Proper Supply Line Size And Fittings Provide Peak Performance

Many times when we provide the air consumption of an EXAIR product, we get a response like…. “I’ve got plenty of pressure, we run at around 100 PSIG”. While having the correct pressure available is important, it doesn’t make up for the volume requirement or SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet per Minute) needed to maintain that pressure. We commonly reference trying to supply water to a fire hose with a garden hose, it is the same principle, in regards to compressed air.

When looking to maintain an efficient compressed air system, it’s important that you use properly sized supply lines and fittings to  support the air demand (SCFM) of the point-of-use device. The smaller the ID and the longer the length of run, it becomes more difficult for the air to travel through the system. Undersized supply lines or piping can sometimes be the biggest culprit in a compressed air system as they can lead to severe pressure drops or the loss of pressure from the compressor to the end use product.

Take for example our 18″ Super Air Knife. A 18″ Super Air Knife will consume 52.2 SCFM at 80 PSIG. We recommend using 1/2″ Schedule 40 pipe up to 10′ or 3/4″ pipe up to 50′. The reason you need to increase the pipe size after 10′ of run is that 1/2″ pipe can flow close to 100 SCFM up to 10′ but for a 50′ length it can only flow 42 SCFM. On the other hand, 3/4″ pipe is able to flow 100 SCFM up to 50′ so this will allow you to carry the volume needed to the inlet of the knife, without losing pressure through the line.

Pipe size chart for the Super Air Knife

We also explain how performance can be negatively affected by improper plumbing in the following short video:

 

Another problem area is using restrictive fittings, like quick disconnects. While this may be useful with common everyday pneumatic tools, like an impact wrench or nail gun, they can severely limit the volumetric flow to a device requiring more air , like a longer length air knife.

1/4″ Quick Connect

For example, looking at the above 1/4″ quick disconnect, the ID of the fitting is much smaller than the NPT connection size. In this case, it is measuring close to .192″. If you were using a device like our Super Air Knife that features 1/4″ FNPT inlets, even though you are providing the correct thread size, the small inside diameter of the quick disconnect causes too much of a restriction for the volume (SCFM) required to properly support the knife, resulting in a pressure drop through the line, reducing the overall performance.

If you have any questions about compressed air applications or supply lines, please contact one of our application engineers for assistance.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Typical Compressed Air Plumbing Mistakes

As a manufacturer of Intelligent Compressed Air Products, we like to address one of the most common problems with installation, proper plumbing.  A picture is worth a 1,000 words, and knowledge is power.  I will show both to help eliminate any pitfalls when installing our products.

A customer purchased a model 110072 Super Air Knife.  It is a powerful and efficient air knife that is 72 inches (1.8 meter) long.  He mounted it across his sheet to blow debris off from the surface of his product.  After installing the Super Air Knife, he was having issues in getting a strong even force along the entire knife.  He would only get compressed air blowing on the ends of the Super Air Knife.  The center did not have anything coming out.  He needed our help to solve.  In detailing my forensics, I asked him for pictures of his installation as I went over some basic questions.  Here is what we found:

Question 1: What is the pressure at the entrance of the Super Air Knife?

Answer 1: 95 psig (6.5 bar)

Picture: The gage reading is at the regulator.

Solution: There should also be a pressure gage right at the entrance of the Super Air Knife. It helps to define any issues in the system by comparing line pressure at the regulator to inlet pressure at the Super Air Knife.  This customer would see a very low air pressure at the Super Air Knife caused by all the restrictions (reference below).

Issue 1
Issue 1

Question 2: What size is your compressed air line that is supplying the Super Air Knife?

Answer 2: 1 ½” NPT pipe. (From the installation manual, this is the correct size pipe to supply the air required for the Super Air Knife when it is 150′ from the compressor.)

Picture: The compressed air line is reduced from 1 ½” NPT to ¼” NPT pipe.  Yes, there is a 1-1/2″ pipe bringing air close to the Super Air Knife, but it is actually a 1/4″ NPT pipe fitting on a small coiled hose that is supplying the knife. Due to a lack of air vlume, the pressure drop is huge and it is performance of the Super Air Knife.

Solution: They will need to run 1 ½” NPT pipe to the Super Air Knife.  Then uses Pipe Tees and/or Crosses to branch into the feed lines to the Super Air Knife.

Issue 2
Issue 2

Question 3: Do you have any restrictions in the compressed air line?

Answer 3: I don’t know.

Picture: We have multiple issues.

  1. The ¼” NPT compressed air line is too small (huge restriction).
  2. The red filter in photo above is too small (huge restriction). The black filter and black regulator are sized correctly to supply the Super Air Knife, but the red filter is too small causing a large pressure drop.
  3. One of the biggest culprits in choking compressed air flow to a pneumatic product are Quick Disconnect fittings. The picture below is a quick disconnect on the inlet port to the Super Air Knife (huge restriction)
  4. The yellow compressed air line is also way too small. I only bring this up because there is a difference in diameters from Schedule 40 pipe to air hose and tubing. Make sure that the inner diameters match or are larger than the recommended pipe size.

Solution: In order to have the Super Air Knife properly working, we have to make sure that it can get enough compressed air.  I had the customer remove all the small fittings, yellow tubing, quick disconnects, and the small filter.

Issue 3
Issue 3

Question 4: How many ports on the Super Air Knife are you using to supply the compressed air?

Answer 4: 2 ports.

Picture: With this length of the Super Air Knife, it requires 4 ports to supply compressed air (reference the Installation Manual). They should be evenly spaced from one end of the Super Air Knife to the other.  This is another reason that he only had compressed air coming out at the ends of the Super Air Knife.

Solution: EXAIR offers a Plumbing Kit to make sure the entire knife is supplied correctly.  The plumbing kit contains all the proper size fittings and hose to plumb the correct number of Air Knife inlets. These kits prevent you from hunting for the right fittings and from using undersized parts, which will not be able to supply the knife with enough air.

Model 9078 PKI Kit
Model 9078 Plumbing Kit

With proper installation at the beginning, it will save you time and headaches, and you will be able to utilize the EXAIR products properly. If you have additional questions about your setup, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR at 1-800-903-9247.

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

Full-Flow Air Knife Dries Copper Strip

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).

Full-Flow
The Full-Flow Air Knife is available up to 36″ in either aluminum or 303ss construction.

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.

How the Standard Air Knife Works
Illustration showing how the Standard and Full-Flow Air Knives operate.

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.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN