Proper Plumbing Prevents Poor Performance

There’s nothing quite like an ice-cold Coke from McDonald’s. While there’s many reasons for this, one of the reasons for the unique experience of a McDonald’s Coke lies in the straw itself. In their drinks, they provide wider straws that are designed to help enhance the taste of Coca-Cola, or so they claim. Another impact of this is it allows you to drink significantly faster. The wider the opening for liquid to pass through, the more volume you’re able to drink. Imagine trying to drink your Coke, or any other beverage, through a coffee stirrer. I imagine you’re going to have a difficult time and a dry mouth as you try and force what little amount of liquid you can through the small I.D. of a coffee stirrer. Try that with a milkshake and the problems compound…..

The same is true when it comes to plumbing of your point-of-use compressed air products. I recently assisted a customer that was experiencing lackluster performance from the Super Air Knife they purchased. The application was fairly straightforward, they were hoping to reduce the rate of rejected material on their production line of plastic sheets. The sheet goes through a washing process to remove any residual contaminants, then would air dry as it made its way down the line. As the material dried, there were water spots left on the material that would have to then be cleaned off. In the hopes of speeding up the drying process, they purchased a Model 110060 60” Super Air Knife to provide a wide laminar sheet of air to dry the material.

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When they hooked everything up, the flow from the knife seemed far less than they were expecting. They were supplying full line pressure (just over 90 PSIG), so in theory they should feel a strong blast of air from the knife. When they installed a pipe tee and pressure gauge directly at the inlet, they noticed the pressure was dropping to 35 PSIG while the knife was in operation. When this occurs, it’s indicative of a lack of volume of air. This can be caused by undersized compressor,  or improper plumbing. In their case, they were only plumbing compressed air to one center inlet of the knife. For a 60” knife, EXAIR recommends a minimum of (4) air inlets to ensure adequate volume.

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The size of these lines is also critical. You can’t force greater volumes of air through a smaller hose or pipe, just like you can hardly drink through a coffee stirrer with any great success. A 60” knife requires a supply pipe size of 1-1/2” for up to a 50’ run, if you’re trying to supply a knife of this length with a 100’long, ¼” ID hose, you’re not going to get the performance you expect. If you’re experiencing less than optimal performance from any of your EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, there’s a good chance air supply is the culprit. The first step is determining what the actual inlet pressure is, install a pipe tee and pressure gauge right at the inlet. Then, give us a call and we’ll help work through the proper line sizes and ensure that you’re getting the most out of our products.

I hope I didn’t make you hungry or thirsty… But I think I know where and what I’m having for lunch 😊!

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

Troubleshooting a Cabinet Cooler Application: Clogged Filter Elements

Recently I’ve worked with a customer who needed to troubleshoot some of his Nema 12 Cabinet Coolers installed in their plant. They’ve been installed for about 6 years now without issue, but over the summer they noticed a few times where the temperatures inside the enclosures was getting a bit higher than they were comfortable with. Since this hadn’t been an issue since prior to installation, they gave us a call to see what could be the problem.

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They had (6) total Cabinet Coolers, (2) of the 4340s and (4) 4325s all being fed from the same compressor. The first thing we wanted to determine was whether or not a sufficient volume of air was being supplied to them. Since this was a new problem and we had several years of operation without any trouble, there had to be something that has changed. With a pressure gauge installed directly at the inlet, he observed that the pressure coming into the Cabinet Cooler was only 70 PSIG. Cabinet Coolers are rated at pressures of 100 PSIG but can operate in the range of 80-100 PSIG, so we knew then that not enough air was reaching them.

When troubleshooting any Intelligent Compressed Air Product, we need to know the pressure DIRECTLY at the air inlet to the product. Oftentimes a customer will know the pressure they’re getting out of the compressor, but this isn’t generally the pressure you’ll see at the point of use. Pressure drops can occur due to undersized lines, restrictive fittings (such as quick disconnects), or improper maintenance.

He shared with me some photos of the setup and said that they hadn’t changed anything since the original installation. These units were operating off of their own dedicated compressor, so we weren’t getting a pressure drop due to any additional applications also using the same air supply.

With no moving parts to wear out the Cabinet Coolers are a maintenance-free product, so long as they’re supplied with clean and dry compressed air. In order to ensure that the air supply stays clean and dry, an Auto-Drain Filter should be installed just upstream of the Cabinet Cooler. Inside of any of EXAIR’s Auto-Drain Filters is a 5-micron filter element. If this becomes clogged over time, it can result in a pressure drop just after the filter. This turned out to be the culprit in this case as he placed an order for some replacement filter elements, changed them out, and was back up and running! The pressure at the Cabinet Coolers increased to 90 PSIG and started operating as they had before.

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EXAIR prides ourselves in delivering a quality product that’s Built to Last. If you have a product that doesn’t seem to be operating at peak performance, give us a call. An Application Engineer is ready to take your call and help make sure you’re getting the most out of our products.

