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

Video Blog: Applying PTFE Tape to Compressed Air Fittings

This video illustrates the proper way to apply PTFE (Teflon*, or Plumber’s) tape to a threaded fitting in order to eliminate future problems with your compressed air system or products.

*Teflon is a registered trademark of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company Corporation.

Have a Good Day,
John Ball, Application Engineer
1-800-903-9247
johnball@exair.com
@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