Compressed Air Flowmeter Overview and Options

 

EXAIR Digital Flowmeters can be an important part of your compressed air system for optimization.  Flow is a measurement that is directly related to your cost for operation; and, it can help in determining efficiency, leak rates and the overall “health” of your pneumatic system.  Th Digital Flowmeters are easy-to-read, easy-to-install, and easy-to-record devices.  You will not have to disrupt your piping system with cutting, welding, or dismantling for installation.  In this blog, I will share some product information and options that work with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeters.

The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter is a thermal dispersion device that can accurately measure compressed air flows.  They use two sensing probes for comparative analysis.  One probe is a temperature sensing probe, and the other is a flow-sensing probe. By comparing these, the Digital Flowmeter can measure accurately even in low flow regions.  Also, they do not need to be re calibrated.  They are CE and RoHS certified., and they do not have any moving part to wear.  The EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are a cost-effective, simple way to measure compressed air flows.

To get started, I will go over the design of the Digital Flowmeter.  The two sensing probes as discussed above will have to be installed in the air stream.  This is done with the Drill Guide Kit.  This kit includes a guide to properly locate the two holes in the pipe and a drill bit for the correct clearance.  The Digital Flowmeter uses a clamp design to mount onto the pipe and to seal the area around the probes.  Once it is powered, the unit is ready to measure the air flow inside the pipe with a large LED display.  The display can be customized to show flow readings in three different units; SCFM, M3/hr or M3/min.  It can also display Daily Usage and Cumulative Usage. Overall, it only takes a few minutes to install and start using.

EXAIR stocks a large volume of Digital Flowmeters to ship same day.  We also offer a 30-day unconditional guarantee for domestic and Canadian customers to try them out.  The ranges that we stock are for pipe diameters from ½” NPT to 4” NPT Schedule 40 black pipe.  For non-stocked items, EXAIR can go as large as 8” NPT Schedule 40 black pipe.  We can also get Digital Flowmeters to use with copper pipes from 3/4” to 4” sizes, and to use with aluminum pipes with the O.D. ranging from 40mm to 101mm.  If you use other types of piping for your compressed air system, you can give us the material, outside diameter/inside diameter, and the wall thickness.  We may still be able to get a Digital Flowmeter for you to use.

What sets our Digital Flowmeters apart from other types are the features and benefits.  All of the units come standard with a 4 – 20mA analog output.  We can also offer this signal as a serial output per your request for RS-485 or Ethernet connections.  The maximum pressure for the units is 200 PSIG (13.8 Bar), but we have a high pressure option to go as high as 600 PSIG (41 Bar).  If your Digital Flowmeter needs better protection for splash resistance, we can also offer units with a NEMA 4 (IP66) rating.

What more can we offer with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter?  Options.  Options upgrade the flow meters to better suit your application.  Here is a list below.

USB Data Logger: This option allows for a record of the flow information.  With a software download, you can setup the USB Data Logger to record the flows from once a second (roughly 9 hours of storage) to every 12 hours.  Once the unit has been configured, you just plug in the unit into the Digital Flowmeter and let it record the data points.  You can then upload the information into the software program to review.  It also has the ability to transfer the information into an Excel program to do further analysis.

Summing Remote:  With compressed air piping running along the ceiling and walls, it may be difficult to see the Digital Flowmeter.  The Summing Remote has a 50-foot (15 meter) cable to bring the flow measurements from the Digital Flowmeter for viewing.  The Summing Remote is powered by the Digital Flowmeter, and it can also show the daily and cumulative readings.  They can be positioned at eye level near stations, inside managers’ rooms, or around large equipment for monitoring.

Hot Tap:  This option is for Digital Flowmeters that are 2” and larger for steel and copper pipes.  It gives a quick and easy way to attach the Digital Flowmeter to the pipe without shutting down the compressed air line.  If you have a 24-hour operation or a critical process that needs to run, this option would be a great way to install the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter without disturbing the system.

Pressure Sensing:  If you would like to know the compressed air flow and the air pressure on the same unit, this option is able to do this.  They are available with the Digital Flowmeters for steel and copper pipes that are 2” and larger, and for the aluminum piping that are 50mm and larger.  This option can display the pressure units in either PSI or Bar right on the LED display.

Block-Off Rings:  If you want to relocate your Digital Flowmeter, the Block-Off Rings will be able to cover the openings.  They seal around the area when the Digital Flowmeter is removed from the pipe.  They are reusable; so, they can be removed if you want to remount the Digital Flowmeter in the same spot.  Or if you want to use one flow meter in different locations, the Block-Off Rings allow you do this.