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

If at First You Don’t Succeed Try, Try Again!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been going back and forth with my phone provider over some technical issues I’ve been having with the device. After some troubleshooting, we were able to conclude that the antenna has likely become loose, leading to the phone periodically not receiving service. Naturally, we’re outside of the 1-Year “Warranty” period that covers a defective device. I paid my insurance deductible and received a “refurbished” phone the following day. Unfortunately, this refurbished phone was unable to take pictures with the front-facing camera. I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth can I take selfies without a front-facing camera? So it was back to the phone provider to get another replacement, fortunately this time they sent a brand new device.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get something to work right out of the box, only to experience issues. Whenever a customer is having an issue with a particular product, there’s a certain progression that we go through in order to assess the problem and determine the root cause. In some cases it is something simple, others it can be a few individual problems that are compounding each other. I recently assisted a customer that was having problems with his 110 Gallon Reversible Drum Vac System. He was having difficulty pumping water out of a container and into the 110 gallon drum. He stated that he just received the unit and was unable to get it to work.

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EXAIR’s Reversible Drum Vac installed on a 110 Gallon Drum

This is a call that we get from time to time, and is generally remedied pretty quickly. Our first step is to check the air pressure at the inlet of the Reversible Drum Vac while it is operating. We recommend an inlet pressure of at least 80 PSIG for proper operation. By installing a pipe tee with a pressure gauge directly at the unit, we can not only verify the inlet pressure but also that the Reversible Drum Vac is being supplied with an adequate volume of compressed air. If the pressure on the gauge begins to decrease once the unit is in operation, we can conclude that the volume of compressed air to the Reversible Drum Vac is insufficient. This can be due to the use of restrictive quick disconnect fittings, improper line size, or a compressor that is undersized.

If the air supply is sufficient, we then inspect the system for vacuum leaks. If the drum does not have a complete seal, the system will not function. If there’s no vacuum leak and there is an adequate supply of compressed air, the Reversible Drum Vac likely needs to be cleaned. It took us a few tries to get there but through a little bit of trial and error, we were able to determine that this was exactly the case in this scenario. Even though the system was new, it had been supplied with compressed air that was not properly filtered. Some scale, rust and debris from the customer’s supply lines made its way into the body of the Reversible Drum Vac, impeding the flow of air. Here is a video that shows the cleaning procedure for the Reversible Drum Vac. Over time the Reversible Drum Vac can accumulate debris inside of the plenum chamber. Regular maintenance of the unit will ensure that it stays within specifications for when it’s needed most!

If you have an EXAIR product that’s not performing as well as it used to, give us a call. One of the Application Engineers will be able to walk you through the steps to ensure that you’re getting the most out of our products!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: tylerdaniel@exair.com
LinkedIn: @EXAIR_TD

Don’t Throw the Baby Out With The Bath Water – and How it Applies to Manufacturing

There are many curious sayings from history that are still part of our vernacular, and whose origins are debated.  Examples are ‘Spill the Beans’ and ‘Bite the Bullet.’  One of my first supervisors liked to use the expression ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.’  Initially, I didn’t quite understand what was meant by this, and then wasn’t sure it was relevant in some instances.  Fast forward many years, I hadn’t thought too much about it, but for some reason, the phrase recently came back into my thinking.

Today the phrase generally means not to get rid of something good when getting rid of something bad (when throwing out the dirty bath water, you don’t want to throw out the baby, too!)  As I look back to the supervisor that used it, it was for situations where the solution was within grasp, but due to recent shortcomings it may seemed out of reach. Scrapping the whole thing (the baby and the bathwater) and trying something new would not be the favorable way to proceed.

I remembered this phrase when recently a customer called in about the 3″ Line Vac they were using.  It was performing OK, but just was’t doing what they had hoped. They asked if it was still returnable under the 30 day guarantee (it was) and how to start the return process.

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EXAIR Line Vac Family

While we aim to make the return procedure simple and efficient, we will most likely ask a few questions.  We’ll ask ‘what are trying to do?’  ‘Can you send in any photos of the installation’ (we solve lots of issues by seeing something that can be easily remedied) and certainly we will ask ‘about the compressed air supply.’ In the recent customer call, the customer was trying to convey dog food, a distance of 25′ vertical and 18′ horizontal –  a fairly challenging distance, but not impossible.  A photo could be sent in if needed and then the discussion turned to the compressed air supply.  It was determined that the compressed air supply line was undersized for the 68.5 SCFM of 80 PSIG compressed air needed to for the Line Vac to operate to its full capability.  We reviewed the Installation and Maintenance Guide and suggested the proper pipe and air hose sizing for this installation. Armed with this new knowledge, the customer set about to modify the installation.

