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

Super Air Nozzles and Stay Set Hoses to Replace Open Tubes

I recently worked with an company that performs energy audits and they were working with a food company to review and propose ways to reduce the energy consumption throughout the plant. One area where we were able to help was on an onion peeling machine, shown below:

Vegetable Peeler Wide
Onion Peeler With Screw Conveyor and Blow off Tubes

The area of machine in question used a screw conveyor and friction source to help loosen the peels and fifteen (15) 1/4″ O.D. open ended tubes, which were noisy and unsafe, to blow the peels completely off and away form the onion. The auditor was able to install an air flow meter on the system and found that the machine was consuming 220 SCFM of compressed air for this operation.

Vegetable Peeler Detail
(15) Total, 1/4″ Tubes Used to Blow Air and Help Remove the Peels

We proposed to replace the tubes with a 6″ Stay Set Hose and the model 1103 Mini Super Air Nozzle.  Each model 1103 Mini Super Air Nozzle will consume just 10 SCFM of 80 PSIG compressed air. Attached to the 6″ Stay Set Hose, the nozzle can be placed exactly where needed and aimed appropriately. A strong blast of air rated at 0.56 lbs (9 ozs.), and ultra quiet at 71 dBA, the Mini Super Air Nozzle delivers the results needed.

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Model 1103 – Mini Super Air Nozzle

1103 Performance

1103 Pattern

9256
Model 9256 6″ Stay Set Hose

The Stay Set Hose has “memory” and will not creep or bend, simply install the 1/4 NPT fitting into the compressed air supply side, an thread the 1/8 NPT Mini Super Air Nozzle into the other end and position as needed!

Fifteen (15) of the Mini Super Air Nozzles will pass 150 SCFM of compressed air compared to the current usage of 220 SCFM, resulting in a 70 SCFM drop, or a 31.8 % reduction.  At a typical cost of $0.25 per 1000 Cubic Feet of Compressed Air, the nozzles would save $1.05 per hour of operation. Rate of Return yields a full pay-off in just 43 days of operation (24 hours per day operation)!

If you are looking for ways to save on compressed air usage in your facility that is safe to operate and quiet to use, we will have a solution for you.

If you have questions about any of the 16 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Flat Super Air Nozzles – Quiet and Forceful and Adjustable

The 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle is a very powerful yet quiet engineered nozzle.  Operation at 80 PSIG of compressed air pressure yields a strong 1.38 lb. of force, at only 77 dBA of sound level.  Compare this with many of the plastic flat nozzles that blow air through a series of holes, with sound levels ranging form 78-83 dBA, not to mention some might violate the OSHA dead ended pressure standard and results in fines being levied.

The patented technology utilizes a changeable shim to generate the high flow of air in a smooth and laminar flow, to keep noise down and power and strength up. With (6) stainless steel shim thicknesses available, the 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle offers a very flexible package that can be set and tuned to meet exacting performance criteria, while using the minimum amount of compressed air, and at the quietest possible sound levels.

2 Inch Flat
2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle

The model 1122 is offered in a zinc aluminum alloy body and cap, and the 1122SS is constructed from type 316 stainless steel.  All shims are stainless steel. The shim thickness for the 1122/1122SS is 0.015″ thick.

Also available, for extra blowing force, are the HP1125 and HP1125SS.  The nozzles utilize the same zinc aluminum alloy or stainless steel body and cap and have the 0.025″ shim installed – and deliver 2.2 lbs of force, while only increasing sound levels to 83 dBA.

Shim sets for any of the 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzles are available.  The 1132SS shim set includes shims of thickness of 0.005″, 0.10″, and 0.020″.  For higher force levels, the HP1132SS shim set includes the 0.020″ and 0.030″ shims.

1132ss
Shims are available, from 0.005″ up to 0.030″ for maximum versatility and performance tuning

As you can see- for a versatile, forceful and quiet engineered air nozzle, it is hard to beat the EXAIR 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle.  If a 1″ wide nozzle better suits your needs, the same flexibility and power can be found in the 1″ Flat Super Air Nozzle as well.  Check it out as well.

If you would like to talk about Flat Super Air Nozzles or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Coast to Coast and Beyond

Recently, I was working with  a customer looking for a Premium Reversible Drum Vac and wanted it shipped to the Northwest Territories of Canada –  which we could do!  It got me to thinking, what are the farthest US state and territory locations EXAIR has shipped to in the North, South, West and East directions.  I ‘scoured’ the records and came up with these.

Furthest North- We have shipped to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  Most recently, believe it or not, we shipped a NEMA 4X Cabinet Cooler to an Oil and Natural Gas Exploration Company.  Goes to show that even the coldest environments still have the need to provide cool, clean, dry air to cool and protect electronics in electrical enclosures.

Furthest South – We have shipped to the US Territory of Puerto Rico, city of Santa Isabel.  An Aerospace company needed a strong, laminar blast of air and utilized a 6″ Stainless Steel Air Knife.  An Air Knife offers a quiet, efficient way to clean, dry or cool parts, webs, or conveyors.

Furthest West- We have shipped to the US Territory of Guam.  The local University ordered a model 1111-4 Super Air Nozzle Cluster, for a good strong blast of air flow for a cleaning operation.  The model 1111-4 delivers 3.2 lbs of force, at just 82 dBA of sound. A safe and efficient nozzle for blowoff operations.

