“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is a well-known axiom in engineering & process improvement circles. We talk to callers every day who are keen on conserving compressed air use in their facilities by making a few tweaks, considering a complete overhaul, or more often, some point in between. Bottom line (literally) is, compressed air isn’t cheap, so small gains in efficiency can add up. And large gains can be complete game-changers…following our Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System has resulted in users being able to shut down 50 and 100 HP air compressors, saving thousands of dollar A MONTH in operating costs.
Step #1 is measurement, and that’s where the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter comes in. They’re easy to install, highly accurate, extremely reliable, and available for just about any size pipe used for compressed air distribution. They can output a 4-20mA signal straight from their PCB board, or serial comms (RS485) through an optional control board. USB Data Loggers and Summing Remote Displays have proven to be value-added accessories for data management as well.
If you want to go wireless, we can do that too: using ZigBee mesh network protocol, a radio module is installed in the Digital Flowmeter with wireless gateway to transmit data to an Ethernet connected gateway. The transmitting range is 100 ft (30 meters,) and the data can be passed from one radio module to another, allowing for multiple Digital Flowmeter installations to extend the distance over which they can communicate with the computer you’re using for central monitoring. Advantages include:
Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important to use the compressed air as efficiently as possible. EXAIR has six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system. Following these steps will help you to cut electrical costs, reduce overhead, and improve your bottom line. In this blog, I will cover the first step – Measure the air consumption to find sources that use a lot of compressed air.
Information is important to diagnose wasteful and problematic areas within your compressed air system. To measure air consumption, flow meters are used to find the volume or mass of compressed air per unit of time. Flow rates are very useful data points to find problems like leaks, over-use in blow-offs, waste calculations, and comparison analysis.
There are many different types of flow meters. Many of them entail a breakdown of your current compressed air lines by cutting, welding, or dismantling for installation. This will add cost in downtime and maintenance staff. But, not with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeters. In this blog, I will share the features and benefits of the Digital Flowmeters including options for you to start measuring and optimizing your compressed air system in Step 1.
Overall, it only takes a few minutes to install and start measuring. The installation kit comes with a drill bit and a drill guide to properly locate the two holes on the pipe. The Digital Flowmeter uses a clamp to mount to the pipe and to seal the area around the probes. Once it is powered, the unit is ready to measure the air flow inside the pipe with a large LED display. The display can be customized to show flow readings in three different units; SCFM, M3/hr or M3/min; and, it can display the Daily Usage and Cumulative Usage.
To get started, the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter is a thermal dispersion device that can accurately measure compressed air flows. They use two sensing probes for comparative analysis. One probe is a temperature sensing probe, and the other is a flow-sensing probe. By comparing these, the Digital Flowmeter can measure precisely the mass air flow without needing to be recalibrated. They are a cost-effective, accurate, and simple way to measure compressed air flows.
EXAIR stocks a large volume of Digital Flowmeters to ship same day for U.S. and Canadian customers. We also offer a 30-day unconditional guarantee to try them out. We stock meters for pipe diameters from ½” NPT to 4″ NPT Schedule 40 black pipe. EXAIR can also offers flow meters up to 8″ NPT black pipe; copper pipes with diameters from 3/4″ to 4″, and aluminum pipes with diameters ranging from 40mm to 101mm. If you have another type of piping for your compressed air system, you can give us the material, O.D. or I.D., and wall thickness. We may still be able to get a Digital Flowmeter for you.
For measuring, all the units come standard with a 4 – 20mA analog output. Per your request, we can change this signal to a serial output for RS-485 or Ethernet connections. What more can we offer with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter? Options. Options upgrade the flow meters to better suit your application. Here is a list below:
USB Data Logger: This option allows for a recording of the flow information. With a software download, you can setup the USB Data Logger to record the flows from once a second (roughly 9 hours of storage) to every 12 hours. After the data points are recorded, you can then download the information into the software to review. Then the information can be uploaded into an Excel program to do further analysis.
Summing Remote: With compressed air pipes running along the ceiling and walls, reading the Digital Flowmeter may be difficult. The Summing Remote has a 50-foot (15 meter) cable to bring the LED display into viewing. The Summing Remote is powered by the Digital Flowmeter, and it can be positioned at eye level, inside managers’ rooms, or around large equipment for monitoring.
Wireless Capability: Our latest Digital Flowmeter now has wireless capabilities. They use a Zigbee® communications to pick up flow readings from other flow meters and the Gateway. The Gateway can detect over 100 Digital Flowmeters in your facility. From the Gateway, the information is transferred through a LAN. You can record and analyze the flow information from each meter on the network with our EXAIR® Logger Software. You can set limits to send warnings when your compressed air system is using too much or too little of compressed air. This technology makes it very easy for measuring your compressed air system in the entire facility without having to be there.
Hot Tap Digital Flowmeter: This option is a great way to install a Digital Flowmeter to the pipe without shutting down the compressed air line. We offer this option for 2″ and larger flow meters for steel and copper pipes. It gives a quick and easy way to attach if you have a 24-hour operation or a critical process that needs to continue to run.
Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeter: If you would like to know the compressed air flow and the air pressure, this option will be able to do this. They are available with the Digital Flowmeters for steel and copper pipes that are 2″ and larger, and for the aluminum piping that is 50mm and larger. This option can display pressure units in either PSI or Bar right on the same LED display that shows the flow readings.
