The Importance Of Properly Sized Compressed Air Supply Lines

EXAIR Corporation manufactures a variety of engineered compressed air products that have been solving myriad applications in industry for almost 37 years now.  In order for them to function properly, though, they have to be supplied with enough compressed air flow, which means the compressed air supply lines have to be adequately sized.

A 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe can handle a maximum flow capacity of 18 SCFM, so it’s good for a Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (uses 14 SCFM @80psig) or a Model 110006 6″ Super Air Knife (uses 17.4 SCFM @80psig,) but it’s going to starve anything requiring much more air than those products.  Since compressed air consumption of devices like EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products is directly proportional to inlet pressure, we can use the flow capacity of the pipe, the upstream air pressure, and the known consumption of the EXAIR product to calculate the inlet pressure of a starved product.  This will give us an idea of its performance as well.

Let’s use a 12″ Super Air Knife, with the 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe as an example.  The ratio formula is:

(P2 ÷ P1) C1 = C2, where:

P2 – absolute pressure we’re solving for*

P1 – absolute pressure for our published compressed air consumption, or C1*

C1 – known value of compressed air consumption at supply pressure P1

C2 – compressed air consumption at supply pressure P2

*gauge pressure plus 14.7psi atmospheric pressure

This is the typical formula we use, since we’re normally solving for compressed air consumption at a certain supply pressure, but, rearranged to solve for inlet pressure assuming the consumption will be the capacity of the supply line in question:

(C2 P1) ÷ C1 = P2

[18 SCFM X (80psig + 14.7psia)] ÷ 34.8 SCFM = 49psia – 14.7psia = 34.3psig inlet pressure to the 12″ Super Air Knife.

From the Super Air Knife performance chart…

This table is found on page 22 of EXAIR Catalog #32.

…we can extrapolate that the performance of a 12″ Super Air Knife, supplied with a 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe, will perform just under the parameters of one supplied at 40psig:

  • Air velocity less than 7,000 fpm, as compared to 11,800 fpm*
  • Force @6″ from target of 13.2oz total, instead of 30oz*
  • *Performance values for a 12″ length supplied with an adequately sized supply line, allowing for 80psig at the inlet to the Air Knife.

Qualitatively speaking, if you hold your hand in front of an adequately supplied Super Air Knife, it’ll feel an awful lot like sticking your hand out the window of a moving car at 50 miles an hour.  If it’s being supplied with the 20 foot length of 1/4″ pipe, though, it’s going to feel more like a desk fan on high speed.

The type of supply line is important too.  A 1/4″ pipe has an ID of about 3/8″ (0.363″, to be exact) but a 1/4″ hose has an ID of only…you guessed it…1/4″.  Let’s say you have 20 feet of 1/4″ hose instead, which will handle only 7 SCFM of compressed air flow capacity:

[7 SCFM X (80psig + 14.7psia)] ÷ 34.8 SCFM = 19psia – 14.7psia = 4.3psig inlet pressure to the 12″ Super Air Knife.

Our Super Air Knife performance chart doesn’t go that low, but, qualitatively, that’s going to generate a light breeze coming out of the Super Air Knife.  This is why, for good performance, it’s important to follow the recommendations in the Installation Guide:

This table comes directly from the Installation & Operation Instructions for the Super Air Knife.
All Installation Guides for EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products contain recommended air supply line sizes for this very reason.  If you have any questions, though, about proper compressed air supply, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Calculating CFM of Air Needed for Cooling

It’s easy to know that EXAIR’s vortex tubes can be used to cool down parts and other items, but did you know that our air knifes can be used to cool down these same things? It’s the same process that we do every day to cool down hot food by blowing on it. Every molecule and atom can carry a set amount of energy which is denoted by physical property called Specific Heat (Cp); this value is the ration of energy usually in Joules divided by the mass multiplied by the temperature (J/g°C). Knowing this value for one can calculate the amount of air required to cool down the object.

Starting out you should note a few standard values for this rough calculation; these values are the specific heat of Air and the specific heat of the material. Using these values and the basic heat equation we can figure out what the amount of energy is required to cool. The specific heat for dry air at sea level is going to be 1.05 J/g*C which is a good starting point for a rough calculation; as for the specific heat of the material will vary depending on the material used and the composition of the material.