Wireless Capability:  Our latest Digital Flowmeter now has wireless capabilities.  They use a Zigbee® communications to pick up flow readings from different flow meters without running communication wires.  The Gateway is a system that can detect over 100 Digital Flowmeters located throughout your facility.  From the Gateway, the information is transferred through a LAN to your computer.  You can record and analyze the flow information from each meter on the network with our EXAIR® Logger Software.  You can set limits to send warning when your compressed air system is using too much or too little of compressed air.  This technology makes it very easy for measuring your compressed air system in different areas without having to be there.

When you need to analyze your pneumatic components, flow is an important point in diagnosing the overall “health” of your compressed air system.  The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter can give you that important data point.  With this overview, you may have additional questions and that is great.  An Application Engineer at EXAIR is here to help.  We can support you in determining the product and options that will work best for you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System – Step 1: Measure

“To measure is to know – if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”
-Lord Kelvin, mathematical physicist, engineer,and pioneer in the field of thermodynamics.

This is true of most anything. If you want to lose weight, you’re going to need a good scale. If you want to improve your time in the 100 yard dash, you’re going to need a good stopwatch. And if you want to decrease compressed air consumption, you’ll need a good flowmeter. In fact, this is the first of six steps that we can use to help you optimize your compressed air system.

Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

There are various methods of measuring fluid flow, but the most popular for compressed air is thermal mass air flow.  This has the distinct advantage of accurate and instantaneous measurement of MASS flow rate…which is important, because measuring VOLUMETRIC flow rate would need to be corrected for pressure in order to determine the true compressed air consumption.  My colleague John Ball explains this in detail in a most excellent blog on Actual (volume) Vs. Standard (mass) Flows.

So, now we know how to measure the mass flow rate.  Now, what do we do with it?  Well, as in the weight loss and sprint time improvements mentioned earlier, you have to know what kind of shape you’re in right now to know how far you are from where you want to be.  Stepping on a scale, timing your run, or measuring your plant’s air flow right now is your “before” data, which represents Step One.  The next Five Steps are how you get to where you want to be (for compressed air optimization, that is – there may be a different amount of steps towards your fitness/athletic goals.)  So, compressed air-wise, EXAIR offers the following solutions for Step One:

Digital Flowmeter with wireless capability.  This is our latest offering, and it doesn’t get any simpler than this.  Imagine having a flowmeter installed in your compressed air system, and having its readings continually supplied to your computer.  You can record, analyze, manipulate, and share the data with ease.

Monitor your compressed air flow wirelessly over a ZigBee mesh network.

Digital Flowmeter with USB Data Logger.  We’ve been offering these, with great success, for almost seven years now.  The Data Logger plugs into the Digital Flowmeter and, depending on how you set it up, records the flow rate from once a second (for about nine hours of data) up to once every 12 hours (for over two years worth.)  Pull it from your Digital Flowmeter whenever you want to download the data to your computer, where you can view & save it in the software we supply, or export it directly into Microsoft Excel.

From the Digital Flowmeter, to your computer, to your screen, the USB Data Logger shows how much air you’re using…and when you’re using it!

Summing Remote Display.  This connects directly to the Digital Flowmeter and can be installed up to 50 feet away.  At the push of a button, you can change the reading from actual current air consumption to usage for the last 24 hours, or total cumulative usage.  It’s powered directly from the Digital Flowmeter, so you don’t even need an electrical outlet nearby.

Monitor compressed air consumption from a convenient location, as well as last 24 hours usage and cumulative usage.

Digital Flowmeter.  As a stand-alone product, it’ll show you actual current air consumption, and the display can also be manipulated to show daily or cumulative usage. It has milliamp & pulse outputs, as well as a Serial Communication option, if you can work with any of those to get your data where you want it.

With any of the above options, or stand-alone, EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter is your best option for Step One to optimize your compressed air system.

Stay tuned for more information on the other five steps.  If you just can’t wait, though, you can always give me a call.  I can talk about compressed air efficiency all day long, and sometimes, I do!

 

Monitor Your Compressed Air System With EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeters

A topic that we’ve talked about here on the EXAIR blog discusses the costs of compressed air and how to use it more efficiently. How can you determine the costs of your compressed air? The first step you’ll need to take is to quantify the flow. In order to do that you’ll need a measurement tool such as the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter.

dfm_sizes
EXAIR’s family of Digital Flowmeters

The Digital Flowmeter is available from stock for use on Schedule 40 pipe with sizes ranging from ½”-4” I.D. Sizes up to 6” for Schedule 40 and ¾”-4” for copper pipe are also available. With a digital readout display, it’s easy to accurately monitor your compressed air usage throughout the facility. Creating a baseline of your usage will allow you to understand your compressed air demand, identify costly leaks, and replace inefficient air products.

