Quick disconnect pneumatic fittings have been a staple in any manufacturing facility I have ever visited in my 10+ years as part of the manufacturing world. The fact is, they have been around for a lot longer than 10 years. The style we see most often is the 1/4″ Quick Disconnect Fitting, and we are typically troubleshooting a lack of air volume problem because they are not sized properly for the application. These can be found in any industrial supply companies catalog, your local hardware stores, and even auto parts stores. Quick Disconnects are even sold with certain EXAIR Industrial Housekeeping products, the key being they are properly sized.
Properly sizing the quick disconnect is a critical step in the process of deciding how to lay out your piping system as well as how to ensure products operate at optimal performance. As you can see in the picture above, the two quick disconnects on the left are both larger quick disconnects as well as larger NPT thread sizes. The two on the right are smaller and probably a bit more common to see. Also notice the thread sizes on each, these are also manufactured in many other NPT thread options. The through hole on the quick disconnects is decided by the size of the QD, not the thread size on the other end. The example I am illustrating is comparing the 3/8 NPT and 1/4 NPT quick disconnects: Even though you can have 3/8 NPT threads, your throat diameter of the QD is still restricted to .195″ I.D., the same as the 1/4 NPT. This can be a large restriction on a product with a 3/8 NPT thread size.
Also to be noted is that all QD’s of the same size are not made equally, tests have shown that you can lose as much as 20 psi through a quick disconnect and up to 40 psi when not properly matched with the female QD. This leads to the next step which is to ensure that you are not purchasing a QD on appearance. MAke sure to choose the QD designed to permit the amount of air you need to operate your point of use product without a volume or pressure loss.
These two points are reasons why quick disconnects can diminish your point of use compressed air product performance. If you have questions on which size to use with your EXAIR product or need help determining why your point of use product is not performing how you would like, contact us.
Quick Disconnects are a quick and easy solution to hook up devices to your compressed air system. These units can be found in quite a few factories and are more often than not being used incorrectly. I know that on the air compressor in my garage, the only way to hook anything up to it was to use 1/4″ quick disconnects. Chances are they are even a few of them within your facility, assuming you have compressed air available.
When you really look at a quick disconnect though you start to see why it shouldn’t be used to install every compressed air driven device there is. You can see in the pictures below that a 1/4″ quick disconnect that goes to a 3/8″ NPT adapter has a .192″ opening at the small end. A 3/8″ Schedule 40 iron pipe will actually carry a .493″ inner diameter. If you were to use this quick disconnect on something like a 2″ Heavy Duty Line Vac, you will starve it for air due to the limited ability of the small diameter to carry enough air volume. This, in turn, will limit the performance of the Line Vac. This is because the through hole on the quick disconnect cannot pass enough air to feed through to the Line Vac.
On the 1/4″ quick disconnect to a 3/8″ NPT this may not be as large as a problem as the next picture. Below you can see a 1/2″ quick disconnect that is going up to a 3/4″ NPT. a 3/4″NPT Schedule 40 iron pipe is actually a .824″ inner diameter. The quick disconnect at most has a .401″ inner diameter.
Even though you are providing the correct thread size for your connection (a 3/8 MNPT and a 3/4 FNPT respectively in our example) the quick disconnect’s small inside diameter could be too much of a restriction for the volume demanded by an end use product. Due to this restriction point you will see pressure drops in your system when using a device with a properly sized inlet for its demand of compressed air being fed with an improperly sized quick disconnect. This is one of the main reasons one of our first questions in troubleshooting an EXAIR products performance with a customer is whether or not they are using quick disconnects.
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.
Now that I have your attention I can assure you I am only going to talk about compressed air. At a compressed air seminar I attended yesterday, I saw many images of poorly connected air lines and fittings. The majority of the cases I saw all boiled down to one common denominator. See if you can find anything wrong with the pictures below and then we’ll get into it.
The first picture shows the easy way to hook up a regulator and make it easy to take apart. The issue is the quick disconnects may make it easy to hook something up or take the regulator out for maintenance but you are also restricting your flow considerably. If you were to hook a Soft Grip Safety Air Gun up at the end of the line you would be limiting the amount of air you can flow to the gun before it even gets to the regulator. The correct way to plumb this system would be to have a larger supply line and then have the regulator as close to the point of use as possible. Also if you are setting all the regulators throughout your facility to the same point, i.e. 80 PSIG, then why pay to generate more at the source. Reduce your compressor output to 80-90 PSIG.
The second picture has a lot going on and again the main problem here is all the leech hoses from the manifold are the same size, if not bigger than the supply line. Not to mention the line that goes from one port on the manifold back to another port on it. This means as soon as you turn on one leg of that manifold you might be at the capacity for that line and starving other processes.
The answer isn’t installing more compressors, the answer is to utilize the compressed air wisely making sure your system is plumbed properly. We preach it every day here and can’t stress it enough. If you have questions about your compressed air application or how to approach it, don’t hesitate to contact us.