When Accessories Become Essentials

In my almost three decades of home ownership, I’ve learned a great deal about maintenance in regard to dwelling structures. Among those lessons are:

  • The importance of the right tool(s) for the job.
  • Having the right materials on hand (I’m looking at you, every plumbing project I’ve ever attempted).
  • When it’s a one-person job, a team effort…or a call to the professionals is always in play.

When it comes to EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, the first and last concerns above are easily addressed. With precious few exceptions, basic hand tools are all that’s required for installation or maintenance, and they’re engineered & manufactured to be “user friendly”. One key aspect of the “user friendliness” is a comprehensive inventory of accessories.

Some of these accessories are unique to a particular Product Line:

  • Air Knife Plumbing Kits are great, especially for the longer Super Air Knives that need to be plumbed to multiple ports along their length. These consist of air hose and brass fittings (for Aluminum Super Air Knives) or Stainless Steel tubing and fittings (for the Stainless Steel models) that connect in to those multiple ports, allowing for infeed to just one (for Super Air Knives up to 54″ long) or two (for lengths up to 108″) 1/2 NPT fittings. These can actually be used on our Super Ion Air Knives as well.
  • Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems provide for ease of installation, and precise positioning of our Aluminum or Stainless Steel Super, Standard, or Full Flow Air Knives.
  • Coupling Bracket Kits can join Super Air Knives together for a continuous, uninterrupted curtain of air flow in any length that you need. They can also be used if you don’t always need air flow along the entire length of a Super Air Knife assembly. I had the pleasure of assisting a user once who had needed to blow off parts on a hanging conveyor. Some parts were a little under 2ft long; others were about 4ft long. They used the Model 110900 Coupling Bracket Kit to join two Model 110024 24″ Aluminum Super Air Knives together, plumbed them separately, and turned both of them on for the long parts, and just the ‘top’ one for the shorter parts.

Other accessories can be used for a variety of products:

  • Stay Set Hoses (with or without Magnetic Bases) make up instant Blowoff Systems when used with our engineered Air Nozzles. They come in lengths from 6″ to 36″, and can bent by hand to “stay set” (as advertised) to hold their position. They can repositioned, as needed. They’re also popular for use with our 3/4″ and 1-1/4″ Super & Adjustable Air Amplifiers, and can even be used with 3″ Air Knives.
  • Conveyance Hose is a great way to connect point A to point B in a Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor system. Bulk material conveyance really doesn’t get much easier than Line Vac + Hose = Instant Conveyor System (just add compressed air). It can also be used with our Air Amplifiers to duct or route the air flow on the inlet, or the outlet to, or from, one area to another.
  • Mounting Brackets are available for a number of our products:
    • Atomizing Spray Nozzles
    • Line Vacs
    • Filters and Regulators
    • Cabinet Cooler System Thermostats
  • Vacuum Cups are often used with our E-Vac Vacuum Generators for pick-and-place material handling applications. We stock fittings and push-in tubing as well, to complete the package. Those fittings and tubing can also be used for the liquid supply to our Atomizing Spray Nozzles (depending on what you’re spraying, you might want to verify chemical compatibility first; call me if that’s a concern).

Other EXAIR Compressed Air Product Accessories can be used with products that aren’t even ours, or, in conjunction with your compressed air system design for increased efficiency or flexibility:

  • Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tanks can be installed near points of high air flow demand to prevent or limit fluctuations in supply throughout the system.
  • Compressed Air Hoses can be made to length, and a variety of Fittings (Hex or Close Nipples, Couplers, Reducers, Tees, Elbows, Crosses, and Bulkhead Fittings) are on the shelf in popular sizes.
  • Our 5 Micron water/dirt Filter Separators are a standard when needing clean, condensate free air to blow through and end-use product.
  • Pressure Regulators are an important factor to minimize compressed air consumption. EXAIR always recommends operating our products at the minimum pressure necessary for a successful application. For example, if using a Super Air Knife to remove dust and light debris, this could be achieved at 20 PSIG, a Pressure Regulator will provide that adjustability and keep the air consumption much lower than if it were operated at 80-100 PSIG.
  • Swivel Fittings, typically used with compressed air nozzles, provide the precision adjustability to focus in on the exact area you need to treat.

If you have any questions about how the above accessories can aid with your application, please relay on our expert team for answers and solutions. Having the right materials and accessories on-hand can simplify installation, enhance performance, save compressed air, and more!

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Which Condensate Drain Is Best For Your Compressed Air System?