The Digital Flowmeter installs in minutes with help from a drill guide and locating fixture to assist in mounting the Digital Flowmeter to the pipe. Two flow sensing probes are inserted into the drilled holes in the pipe. The meter then seals to the pipe once tightened. There is no need to cut, weld, or do any calibration once it is installed. With blocking rings also available, installation can be permanent or temporary.

The newest addition to this product line is the Digital Flowmeter with wireless capability. Using a ZigBee® mesh network protocol, data is transmitted to an Ethernet connected gateway. This allows you to mount the Digital Flowmeter in areas that you may not be able to easily access and wirelessly monitor and graph the usage with the EXAIR Logger software. Take a peek at this video blog for a demonstration of the use of a wireless Digital Flowmeter software to compare an open pipe to an engineered Air Nozzle.

wirelessdfmpr2_1670x574

In addition to communicating wirelessly with the gateway, the Digital Flowmeters can “piggyback” off of each other to extend their range. Each meter has a range of 100’. Using multiple Digital Flowmeters within the same ZigBee® mesh network, data can be passed from meter to meter to extend the distance over which the meters can operate. These can be installed on each major leg of your compressed air system to continuously monitor usage throughout the facility.

If you’d rather go with a hard-wired data collection method, the Digital Flowmeter is also available with a USB Data Logger. Simply remove the Data Logger from the Digital Flowmeter and connect it to the USB port of your computer. The data can then be viewed directly in the accompanying software or exported into Microsoft Excel.

dataloggerPRce_559wide
Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger installed

If you’d like to get a clear view of your compressed air usage, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to work with you and get the proper Digital Flowmeters installed in your facility!

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

Digital Flowmeter Improves Production Scheduling And Upgrade Budgeting

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” might be the most popular axiom in any process improvement endeavor. And it’s true. We hear it almost every time we discuss a Digital Flowmeter application, and a conversation I just had with a customer was no exception.

Their business is growing, and they’re pushing the limits of their compressed air system. The use compressed air to run their CNC mills in their machine shop, for blow off/cleaning as they assemble products, as well as a variety of pneumatic tools throughout the shop. The CNC machines’ air load was pretty consistent…the rest of the shop; not so much. So they wanted to find out when their compressed air demand peaked, and what it peaked at, in order to make a more informed decision about upgrading their compressor.

From your Digital Flowmeter to your computer screen, the USB Data Logger tells you how much air you’re using…and when you’re using it!

So, they purchased a Model 9095-DAT Digital Flowmeter for 2″ SCH40 Pipe, with USB Data Logger. They installed it immediately, with the USB Data Logger set to record once a second…this told them their consumption at any given time over the course of the day. Every day at closing time, the shop manager pulls the USB Data Logger from the Digital Flowmeter and transfers the data to his computer. After just a few days, he knew exactly how much air they were using…and exactly when they were using it. He’s now using this data (in the short term) to plan certain operations around peak scheduling, and (in the long term) to know what they’re looking at for their next air compressor.

Do you know as much about your compressed air usage as you should? If you’d like to talk about how to measure…and manage…your air consumption, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Why Measure Compressed Air Use?

Model 9097-M3 Digital Flowmeter installed on 3″ compressed air line

One of the best analogies I’ve heard to explain the importance of monitoring compressed air related to banking.  With any bank account there are deposits and withdrawals, and if withdrawals exceed deposits, problems ensue.  So, most people/businesses/institutions have systems in place to monitor their banking accounts, ensuring that there is always enough of a balance in the account to cover expenses.

The same is true for a compressed air system.  If the demand exceeds the supply, problems ensue…Lowered pressure and force from compressed air driven blow offs, irregular performance within pneumatic circuits of CNC machines, and general decline of any devices on the system all begin to occur when demand exceeds supply.  So, this begs the question of how to prevent a mismatch between compressed air demand and available supply.

Enter the Digital Flowmeter.  The entire purpose of the Digital Flowmeter is to provide a method to see (in real time or over a specific period of time) what the existing demand is within a compressed air system.  This quantifies the “withdrawal” into an output that can be compared to what is produced by the compressor, allowing for analysis and proper balance of the system.

This Digital Flowmeter allows for monitoring compressed air usage quickly and easily. The USB Data Logger installed onto this unit allows for collection of compressed air flow data.

The application photo at the top of this blog shows the DFM being installed to do just that.  This unit is being set up to use a USB Data Logger to capture compressed air flows at a customer-chosen time interval.  By monitoring their compressed air flow, this customer can optimize their compressed air system (align output of the compressor with demand of the facility), determine whether there are any leaks in the system, and determine the effectiveness of the compressed air which is being used.

It is important to remember that compressed air is the most expensive utility in any industrial facility.  Failing to monitor the system is akin to blindly writing checks on your bank account.  Proper system performance starts with proper monitoring, which the Digital Flowmeter easily provides.