I got an email later that day from the customer.  Results were dramatically improved! Average of first measured trials yielded 50 lbs of material in 46 seconds, one of the fastest conveyance rates recorded for those types of distances. Customer was pleased and was looking forward to keeping the unit and getting the benefit that was expected.

In this case, the baby was not thrown out with the bath water.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can be a benefit at your facility, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our other Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

Troubleshooting Vortex Tube Performance

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This Vortex Tube was not operating properly when initially connected to compressed air

One of the fun parts of Application Engineering at EXAIR is explaining the operation of Vortex Tubes to our customers.  Sometimes they’re described as a “reverse tornado” inside of a tube, spinning a pressurized airstream and converting it into a hot and cold flow.  Other times we describe it through the generation of two vortices with differing diameters, and the difference in diameters results in one vortex shedding energy in the form of heat.

But, no matter the way we explain their operation, we always stress the importance of proper compressed air plumbing.  If the compressed air piping/hoses/connections are not properly sized, performance problems can arise.  (This is true for any compressed air driven device.)

This fundamental came to light when working with one of our customers recently.  They were using a medium sized Vortex Tube to provide spot cooling in an enclosed space, but were not seeing the flow and temperature drop they knew to be possible with an EXAIR Vortex Tube.  And, after looking at installation photos of the application, the root cause was quickly spotted.

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The red arrow in the bottom right corner of this image shows the beginnings of a reduction in compressed air supply.

I noticed what looked to be a very small hose connected to the inlet of the Vortex Tube in the image above.

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In this additional image, the small compressed air line is in full view. This was the root cause for performance problems in this application.

After further inspection of another photo, the small diameter tube was in full view.  This small hose serves as a restriction to compressed air flow, which in turn limits both flow and operating pressure of the downstream devices.  What that meant for this application, was poor performance from the Vortex Tube, all stemming from this reduction in piping size.

When looking to find the root cause of a performance issue with a compressed air driven unit, things aren’t always as easy as they were with this application.  A visual inspection is always a good idea, but if everything looks correct, here is a list of troubleshooting steps to consider:

  1. Check for quick-disconnects in the plumbing system.  Quick-disconnects are great from an operator’s perspective, but they can wreak havoc on compressed air flows due to small inside diameters and air volume restriction.
  2. Determine the operating pressure at the device.  This is imperative.  In order to make proper decisions to correct the performance concern, good information is required.  Knowing what is happening at the device is crucial for proper understanding.  There may be 100 PSIG at the main compressed air line, but only 60 PSIG at the device due to plumbing problems. A pressure gauge at the inlet of the compressed air product can provide this information.
  3. Check that the compressed air system has enough volume to properly supply the device.  A compressed air driven unit without the correct volume of compressed air is just as bad as having a lack of pressure.
  4. Check for leaks.  The US Department of Energy estimates that 20-30% of compressor output in industrial facilities is lost as leaks.  If your system and devices aren’t operating as they’re supposed to, check for leaks.  They may be contributing to the poor performance.  (Don’t know where your leaks are coming from?  Use our Ultrasonic Leak Detector!)

Fortunately for this customer, after improving the size of this tubing performance was on par with our published specifications and this customer was back in operation.  If you have a question about how to improve the utilization of the compressed air devices in your application, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Thank You For The Video Ideas

Over the past month or so I have been doing some update projects at home.  Tearing out wood paneling, drywalling, and even tearing out some old tile to install new inside of an entryway.  While I have helped with drywall before it was when I was 16 and let’s just say that the details are a little fuzzy on the right way to do quality drywalling.  Instead of calling a professional in, I looked to my readily available options on where to find information.  I reached out to friends and family that I knew had experience with it and then I turned to the internet.

One simple search for “How to tape and mud drywall” or any combination of those words and I was spoon fed hundreds of videos that showcase how many different people go about the process. (Some professional, some not so professional.)   I never like to watch just one so I checked out a dozen or so and decided to give it a go.  The point is, I didn’t spend time reading through instructions or finding books on the matter,  I went to people that I knew had the knowledge then straight to videos for help.  This is why I want to thank all of our customers who have ever asked the question “do you have a video on that?”.

Customer inquiries and FAQs are where a good number of our video topics on our blog and YouTube channel are generated.   A simple search on our blog for video will show all of the tips and tricks videos that the EXAIR Application Engineers have released over the past handful of years.   This count continues to go up as a new video is released every month since 2011. We currently have 54 EXAIR product related videos on our blog. Our YouTube channel features additional videos for product categories and some humorous (subjective, we know) videos from Professor Penurious.

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Click on the image above to see all of our “Video Blog” entries. 

If you have a topic you would like to discuss or something you think would make a good how to video for us, contact us and tell us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

 

3 Common Mistakes in Your Compressed Air System

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.

Dave Woerner
Application Engineer
DaveWoerner@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_DW