In a perfect world, your air compressor’s intake would be free of dirt, oil, and water. Proper maintenance (i.e., periodic cleaning and/or changing) of the intake filter will keep most of the dirt out. Oil and water vapor will pass right through…but that’s not the end of the world (however imperfect it may be); they’re easy to take care of later in the process.

Once these vapors have been compressed (along with all that air that was drawn in), it’ll go into the receiver (usually via an aftercooler in industrial compressors) where it cools down, and that vapor condenses. If it’s left alone, a couple of things can happen:

  • Standing water in the bottom of a steel tank will cause corrosion. This can be carried into your compressed air distribution system. Over time, it will also rust through the reservoir. You don’t want either of these things to happen.
  • Eventually, it’ll take up enough space that your reservoir’s capacity will effectively shrink. That can cause your compressor to cycle rapidly. You don’t want that either.

Even the smallest of compressors will have manual drain valves on the bottoms of their reservoirs. Users will simply blow down the gallon or so tank every so often and go about their business. The small amount of electrical power that the compressor will use to recharge those tanks makes this a perfectly acceptable practice.

In the perfect world I mentioned above, the large reservoirs on industrial air compressors could be drained of condensate in the same manner. There are a few challenges to periodic manual draining:

  • You could do it on a schedule, but varying levels of humidity mean different accumulation rates of condensation. Weekly blowdowns might be OK in the winter, but you may need to do it daily in the summer. And a couple days a week in the spring or fall. It can be a real chore to keep track of all of that.
  • A practiced operator may develop the skill to shut the valve immediately upon the last drop of condensate passing. More often than not, though, you’re going to lose some compressed air doing it manually.
  • File this under “don’t try this at home (or anywhere, really)” – an unfortunately all-too-common practice is to just leave a manual drain cracked open. It works, but it wastes compressed air. On purpose. There’s too much accidental waste to give this any further discussion. Just don’t do it.
  • Plain old forgetfulness, someone going on vacation, or even leaving the company could result in someone else noticing the compressor is frequently cycling (because the reservoir is filling with water…see above), and realizing nobody’s drained the tank in a while.

Again, these manual drains are quite common, especially in smaller air compressor systems…and so are the above challenges. I may or may not have personal experience with an incident similar to that last one. Good news is, there are automated products designed to prevent this from happening to you:

  • Timer drains are popular and inexpensive. They operate just as advertised: a programmable timer opens and closes the drain valve just like you tell it to. They don’t do anything at all to address the first two challenges above: they might blow down for longer than needed (and waste compressed air) or not long enough (and allow water to build up in the reservoir.) They come in two primary configurations:
    • Solenoid Valve: the timer energizes the valve’s coil to open the valve, and a spring shuts it when the timer runs out. Strainers will prevent blockage, and will need periodic maintenance.
    • Ball Valve: the timer operates an electric actuator to open & close the valve. The full port opening of the ball valve means a strainer is usually not necessary, so these are less maintenance intensive.
  • Demand (AKA “no waste” or “zero loss”) drains are actuated by the condensate level in the reservoir. They don’t discharge any of the reservoir’s compressed air, because they close before the last bit of water exits. There are a few common options to choose from:
    • Mechanical float drains can be internal or external…the latter is more common for use with air compressor reservoirs; the former is fairly standard with point-of-use filters (more on that later). When the liquid level rises, the float opens the drain; when liquid level drops, the float closes the drain…easy as that. They CAN be susceptible to clogging with debris, but many have screens to prevent or limit that.
    • Electronic types use a magnetic reed switch or capacitance device to sense the condensate level…so they require electric power.
    • These cost more than the timer types, though, and they’ve got a number of moving parts, so they can find themselves in need of repair. Inexpensive and user-friendly rebuild kits are oftentimes available, and many of these come with alarms to let you know when to use that rebuild kit.

Whether you have a manual, timer, or demand drain, keep in mind that some moisture can still be carried over, and rust/scale can still form in pipelines. Good engineering practice calls for point-of-use filtration, like EXAIR’s Automatic Drain Filter Separators and Oil Removal Filters. If you’d like to talk more about getting the most out of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Intelligent Compressed Air: Compressed Air System Components

In any manufacturing environment, compressed air is critical to the operation of many processes. You will often hear compressed air referred to as a “4th utility” in a manufacturing environment. The makeup of a compressed air system is usually divided into two primary parts: the supply side and the demand side. The supply side consists of components before and including the pressure/flow controller. The demand side then consists of all the components after the pressure/flow controller.

