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Monday, March 28, 2011

Engineer End Uses for Maximum Efficiency

Compressed air is one of the most important utility requirements of many industrial manufacturing plants because it directly serves processes and applications such as pneumatic tools, pneumatic controls, compressed air operated cylinders for machine actuation, product cleansing and blow-off applications. Ensuring an appropriate, stable pressure level at the end-use applications is critical to the performance of any industrial compressed air system. End uses that are engineered for maximum efficiency can help provide the consistent supply of compressed air that ensures reliable production.

To ensure the efficiency of compressed air end-use applications, a number of steps should be taken:
  1. Review the pressure level requirements of the end-use applications. Those pressure level requirements should determine the system pressure level. Because there is often a substantial difference in air consumption and pressure levels required by similar tools available from different manufacturers, request exact figures from each manufacturer for the specific application. Do not confuse maximum allowable with required pressure.
  2. Monitor the air pressure at the inlet to the tool. Improperly-sized hoses, fittings and quick disconnects often result in large pressure drops. These drops require higher system pressures to compensate, thus wasting energy. Reduced inlet pressure at the tool reduces the output from the tool and, in some cases, may require a larger tool for the specified speed and torque.
  3. Avoid the operation of any air tool at “free speed” with no load. Operating a tool this way will consume more air than a tool that has the load applied.
  4. Check the useful life of each end-use application. A worn tool will often require higher pressure, consume excess compressed air, and can affect other operations in the immediate area.
  5. Air tools should be lubricated as specified by the manufacturer, and the air going to all end uses should be free of condensate to maximize tool life and effectiveness.
  6. End uses having similar air requirements of pressure and air quality may be grouped in reason-ably close proximity, allowing a minimum of distribution piping, air treatment, and controls.
  7. Investigate and, if possible, reduce the highest point-of-use pressure requirements. Then, adjust the system pressure.
  8. Investigate and replace inefficient end uses such as open blowing with efficient ones such as vortex nozzles.
Case Study: A New Compressed Air Application is Configured for Maximum Efficiency
A large, custom printing company installed a more technologically-advanced printing machine that could increase the output of its existing units. However, the initial configuration of the new printing machine more than doubled the compressed air demand of the entire site. After a thorough review, the plant personnel realized that it would be more cost-effective for the new machines to be redesigned to consume less air at lower pressures than to increase compressor capacity at all of the company’s printing plants. Once the printing machines were reconfigured, the total air demand per printing machine was reduced from 27 standard cubic feet per minute (scfm) to 4.5 scfm and the need for 100 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) compressed air was eliminated, resulting in substantial avoided costs in energy and capital expenditures.


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