If you’re interested in learning more about monitoring your compressed air system, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We’ll be happy to discuss specifics and options available.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

And this was never more true than in a conversation I had with the facilities engineer at a manufacturing plant recently. Their business has grown so much over the past few years to cause a move into a larger building. They took this opportunity to install some engineered compressed air products, and, with the brand-new building, they also got brand-new compressed air piping, which the contractor has just completed post-installation testing on, and it’s leak free. Good news!

They noticed, however, that the run time hours on their air compressors (which were in fine shape, and simply moved from the old facility) hadn’t appreciably decreased. The engineer was looking for another way to measure…and quantify…their compressed air usage, and was interested in our Digital Flowmeters.

Available for a wide range of SCH40 Iron or Type "L" Copper, EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are quick to install and easy to operate.
Available for a wide range of SCH40 Iron or Type “L” Copper, EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are quick to install and easy to operate.

Of primary concern during our conversation was, how could they track their usage? Would someone have to check the Digital Flowmeter reading periodically? What about intermittent uses? They have a TON of hand-held air guns throughout the plant…what if they read the meter when only a few were in use? Or if they ALL were in use?

There are a couple of options for that…our Digital Flowmeters are all supplied with both 4-20mA and RS-485 Serial connections, which are easily outputted to an appropriate device. You can run this right to your computer, and there are a variety of programs that will allow you to collect and manage this data.

They intend to install this Digital Flowmeter in the compressor room, though…and even though it’s well within the maximum distance for RS-485 serial – it’s good for distances up to 4,000 feet (1,200 meters,) it would be impractical to run a cable through the building.

Enter the USB Datalogger: this is going to allow them to “take a snapshot” of their usage, at specified intervals…in this case, every 10 seconds, which means the USB Datalogger will collect and store data for over three days. It has its own proprietary software, which you’ll use to set the frequency of readings, choose units & graph scale, high/low alarm points (if desired) and even when you want to start recording. This would, for example, let you record data on the mid-shift, without staying at work until midnight to start recording. VERY convenient, as far as I’m concerned.

Once it’s installed and running, I hope to work with them on the next steps towards optimizing their compressed air system…but we’re off to a good start!

Looking to "go green?" We can help.
Looking to “go green?” We can help.

If you want to talk about getting the most out of your compressed air system, give us a call. We’re here to help.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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What is the USB Data Logger for Digital Flow Meters? How Can It Help Me?

USB Data Logger
The USB data logger works with all of EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meters and provides valuable feedback for optimizing your compressed air system.

EXAIR’s Model 9147 USB Data Logger has become one of the most valuable tools that we sell to help customers get a “view” of their compressed air usage over time. One of the important tenets we promote at EXAIR is energy savings by prudent use of compressed air through our engineered solutions (Air Knife, Air Nozzles, Air Amplifier, etc.). But how does a person in charge of such systems really “know” whether they are helping or hurting their compressed air system?

The first step is to have an appropriate flow meter which can give an indication of how much air volume is being used. EXAIR’s line of Digital Flow Meters are perfect for getting to that point with instant and direct readings that don’t need to be calculated any further. What you see on the meter is the flow in either SCFM or m3/hr calibrations.

The second step is to attach the USB Data Logger to the Digital Flow Meter so that readings can be kept over time. It is like setting up a security camera for your compressed air system. Nothing gets by without being recorded.

The USB Data Logger can be connected to just about any type of monitoring system that has a 4 – 20 mA output to which the 2-wire harness can be installed. A quick and easy initialization to choose the unit of measure, to select the frequency of measurement and some optional alarms is all that is necessary. The software package is included with the USB Data Logger and is convenient to run on a typical desktop or laptop computer. You simply, set it and forget it (at least until you want to do some reporting).

The reporting is how the USB Data Logger can help you as the person concerned with monitoring the compressed air use in your facility. Once the defined monitoring period of time has passed, the USB Data Logger can be removed from its socket, stopped from recording and the data is then downloaded into a suitable format that can be imported into EXCEL or other spreadsheet program for creating charts to analyze what is happening, when it is happening and how much compressed air is being used. In the analysis, you can compare the flow data and times with certain problems in a production line that might cause low pressure condition which shuts machinery down. You might also be able to determine where additional, point of use compressed air storage might be needed close to certain processes.

Ultimately, the USB Data Logger allows you to “see” your compressed air system in a way that allows you to sleuth out problems seen that might have no other explanation. It can also help you to justify your air savings when you apply the other air saving compressed air products that EXAIR produces by monitoring a base line for “before” performance and “after” performance. After all, it if is important to your organization, it should be measured. And compressed air is certainly a utility that should be measured.

Neal Raker, Application Engineer
nealraker@exair.com
@exair_nr