The first primary component in the system is the air compressor itself. There are two main categories of air compressors: positive-displacement and dynamic. In a positive-displacement type, a given quantity of air is trapped in a compression chamber. The volume of which it occupies is mechanically reduced (squished), causing a corresponding rise in pressure. In a dynamic compressor, velocity energy is imparted to continuously flowing air by a means of impellers rotating at a very high speed. The velocity energy is then converted into pressure energy.

Still on the supply side, but installed after the compressor, are aftercoolers, and compressed air dryers. An aftercooler is designed to cool the air down upon exiting from the compressor. During the compression, heat is generated that carries into the air supply. An aftercooler uses a fan to blow ambient air across coils to lower the compressed air temperature.

When air leaves the aftercooler, it is typically saturated since atmospheric air contains moisture. In higher temperatures, the air is capable of holding even more moisture. When this air is then cooled, it can no longer contain all of that moisture and is lost as condensation. The temperature at which the moisture can no longer be held is referred to as the dewpoint. Dryers are installed in the system to remove unwanted moisture from the air supply. Types of dryers available include: refrigerant dryers, desiccant dryers, and membrane dryers.

Also downstream of the compressor are filters used to remove particulate, condensate, and lubricant. Desiccant and deliquescent-type dryers require a pre-filter to protect the drying media from contamination that can quickly render it useless. A refrigerant-type dryer may not require a filter before/after, but any processes or components downstream can be impacted by contaminants in the compressed air system.

Moving on to the demand side, we have the distribution system made up of a network of compressed air piping, receiver tanks when necessary, and point of use filters/regulators. Compressed air piping is commonly available as schedule 40 steel pipe, copper pipe, and aluminum pipe. Some composite plastics are available as well, however PVC should NEVER be used for compressed air as some lubricants present in the air can act as a solvent and degrade the pipe over time.

Receiver tanks are installed in the distribution system to provide a source of compressed air close to the point of use, rather than relying on the output of the compressor. The receiver tank acts as a “battery” for the system, storing compressed air energy to be used in periods of peak demand. This helps to maintain a stable compressed air pressure. It improves the overall performance of the system and helps to prevent pressure drop.

Finally, we move on to the point-of-use. While particulate and oil removal filters may be installed at the compressor output, it is still often required to install secondary filtration immediately at the point-of-use to remove any residual debris, particulate, and oil. Receiver tanks and old piping are both notorious for delivering contaminants downstream, after the initial filters.

Regulator and filter

In any application necessitating the use of compressed air, pressure should be controlled to minimize the air consumption at the point of use. Pressure regulators are available to control the air pressure within the system and throttle the appropriate supply of air to any pneumatic device. While one advantage of a pressure regulator is certainly maintaining consistent pressure to your compressed air devices, using them to minimize your pressure can result in dramatic savings to your costs of compressed air. As pressure and flow are directly related, lowering the pressure supplied results in less compressed air usage.

EXAIR manufactures a wide variety of products utilizing this compressed air to help you with your process problems. If you’d like to discuss your compressed air system, or have an application that necessitates an Intelligent Compressed Air Product, give us a call.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Compressor Image courtesy of Compressor1 via Creative Commons License

Compressed Air Receiver Tanks On The “Demand” Side

Most any air compressor is going to have a receiver tank…from the “pancake” types that might hold a gallon or so, to the large, multi-tank arrangements that facilitate both cooling and drying of compressed air in major industrial installations.  The primary purpose of these receiver tanks is to maintain proper operation of the compressor itself…they store a pressurized volume of air so that the compressor doesn’t have to run all the time.  Receiver Tanks, however, can also be used to eliminate fluctuations at points of use, especially in facilities where there might be a lot of real estate between the compressor and the compressed air consuming products.

I recently had the pleasure of discussing an Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor application with a caller.  The need was to move wood chips, from inside to outside the plant, into trailers.  The facility has plenty of compressed air to operate the Line Vacs (the application calls for several) but because the point of operation is so far from the header, they’ll need a “stash” (the caller’s words…we call it “intermediate storage” but he’s not wrong) of compressed air to keep the Line Vacs supplied for operation without any dips in performance.

Enter the Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tank.  When an application requires an intermittent demand for a high volume of compressed air, the Receiver Tank provides intermediate storage (or a “stash” – that word’s growing on me) to prevent pressure fluctuations and the associated dips in performance.

Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tank

The Model 9500-60 has a small footprint for where floor space is at a premium, and meets ASME pressure vessel code specifications. It comes with a drain valve so you can discharge condensate and contaminants.  A check valve (not included) can be installed upstream to maintain the tank at max pressure so it doesn’t ‘back feed’ other upstream uses.

Use of intermediate storage near the point of use is one of our Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System.  If you’d like to find out more about getting the most out of your compressed air, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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