Furthest East- We have shipped to Eastport, Maine.  The customer in Eastport ordered a Line Vac and a section of Conveyance Hose.  The Line Vac is a great tool for conveying large volumes of material over long distances, through a standard hose or tube.  The compact design features large throat diameters for maximum throughput capability.

 

It was interesting to look back and see all the places that EXAIR has shipped.  We have customers from all over the globe. If you are outside the of 50 US States and Canada, we have a dedicated team of International Application Engineers that will work with you to select the best EXAIR product for your process and application, and direct you to your local International Distributor.

If you would like to talk about any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Engineered Air Nozzles and Jets Outperform – Save Air, Increase Safety, Save Money

EXAIR’s Engineered Air Nozzles and Air Jets provide a simple solution to lower compressed air usage and reduce noise levels for compressed air blowoff operations.

Why Air Nozzles and Jets – When compared to commonly used open copper tubes or pipes, compressed air savings can be as high as 80%. And with less compressed air, sound levels are greatly reduced.  A 10 dBA noise level reduction is typical.  All EXAIR Air Nozzles and Jets meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maximum dead end pressure and sound level exposure requirements. They also carry the CE mark.

nozzlescascade2016cat29_559
The largest selection of engineered Air Nozzle sizes and materials are only available form EXAIR 

EXAIR Nozzles are engineered to take advantage of the Coanda effect to amplify the airflow up to 25 times or more. Compressed air is ejected through the small orifices and surrounding air is entrained into the main stream. The resulting air stream is a high volume, high velocity blast of air at minimal consumption.  EXAIR manufactures many styles, from the very small, but powerful Atto Super Air Nozzles, to the largest 1-1/4 NPT Super Air Nozzle.  Also offered are 1″ and 2″ wide Flat Super Air Nozzles, and the Back Blow style for cleaning out tubes, pipes, channels or holes from 1/4″ to 16″ in diameter.
EXAIR Air Jets utilize the Coanda effect (wall attachment of a high velocity fluid) to produce air motion in their surroundings.  A small amount of compressed air (1) is throttled through an internal ring nozzle above sonic velocity.  A vacuum is produced, pulling in large volumes of surrounding, or ‘free’ air, through an around the jet (2).  The exit flow is the combination of the two air sources (3).

air-jet
How an Air Jet Works

EXAIR manufactures Air Jets in two types, High Velocity, and Adjustable with materials of construction of brass and Type 303 Stainless Steel.  The High Velocity Air Jet uses a changeable shim to set the gap, controlling the force and flow of the air.  The Adjustable does not use a shim, and has a micrometer gap indicator and locking ring to allow for varying force and flow performance.

AirJetFamily
EXAIR Air Jets – High Velocity type on the left, Adjustable type on the Right

If you have questions about Air Nozzles and Jets, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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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

Big TV’s and Big Compressed Air Savings

My great big TV bit the dust recently. It was a 65” rear projection, high definition…quite an upgrade over the 32” tube set that it replaced, a decade ago. One thing I remember from the day I bought it: the seller said to me as we were loading it up, “A warning: you’ll never be able to watch anything smaller.” The other thing I remember from that day was getting it back to the house and set up before my wife got home. She walked in, looked at its huge awesomeness in our modestly sized living room and said, “That’s almost embarrassing!” To which I replied, “I KNOW!!!”  Now, it WAS a little big for the room, but we acclimated quickly.

Until last month, when the display started to malfunction. I looked it up, and it was a fatal flaw: the parts would cost almost as much as a new 65” flat screen. Which we’re saving our money for…for now, though, we’re “getting by” with a 42” plasma TV that we “repurposed” from the back room. And the seller’s warning proved mostly true, although I’ve almost adjusted to the smaller screen. First world problems; I know.

One benefit of the smaller screen and advanced technology (plasma vs. those three big light bulbs in the rear projection) was decreased operating cost. Turns out, the 42” plasma uses less than 1/3 the power of the 65” rear projection (91 Watts vs. 283 Watts, respectively.) When my next electric bill comes, I’m wondering if I’m going to be pleased with the reduction, or if it’s going to put into perspective just how much TV I really watch. Stay tuned for more on that…

I recently had the pleasure of helping a customer realize a similar “a-ha” moment, with the amount of compressed air they were using throughout their plant. They were running (40) production machines, turning out custom plastic parts. Each machine had a ¼” crimped-end copper tube, which blows off the part as it’s being machined.

Each of the crimped copper lines uses approximately 30 SCFM when supplied at 80psig. These are being replaced with our Model 1100 Super Air Nozzles. They were able to quickly and easily adapt these by simply cutting off the crimped end, and installing a compression adapter fitting:

EXAIR Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle installs easily on copper lines, with a simple compression adapter.
EXAIR Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle installs easily on copper lines, with a simple compression adapter.

The Super Air Nozzle consumes just 14 SCFM @80psig, so we should be looking at around a 50% reduction in their compressed air usage in the operation, across their (40) machines. While all the data is still not compiled to determine their actual savings, the noise reduction alone has made a noticeable difference in the plant, which they’re getting used to a LOT quicker (and more agreeably) than I am to the smaller TV screen. But enough about that…I’ll be all right; really.

So that’s two of us, waiting for the next electric bill to see just how happy we can be with our energy savings. I don’t know what they’re going to do with their savings, but mine’s going into the 65” (energy efficient) TV fund.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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