Block-Off Rings: If you want to move your Digital Flowmeter, the Block-Off Rings will be able to cover the openings in your compressed air pipe. They seal around the drilled opening when the Digital Flowmeter is removed from the pipe. They are reusable; so, they can be removed if you want to remount the Digital Flowmeter in the same spot. If you want to use one flow meter in different locations, the Block-Off Rings allow you do this.
When you need to analyze your pneumatic components, flow is an important point in diagnosing the overall “health” of your compressed air system. The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter can give you that important data point. With optimization, you can cut your energy consumption, improve pneumatic efficiencies, and save yourself money. This blog is an overview of Step 1 of six steps. You may have more questions; and, that is great! You can find them in other EXAIR blogs, or you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.
Well, a lot, actually…if that name is EXAIR. I wrote a blog just last week about how a set of Super Air Knives solved a MAJOR problem with a brand new aluminum sawing application – the company got those Super Air Knives on the recommendation of the Maintenance Supervisor, who had used them, with great success, at a previous company.
Even more recently, I had the pleasure of helping a caller from an engineering firm that specifies a wide range of our products for use in their OEM machinery:
Turns out, they use a good amount of compressed air in their manufacturing facility and (did I mention they’re an engineering firm?) they’re interested in implementing a facilities resource management program. For one part of this, they want to know how much compressed air they’re using, when they’re using it, and what they’re using it for. And when presented with a question about compressed air, they thought about EXAIR…and wanted to know more about the Digital Flowmeter.
We discussed everything from theory of operation, to best practices for installation (location, position, etc.,) to accuracy, to getting the flow data…and we’ve got a few options for that:
*The Digital Flowmeter itself can output a 4-20mA signal, or there’s an optional RS-485 output board available.
*The USB Data Logger connects directly to the Digital Flowmeter and records flow rate data – about 9 hours’ worth if measured once a second; 2 years’ worth if measured every 12 hours. When removed from the Digital Flowmeter and plugged into your computer, you can use its software, or Microsoft Excel, to view & analyze the data.
*The Summing Remote Display offers instant indication of current flow rate, previous 24 hours’ air consumption, and cumulative total usage, all at the push of a button.
The latter turned out to be the best fit for my caller – the main supply header runs right past his office, and, if he can sell his facilities folks on it, he can install the Summing Remote Display on the wall, right next to his desk. Easy as that.
EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products have made a name for themselves in many places like this. Here at the factory, we’re all dedicated to spreading, and reinforcing, that reputation for excellence. If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.
A sailor from a destroyer said to a submariner, “It must be scary, going to sea on a ship that’s designed to sink!”
The submariner replied, “It must be REALLY scary, going to sea on a ship that operates at test depth ALL THE TIME!”
The implication, of course, is that a destroyer could not survive a dive to any depth. Oh, and submariners don’t call it “sinking;” we call it “diving,” because submarines are also designed to perform an all-important maneuver known as “surfacing.” There are no guarantees, of course, but the odds are absolutely in our favor, due to the highest caliber of engineering, fabrication, inspection, and training that make the Silent Service so successful.
I thought of this today because of an event that happened on this day in 1973: USS Greenling (SSN-614), a US Navy fast attack submarine, accidentally went below her test depth, and actually approached crush depth, due to a sticky needle on the main depth gauge in the Control Room. According to unofficial reports, a junior enlisted man noticed that the seawater pressure reading on another gauge indicated they were far deeper than the depth gauge was showing. Official reports said they surfaced rapidly (I bet), immediately returned to port, and underwent an extensive inspection in drydock before returning to duty.
Now, your plant’s compressed air system instrumentation may not be as life-or-death critical as a submarine’s depth gauge, but there’s still no reason to skimp on, or settle for, second-rate gear that might cause you undue hassle. For instance, I recently had the pleasure of testing a customer’s Model 6061 1” Stainless Steel Line Vac in our Efficiency Lab – they weren’t able to draw our published vacuum rating (-42” water) or flow rate (14.7 SCFM), when supplying compressed air at 80psig. Curiously, they were getting values that corresponded with operation at 70psig. Using their pressure gauge and commercial-grade inline flow meter, I verified it was indeed under-performing, with 80psig compressed air supplied…this was measured UPSTREAM of their flow meter, however. I installed a pressure gauge at the Line Vac’s inlet port (downstream of the flow meter) and found that the flow meter was (quite unexpectedly) responsible for a 10psi pressure drop! Once the supply was regulated to provide 80psig at the inlet to the Line Vac, we found that it performed as specified.
EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meters, on the other hand, won’t restrict your compressed air flow at all. They’re easy to install…you simply drill two small holes in the pipe, using the included Drill Guide Fixture. They’re just as easy to remove, if you need to, and their holes can be covered with blocking plates (sold separately.)
Our Summing Remote Display can be easily wired to any Digital Flow Meter, and mounted up to 50 feet away. With the push of a button, you can also cycle the display to show not only current compressed air flow, but the previous 24 hours’ usage, and total cumulative usage.
For the ultimate in data management, our USB Data Logger connects just as easily to a Digital Flow Meter, and can be removed and inserted into any available USB port on your computer. It comes with software that will automatically graph your compressed air usage, or you can import the data directly into Microsoft Excel®. Since its introduction early last year, it’s won Environmental Protection Magazine’s New Product of the Year Award, Plant Engineering’s Product of the Year Gold Award, and Design News deemed it a “Better Mousetrap” Award Finalist.