Turn It Off: Saving Compressed Air The Easy Way

A major benefit to utilizing compressed air is the speed at which it can be shut off and re-energized for use – in fact, this can be done instantaneously. Shutting down the supply of compressed air to an application while it is not needed can drastically reduce the compressed air consumption of the process. This is an easy remedy that can produce significant savings.

Think about a place where you have a compressed air blow off with spaces between the parts or dwell times in conveyor travel. What about break times, do operators continue to keep the air on when they leave for a break or even worse, for the day?

Step number four in EXAIR’s Six Steps to Optimization is:

A simple manual ball valve and a responsible operator can provide savings at every opportunity to shut down the airflow. But an automated solution is a no-brainer and can provide significant savings.

Quarter Turn Ball Valves are low-maintenance and easy to install/use.

For a more automated approach, you can add a solenoid valve that would tie into your existing PLC or e-stop circuit, into your compressed air supply lines to aid in turning the compressed air on and off.

For an automated on/off solution can be found by using the EXAIR EFC (Electronic Flow Control). The EFC is made to accept 110V or 220V AC, and convert it to 24V DC to operate a sensor, timer, and solenoid valve. Its multiple operating modes allow you delay on, delay-off, and delay on/off among others. The operating mode can then be set to the specific time necessary for a successful application.

The spaces between parts can be turned into money saved. Every time you reach the end of a batch run, the EFC can turn the air off. You can also add solenoid valves and run them from your machine controls. If the machine is off, or the conveyor has stopped – close the solenoid valve and save the air. The modes are all defined in the video below.

So, take a look, or even better a listen, around the plant and see what you can find that could benefit from turning the air off; even if it is just for a moment it will help put money back into your bottom line.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 (a) – It’s a Noise Exposure Standard, Not Just a Confusing Number

Strings of numbers and characters can often appear daunting.  For instance, if I wrote in binary code it would be a string of ones and zeros.  (01000101 01101110 01100111 01101001 01101110 01100101 01100101 01110010 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01000001 01010111 01000101 01010011 01001111 01001101 01000101.) That can look like gibberish and cause concern if unknown or it can make sense to programmers and people familiar with binary code.

Other alphanumeric strings may cause some concern for industry professionals.  Take, for instance, OSHA standards. The OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.95 (a) may be unfamiliar to some, and thus concerning. Many Environmental Health and Safety Engineers will recognize this code.  It is an OSHA standard that revolves around the amount of time an employee is permitted to be exposed to specific sound levels. These sound levels are all based on the weighted sound level of the noise the operators are exposed to. To better understand how the octave and frequency of the sound play into this, there is a chart provided below.

Equivalent A-Weighted Sound Level Chart – (1)

The weighted sound level is the level at which a Digital Sound Level Meter will read the current level of noise within an environment. This scale is then used to move further into the OSHA directive that we focus on helping companies meet to best provide safe environments for their employees to work in.

If you notice, the lowest weighted sound level is 90 dBA, this is also the lowest-rated noise level that OSHA speaks of in 1910.95(b)(2). It has been shown that noise levels over this level for extended periods will result in permanent hearing loss. The standard then goes on to discuss the duration an employee can be exposed to noise levels even with the use of personal protective equipment as well as even impulsive or impact noise.  The table of permissible time limits is shown below.

Permissible Noise Exposures (2)

As you can see from the table above provided by OSHA, any noise level that an operator is exposed to for eight hours cannot exceed 90 dBA. Noises within an industrial environment can also be variable throughout the day. For instance, the operator stands outside of a sheet metal press and the concussive strike on the press gives off a 90 dBA strike for every stroke of the press. This would not be a continuous noise level. Maybe the operator is operating a CNC machine that is cutting a nest of parts and uses a handheld blowgun to remove debris and coolant from the parts before taking them from their fixture. This blowgun is not used continuously and therefore would not be rated as such for the exposure time. A time study would be conducted on the average length of time the operator is utilizing this gun along with the level of noise it produces during use. OSHA then gives a calculation to use to appropriately combine the sound level while the gun is being used and when it is not in use. That equation is written out below.

Mixed Environment Exposure Fraction
C1/T1+C2/T2+… = ____
Total Exposure Fraction
Cn/Tn = ____

Where:
C1 = Duration of time for a specified noise level
T1 = Total time of exposure permitted at that level
Cn = Total time of exposure at a specified noise level
Tn = Total exposure time permitted at that level

Should the summation of the fractions for different exposures be greater than the Total Exposure fraction, the summation value should be used. As mentioned above, a time study on exposure to noise levels will be needed to obtain the information needed for this type of study. Once the study is done the process can proceed to the next level within the OSHA standard which is a hearing conservation program.

I would like to interject a small side-step at this point. Rather than rolling straight into the implementation of PPE which is proven to be the lowest reliable factor of protection by the CDC and NIOSH. If any of these noise levels being generated are due to the use of compressed air points of use, EXAIR can potentially lower the noise of these point of use applications. In the events, open blowoffs or “band-aid” fixes are in place to keep processes running, and Engineered Solutions can easily be implemented that will reduce the noise level produced by this operation. Whether it is on the handheld Safety Air Gun in the hands of a CNC operator, or if it is a part/scrap ejector that is blowing the sheet metal press out after every strike, we have products that have proven time over time using an Engineered Solution will save air, reduce noise levels, and still get the job done.

If you would like to discuss OSHA directives revolving around compressed air, share with us a recent citation you received from an inspector for this standard, or just discuss compressed air usage in general, contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

1 – Equivalent A-Weighted Sound Level Chart – Retrieved from OSHA.Gov – https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=9735&p_table=standards

2 – Permissible Noise Exposures – Retrieved from OSHA.Gov – https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=9735&p_table=standards