Heat Flow Equation
Using the standard heat equation above add in your variables for the item that needs to be cooled down. In the example I will be using a steel bar that is 25 kg in mass rate and cooling it down from 149 °C to 107 °C. We know that the specific heat of steel is 0.466 J/g°C therefore we have everything needed to calculate out the heat load using air temperature of 22 °C.
Calculating Joules/min
Using the heat rate, we can convert the value into watts of energy by multiplying the value by 0.0167 watts/(J/min) which gives us 16,537.18 watts. Furthermore, we can then convert our watts into Btu/hr which is a standard value used for cooling applications. Watts are converted into Btu/hr by multiplying by 3.41 Btu/hr/watt, giving us 56,391.77 Btu/hr.
Converting Joules to Btu/hr
Once you have Btu/hr you can plug the information into a re-arranged Cooling power formula to get the amount of CFM of air required for cooling.
Calculating CFM
As you can see in order to cool down this steel bar you only need to 343 CFM of air at 72°F. This can be done very easily and efficiently by using one of EXAIR’s Air Amplifiers or Air Knife. Sometimes you don’t need to use a vortex tube to cool down an object; sometimes simply blowing on it is good enough and its pretty simple to calculate out which product would fit your application the best.

If you have any questions about compressed air systems or want more information on any EXAIR’s of our products, give us a call, we have a team of Application Engineers ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Products Built to Last and Maintenance Free

As an avid outdoors man, I have learned a lot about myself during these days of quarantine and social distancing; mainly I don’t quarantine very well. With all the climbing gyms closed, traveling strongly discouraged, and social distancing in place my  lifestyle has been brought to a grinding halt much like many of us. opening up, which will be good for all of us. 

So, in place I have taken upon myself to learn a new hobby that I can do solo and safely. In the past weeks I have spent learning about mountain biking and all that comes with it. This includes the maintenance required to work on a bike, specifically the front derailleur which controls the front major gear changes (and gets damaged if crashed). Realigning the front derailleur is one of the hardest fixes that one can do on a bike as it has three different adjustments that need to be made at the same time. Thus, I embarked on a week long project of learning how to make the adjustment and man was it frustrating.

Performing tricky maintenance can be one of the most frustrating and stress inducing things when all you really want is for something to work without any hassle. Whether its hours just trying to figure out what the issue is or actually fixing it, let’s be honest, it never goes as planned. The same can be said for maintenance on things such as compressors, cars, and production equipment. Here at EXAIR we strive to eliminate this frustration and hair pulling maintenance and replace it with maintenance free products.

EXAIR’s lines of compressed air products such as our Vortex Tubes, Super Air Amplifiers, and Super Air Knives have no moving parts. No moving parts means no wear down parts and no wear down parts means little to no maintenance. Besides the occasional air filter element change out or something getting lodged inside the product EXAIR’s compressed air products will run almost indefinitely as long as they are supplied with a source of compressed air, typically run through a standard 5 micron filter separator. 

Although you cannot really prevent dirt from collecting in a filter separator (that is, in fact what they are meant to do) you can prevent dirt, dust, and debris from getting into your products by using one of EXAIR’s Filter Separators. Filter Separators remove water condensate, dirt, dust, and debris from your compressed air line before it enters your compressed air product. This prevents the particles from disrupting small air outlets or lodging in the small pathways inside our compressed air products and keeps the product running like new.

All in all, maintenance is not fun to have to deal with and can be costly at times. By using EXAIR’s engineered compressed air products you can eliminate at least one thing to worry about on your list of maintenance that needs to be performed. With a little bit of preventive measures you can keep our products running like new for years and years.

If you have any questions or want more information on any EXAIR’s of our products, give us a call, we have a team of application engineers ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Compressed Air System Maintenance

Air Compressor and Storage Tanks

Compressed air is the life blood of a manufacturing plant, and the air compressor would be considered the heart. To keep things “fit”, it is important to check all areas and to optimize your system to keep your plant running safely and efficiently. You do not have to be a doctor to do these “operations”. If your compressor fails, the entire facility will stop working. In this blog, I will cover some simple preventative maintenance that can really help you.

