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Even though almost all factories have air preparation systems to protect their pneumatic equipment, the subject is still not so well known, and it hides some interesting aspects and optimization. One of the key questions is how prepared should my compressed air be? There is not one simple answer to this question, because compressed air quality depends on a myriad of variables, such as the air quality coming in (from the compressor), the air quality requirements in the end-of-line applications, the process or industry requirements or even the position of the filtration units. With all these uncertainties, SMC, an Expert in air treatment, will be able to support you.
OCTOBER 2021 A prior triad to consider Compressed air quality is just one of the 3 issues to consider:
In summary, inadequate air preparation causes higher maintenance costs, operating malfunctions, reduces service life and creates higher energy costs due to leakages. The kind of issues all of us want to avoid. Optimized filtration system – The players involved to remove impurities in your compressed air
Depending on the impurities you need to remove, you will need to install different elements. When we talk about air preparation, we tend to think it just refers to filters, but having an optimized filtration system goes beyond that.
Air preparation is not just about filters. It should be considered as a whole system:
Once your compressed air supply is adequately conditioned - and it should be monitored - your equipment will be safeguarded. Condition monitoring can also make it easy to plan routine maintenance to ensure efficient operation. Pressure switch and flow sensors will help to identify when maintenance should be carried out on a filter, such as emptying dust collectors.
Additionally, water separators are an important option. They use mechanical separation techniques to remove condensed water in bulk from factory air either by directing inlet air into a spiral and using centrifugal force to separate the water out from the compressed air, or by passing the inlet air through a special resin filter with large meshes to trap water particles that will then drop down to a collection bowl, allowing the compressed air to pass through. SMC’s new AFF series of water separator that combine water removal AND filtration of particles IN A SINGLE FILTER, is capable of removing water droplets up to a 99% water removal rate, using a special resin filter to trap water droplets.
However, a water separator is designed to remove water, but it doesn’t lower the dew point which is usually done by a refrigerated air dryer. If it is not enough, you may use a membrane filter to reduce the dew point at the point of use.
Do not over specify Assessing the acceptable level of dust, moistness and other potential contaminants will be defined according to the application and the numerous issues that may occur. For sensitive equipment, the ISO standard 8375-1 will help to define the suitable numeric grading for particles and oil content. In simple terms, the lower the number for each category, the cleaner the compressed air.
Air preparation equipment has improved over the last few decades, minimizing the flow loss in the circuit thanks to optimization of the internal valve construction. However, Compressed air quantity (Flow) needs to be considered to ensure you can meet the flow requirements of your equipment. This means that the components in the compressed air circuit must be suitably sized based on your flow requirements. Too small and it would be inefficient and you would see a larger drop in pressure, too big and it would be a waste of money.
Clearly, compressed air pressure should be considered when selecting your model, ensuring all components operate for your required pressure in the system. Optimised operating pressure increases efficiency; efficiency is increased by running equipment at lower pressures, thus reducing the amount of compressed air lost in leaks. If you lower the operating pressure of your equipment then you could also reduce demand from the compressor and save power consumption.
It is vital to consider pressure and flow when properly sizing filtration components in your search for an efficient air quality solution. It is very important NOT TO OVER SPECIFY the cleanliness of compressed air. Unnecessarily over filtering can increase potential pressure drops, can make a compressed air system less efficient and can lead to exorbitant energy bills.
A vital final step – cartridge cleansing> Why do you normally empty your vacuum cleaner every now and then? Because it loses power. The same happens with your filtration units. When the cartridge is full performance is reduced, generating pressure drops; significant pressure drops result in poor machine functioning which in many cases leads to turning up the regulator. So, cleaning the cartridge, in the same way we clean our vacuum cleaner every now and then is simpler than turning up the pressure, which can be costly and inefficient.
To conclude, it is a fact that the air let out by the compressor contains impurities. If the air is not treated according to the necessities of your process, those impurities will end up contaminating the final output. Different applications require different level of filtration and overall air treatment. Count on SMC Experts to find the best air treatment for your compressed air system.
Mark began working for SMC as a technical apprentice in the UK in the early 1990’s. In 1997 he moved into control systems design which involved electro-pneumatic circuit design and PLC programming. After 3 years at the European Technical Centre, in 2003, Mark moved into SMC UK’s technical support department taking care of air preparation equipment and temperature control products.
Outside SMC, Mark enjoys swimming, running and cycling to get away from his 2 children!
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