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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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

Minor Adjustments, Advice From An Expert Source

It’s not every day that we hear a customer say that our products aren’t consuming ENOUGH air, but that’s exactly what happened to me yesterday. I received a call from one of our long-standing customers who was experiencing reduced air consumption with our Model # 3202 Vortex Tube. The Vortex Tube uses compressed air to create a stream of cold air and a stream of hot air, providing a temperature range from -50°F to +260°F and cooling capacity up to 10,200 Btu/hr. Also, these units have no moving parts and are virtually maintenance free, making them the ideal choice for a variety of industrial spot cooling applications.

Vortex Tubes

This particular customer has been purchasing this model for several years, so they are pretty familiar with the performance and operation of the unit. They advised they were used to seeing air consumption at approximately 60 liters/minute or 2 SCFM (exactly what the Model # 3202 is designed to consume at 100 psig inlet pressure) but were starting to experience about a 50% drop to 30 liter/minute or 1 SCFM. We discussed the common troubleshooting:

  • Low supply pressure? (measuring at the inlet of the Vortex Tube during operation)
  • Compressed air inlet temperature? (warmer than ambient air – reducing performance)
  • Reduced cold flow? (possible clog from contaminants in the compressed air supply)
  • Unit seeing any back pressure? (up to 2 PSIG is acceptable, 5 PSIG will reduce approximately 5°F)
  • Over-tightened Cold Cap or Cold Muffler? (is it too tight?)

The customer advised they were using a push-to-lock fitting, where they drilled out the center and then would install it in the Cold Cap of the Vortex Tube. Their operator would hold the body of the Vortex Tube, by the air inlet, then take a wrench and thread the fitting into the ¼” NPT female opening on the Cold Cap. Without realizing, the operator was also turning the Cold Cap which was causing it to become over-tightened.  This in turn would reduce the consumption of the unit because it would shrink the internal air chamber.

Vortex Tube Exploded View

 

I made the suggestion to my customer to slightly loosen the Cold Cap and see if that didn’t fix the consumption issue. They called me back about an hour later and were very pleased to advise that now the unit was “working great!”.

We want to help you maximize our products, while optimizing your compressed air system. If you have a similar performance issue or would like to discuss your application, please contact us.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_JN

I’m Back! But My A4 Isn’t…Commence Troubleshooting

Last week I enjoyed the company of Airtec Servicios, Dansar Industries, and Global Automation (EXAIR’s distributors in Mexico and parts of South America).  We met in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, for an EXAIR training event that covered all topics of EXAIR products.

Following my return to the States, I dug into a project at home that I’ve been working on here-and-there; my 98 Audi A4.  In an earlier blog post I showed the damage done to the cylinder head when a valve-train component failed and a few valves were bent.  After rebuilding the cylinder heads on a bench here at EXAIR, I finally got the engine back together and hit the key for the first time since I bought the car.

Fortunately, the valve timing was perfect and the engine fired right up.  Unfortunately, however, was the terrible knock from the bottom half of the engine – the half I left untouched during the initial repair.  (See image below for my feeling on the issue)

Lie_down_try_not_to_cry_cry_a_lot_cleaned_525Now I’m faced with a dilemma of the best course to take, and after chewing it over, I’ve decided to open up the bottom half of the engine and make the repair.  The most likely cause for the noise is a defective wrist pin or connecting rod.  When I open it up, I’ll be sure to take pics and share for those interested. I had thought repairing the top half of the engine would make the fix because most of the time that is the case. Similarly, we occasionally experience reduced performance in our Reversible Drum Vac. Most of the time (I’d speculate 95%-99%) a simple cleaning is all that is needed (see video demonstration here) because this product has no moving parts there is little to go wrong. Occasionally it is another issue that is causing reduced performance; for these times we have the Reversible Drum Vac troubleshooting guide:

lit6203-Reversible Drum Vac Troubleshooting

So, sometime soon I’ll run through the next troubleshooting steps for the engine in the A4. If you need help troubleshooting an EXAIR product or a compressed air application, please contact EXAIR.

In the meantime, the A4 is relaxing, hanging loose at home – and I am too.  Mexico was wonderful, and the people were more than kind.  But, it feels good to be home.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE