  When a pneumatic system calls for compressed air, the downstream pressure will begin to drop.  The adjusting spring force will become dominant, and it will push the diaphragm again into a positive force vector.  The poppet valve will open, allowing the air to flow to the pneumatic device.  If we want to decrease the downstream air pressure, the adjusting screw is turned to reduce the adjusting spring force.  This now becomes a negative force vector; Fa < Fp + (P2 * SA).  The diaphragm will deflect in the opposite direction.  This is important for relieving style diaphragms.  This deflection will open a small hole in the diaphragm to allow the downstream air pressure to escape until it reaches an equal force vector, Fa = Fp + (P2 * SA).  As the pneumatic system operates, the components of the regulator work together to open and close the poppet valve to supply pressurized air downstream.

Compressed air is expensive to make; and for a system that is unregulated, the inefficiencies are much greater, wasting money in your company.  For blow-off applications, you can over-use the amount of compressed air required to “do the job”.  EXAIR offers a line of regulators to control the amount of compressed air to our products.  EXAIR is a leader in manufacturing very efficient products for compressed air use, but in conjunction with a regulator, you will be able to save even more money.  Also, to make it easy for you to purchase, EXAIR offer kits with our products which will include a regulator.  The regulators are already properly sized to provide the correct amount of compressed air with very little droop.   If you need help in finding the correct kit for your blow-off application, an Application Engineer at EXAIR will be able to help you.

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

What Makes A Compressed Air System “Complete”?

It’s a good question.  When do you know that your compressed air system is complete?  And, really, when do you know, with confidence, that it is ready for use?

A typical compressed air system. Image courtesy of Compressed Air Challenge.

Any compressed air system has the basic components shown above.  A compressed air source, a receiver, dryer, filter, and end points of use.   But, what do all these terms mean?

A compressor or compressed air source, is just as it sounds.  It is the device which supplies air (or another gas) at an increased pressure.  This increase in pressure is accomplished through a reduction in volume, and this conversion is achieved through compressing the air.  So, the compressor, well, compresses (the air).

A control receiver (wet receiver) is the storage vessel or tank placed immediately after the compressor.  This tank is referred to as a “wet” receiver because the air has not yet been dried, thus it is “wet”.  This tank helps to cool the compressed air by having a large surface area, and reduces pulsations in the compressed air flow which occur naturally.

The dryer, like the compressor, is just as the name implies.  This device dries the compressed air, removing liquid from the compressed air system.  Prior to this device the air is full of moisture which can damage downstream components and devices.  After drying, the air is almost ready for use.

To be truly ready for use, the compressed air must also be clean.  Dirt and particulates must be removed from the compressed air so that they do not cause damage to the system and the devices which connect to the system.  This task is accomplished through the filter, after which the system is almost ready for use.

To really be ready for use, the system must have a continuous system pressure and flow.  End-use devices are specified to perform with a required compressed air supply, and when this supply is compromised, performance is as well.  This is where the dry receiver comes into play.  The dry receiver is provides pneumatic capacitance for the system, alleviating pressure changes with varying demand loads.  The dry receiver helps to maintain constant pressure and flow.

In addition to this, the diagram above shows an optional device – a pressure/flow control valve.  A flow control valve will regulate the volume (flow) of compressed air in a system in response to changes in flow (or pressure).  These devices further stabilize the compressed air system, providing increased reliability in the supply of compressed air for end user devices.

Now, at long last, the system is ready for use.  But, what will it do?  What are the points of use?

Points of use in a compressed air system are referred to by their end use.  These are the components around which the entire system is built.  This can be a pneumatic drill, an impact wrench, a blow off nozzle, a pneumatic pump, or any other device which requires compressed air to operate.

If your end use devices are for coating, cleaning, cooling, conveying or static elimination, EXAIR Application Engineers can help with engineered solutions to maximize the efficiency and use of your compressed air.  After placing so much effort into creating a proper system, having engineered solutions is a must.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Intelligent Compressed Air: How to Develop a Pressure Profile

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.

Pressure Profile 1
Sample Pressure Profile

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.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

Super Air Amplifiers – Adjustability for Blowoff, Drying, Cooling, Circulation and Ventilation

The Super Air Amplifier is a powerful, efficient, and quiet air mover. Applications currently in place include blowoff, drying, cooling, circulation and ventilation. Sizes from 3/4″ to 8″ are available to best match the air volume that is necessary to achieve the process goals. There are a couple of ways to change the performance of the Super Air Amplifier if either a small or large change to the output flow is required.AirAmplifiers

The chart below shows the Total Output Flow for each of the 6 models. As an example, the Model 120021 or 121021, when operated at 60 PSIG of compressed air supply, will have a total output flow of 120 SCFM. These same devices when operated at 80 PSIG will have a total flow of 146 SCFM. By simply using a pressure regulation device on the compressed air supply, the output performance can be tuned to match the desired outcome.

Capture

For those applications where much greater flow and/or force is needed, the option of installing a thicker shim is available.  The Super Air Amplifiers are supplied with a 0.003″ shim installed (the 8″ model 120028, has a 0.009″ shim as standard) and can be fitted with shims of thicknesses of 0.006″ or 0.009″ (the 8″ model has an optional 0.015″ shim.) Installation of a thicker shim increases the slotted air gap, allowing for a greater amount of controlled air flow.  As a general rule, doubling the shim thickness will double the air flow rates.

