What do you think is essential for achieving high productivity and optimal functioning of any air tool? Yes, it is an optimized air infrastructure installation. Having selected the correct tool for your job, some additional effort must be spent on the air infrastructure. When it comes to compressed air systems, two of the most common terms are air pressure and air flow – let us first understand what these mean and how they are measured:
|Air pressure||Air flow|
|Determines the compressor’s ability to perform a specified amount of work at any given point in time. The compressor must provide the right amount of pressure, or force, needed to complete the process. Too little pressure means the job won’t get done, whereas too much pressure can damage the equipment and cause unexpected malfunctions.||It is the compressor’s ability to continue performing a certain task. The amount of flow needed depends on the length of time required to complete the task. With insufficient flow, the compressor will require breaks to rebuild pressure in the compressor’s reserve tank. Flow is the volume of fluid through a surface per unit time.|
|Measure: Units of force per unit of surface area. Bar is a metric unit and psi is an imperial unit.||Measure: L/s (liters per second) or cfm (cubic feet per minute) at a specific pressure.|
To improve the air line installation, giving more power and efficiency to the air tool reliant production, it is important to know what is wrong and what is right
Things not to be done:
- Incorrect air pressure: Many companies use their air tools with too low or an incorrect set air pressure. The performance of the tool is reliant on a correct setup of the air infrastructure.
- Selection of wrong pneumatic equipment: Wrong dimensioned hoses and old pneumatic equipment are usually overlooked in a compressed air system, and is often the main source of the problem. A pneumatic tool usually needs 6.3 (90 psi) bar to operate at rated power. Decreasing the operating pressure by 1 bar (15 psi) leads to a productivity loss of 25-30%.
- Too many (extra) connections: Adding more air tools, piping and connections to an existing air system will increase the amount of pressure drops and the system will lose its efficiency. This will, in turn, increase the running costs of the air compressor and the air infrastructure.
Correct things to do:
- Plan the air infrastructure in a factory and use proper product setups which will be beneficial in terms of tool efficiency, energy waste and minimize running costs for the system.
- Choose the correct air tool, as the pressure drop in an installation depends on the volume of air flow required by the air tool: the higher the flow – the higher the pressure drop
- Facilities should size their compressors to power applications with the proper air volume and flow rate so that energy is not wasted
To conclude, here are some recommendations on how can we improve the air line by small means:
✔Lubrication can prolong lifetime. Use a filter and regulator to set and monitor clean, dry, lubricated air.
✔Distance – keep it as short as possible. Use the correct type of hose, max 3-5 meters/10-16 ft.
✔Inlet thread dimension. Choose the correct nipple for each tool. Full flow couplings for best performance.
✔Air consumption. Consider using larger pipe sizes and couplings to ensure correct air pressure to the tools.
✔Allowable pressure drop. Avoid leakages, listen for them!
✔Working environment. Install a more resistant air line system if working outdoors or in rough environments.