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into other areas to be more economical. A big focus today is the compressed air system. Compressed air is considered to be a “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity, and it is a necessary to run your pneumatic systems. But it is the least efficient of the utilities. So, it is very important to use this utility as practical as possible and to use a PM program to keep it going.

If we start at the beginning of your compressed air system, this would jump us to the air compressor. This is the machine that uses an electric or gas motor to spin a crank. It compresses the ambient air into a small volume to generate stored energy to be used by your pneumatic systems. Because the air compressor is complex and intricate, I would recommend a trained service personnel to do the maintenance. But, if your staff is familiar with air compressors, I wrote a blog to help look at certain parts periodically. You can read it here: “6 Basic Steps for Good Air Compressor Maintenance (And When to Do Them)”.

The next part after the air compressor is to look at the aftercoolers, compressed air dryers, receiver tanks, filters, and condensate drains. Some facilities may only have some of these items.

The aftercoolers are designed to cool the exit air from your air compressor. It uses a fan to blow ambient air across coils to lower the compressed air temperature. It is easy to check the fan to verify that it is spinning and to keep the coils clean from debris.

The compressed air dryers can range in size and type. For the refrigerant type air dryers, you should periodically check the freon compressor with ohm and amp readings, the condensers for cleaning, and the super heat temperature as well. For desiccant type air dryers, you will need to check the operation of the valves. Valves are used to regenerate one side of the desiccant bed. The valves can fail and stick either open or closed. In either way, if the desiccant cannot regenerate, then it will allow moisture to go down stream and eventually destroy the desiccant beads.

The receiver tanks have safety relief valves that will need to be checked to make sure that they are not leaking. If they are, they should be changed.

As for the filters, they collect contamination from the compressed air stream. This will include liquid water, oil, and dirt. A pressure drop will start to increase with the contaminants, which will reduce the potential energy. If they do not have pressure drop indicators, you should have two points of references for pressure readings. You should change the filter elements when the pressure drop reaches 10 PSID (0.7 bar) or after 1 year.

With all these items above, water is created. There should be condensate drains to discard the water. The most efficient types of condensate drains are the zero loss drains. Most condensate drains will have a test button to be pressed to verify that they open. If they do not open, they should be replaced or fixed. Do not place a valve on them and partially open for draining. For float type drains, they will have a pin inside that can be pressed to open. You can verify that all the liquid has been expelled.

The distribution system are the pipes and tubes that run compressed air from the supply side to the demand side of your pneumatic system. One of the largest problems affecting the distribution system are leaks. That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company much money. A study was conducted by a university to determine the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant. In a poorly maintained system, they found on average of 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.

To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130/year. That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines. Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean; so, leaks will not appear at the source. So, you have to find them by some other means.

Digital Flowmeter

 

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains. EXAIR has two products in our Optimization product line that are designed to help find leaks in your compressed air system.

The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for loss of air. When an air leaks occur, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence. These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above audible hearing for human. The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies to make inaudible leaks audible.

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously check your system for waste and record it with a USB Datalogger.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic system.  With a Digital Flowmeter, you can also isolate an area to watch for any flow readings; telling you that the air is leaking in that section.  With both products included in your leak-preventative program, you will be able to reduce your waste and optimize your compressed air system.

Family of Nozzles

At the point-of-use areas, this is the easiest target area for compressed air maintenance. If you are using open tubes or drilled pipes for blowing, they are loud, inefficient, and unsafe. They can be easily change to an engineered blow-off product from EXAIR which are very efficient and OSHA safe. EXAIR offers a range of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives to simply replace the current blow-off devices that overuse compressed air. If we go back to the beginning of your system, the air compressor is a mechanical device which will have a MTBF, or Mean Time Between Failures. The hour meter on your air compressor is like a life monitor. By using less compressed air, your air compressor will extend that time in MTBF.

Keeping your compressed air system running optimally is very important for a business to run. With a simple maintenance program, it can help you with your pneumatic operations and energy savings. Like stated above, your compressed air system is the life blood of your company, and you do not need a PhD to keep it well maintained. Just follow the target areas above. If you would like to discuss further about the health of your compressed air system, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to help “diagnose” a solution.

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