Super Air Amplifier Shims
Patented* Shim Design for Super Air Amplifiers

The Super Air Amplifier design provides for a constant, high velocity outlet flow across the entire cross sectional area,.  The balanced outlet flow minimizes wind shear to produce sound levels that are typically three times quieter than other air movers. By regulating the compressed air supply pressure and use of the optional shims, adjustability and flexibility of the unit is wide ranging and sure to meet your process needs.

If you have questions regarding the Super Air Amplifier, 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.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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*Patent #5402938

EXAIR Accessories – We’ve Got you Covered

When you work with us here at EXAIR, we strive to have all the ancillary items that you might need to make your installation a success, without having to find components at the last minute or perhaps using the wrong sized components. Each specific product line such as Super Air Knives or Line Vac air operated conveyors have specific accessories such as mounting brackets or plumbing kits which EXAIR has made to simplify the installation of those particular products. We also carry generalized accessories which work across all of the product lines so you do not have to use multiple vendors or purchase orders.

Silencing Mufflers – Per OSHA Standard 1910.95(a), a worker must not be exposed to sounds levels above 90 dBA for any eight hour shift of a 40 hour work week.  EXAIR offers several types of mufflers including – Reclassifying, Sintered Bronze, Straight-Through and Heavy Duty.  For reducing the noise associated with an EXAIR E-Vac Generator, Vortex Tube, Cabinet Cooler System, or the exhaust air from cylinders, valves and other air powered equipment, we’ve got a muffler that will help to keep the noise level at an acceptable level.

Mufflers

Solenoid and Manual Valves – The easiest way to reduce compressed air usage and save on operating expense is to turn off the compressed air to a device when it isn’t needed. EXAIR carries a wide assortment of solenoid valves, with offerings in the NEMA 4/4X classification, and supply voltages of 24VDC, 120VAC, and 240VAC.  We also have manual ball valves from 1/4 NPT to 1-1/4 NPT and a foot operated valve, with 1/4 NPT connections.

Valves

Swivel Fittings, Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases – To provide a great degree of flexibility for positioning an EXAIR Super Air Nozzle, Air Jets or Air Amplifiers, EXAIR offers several items.  The Swivel Fittings have 25 degree of movement from the center axis, providing a total of 50 degree of adjustability.  The position is locked in place and holds until adjustment is needed. For applications where frequent re-positioning of the air device is required, the Stay Set Hoses are ideal.  Simply mount the hose close to the application, bend it to the shape preferred, and because the hose has “memory”, it will not creep or bend.  Lastly, the Magnetic Bases are another option for flexible, movable installations.  The base has a on/off valve, and a powerful magnet to hold in any vertical or horizontal mounting arrangement.

Swivels, StaySets,MagBases2

 

Hoses – EXAIR can provide hoses for your application.  For the Line Vac air operated conveyor applications, we offer conveyance hose – a durable, clear reinforced PVC hose, in diameters of 3/8″ to 3″ ID, and lengths up to 50′. On the compressed air side, we can provide 12′ Coiled Hoses with 1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 NPT connections, and also 3/8″ and 1/2″ ID hose in lengths to 50′.

Hoses

Filter Separators, Oil Removal Filters and Pressure Regulators – Perhaps the most important accessories for use on a compressed air device are filters and regulators. Filtering the compressed air of dirt, debris, moisture and oil will help to prevent build up inside the EXAIR products, leading to longer service life, and less time spent cleaning, while providing optimum performance. Regulating the air pressure allows for tuning of the performance, using the proper amount of compressed air to obtain satisfactory results.

Filter and Regualtors

If you have questions regarding accessories for use with 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.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Super Air Wipe Controls Coating Thickness On Tubing

A large manufacturing company called looking for a better solution to control the thickness of a curing agent being applied to the outside of tubing used in the automotive industry. The tubing is formed in an extruder and travels through a liquid cooling chamber and then air dried. After the tubing is dried, it is sent to a spray chamber where the curing agent is applied to the exterior. On the exit side of the spray chamber, the customer had installed several flexible air lines placed around the perimeter of the tubing to blow air across the surface to help control the coating thickness. This worked somewhat but they were seeing an increase in the amount of rejected material as the air pattern was sporadic and uneven, which caused streaking and dry spots in certain areas of the tubing. They reviewed our web site and familiarized themselves with our Air Wipes but were unsure of the best design and size to fit their need so they reached out for assistance.

After further discussing the process, their tube O.D. sizes range from 3/8″ – 1/2″, making our 1″ Air Wipe the ideal solution. As far as the design, the Standard or Super Air Wipe, I recommended they use our Model # 2451 Super Air Wipe kit due to the aluminum construction and stainless steel wired braided hoses being able to withstand the potential temperature in the area of 200°F. The kit includes a filter separator to remove any water or contaminants in the supply and a pressure regulator which would allow them to control the flow and force of the exiting air, to help “dial” it in to fit the demand of the application.

Super Air Wipe is available in sizes from 1/2″ up to 11″ in Aluminum construction and up to 4″ in Stainless Steel construction.

 

EXAIR Air Wipes features a split design, which can easily be clamped around the material, to provide a 360° uniform airflow, perfect for treating the surface of round shapes, like extruded tubing. If you have an application where you are needing to dry, cool or clean the outside of a pipe, hose or cable, contact an application engineer for help making the best product selection.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Video Blog: How To Rebuild Pressure Regulators

Today’s video blog is a how-to on rebuilding EXAIR pressure regulators.   Regulators can wear out over time and extensive adjustment as well as if they are not used on a clean compressed air supply.  If you have any questions on an EXAIR product, please contact an Application Engineer.

Thanks for watching!

 

 

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF