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Compressed air is a very high cost component in the production of goods and services at a plant. As such, improving the efficiency of an existing system offers a large savings opportunity. To realize the potential, the system dynamics must be understood and the supply from the compressors must always match the real system demands.

Production processes get their energy from the air stored at higher pressure in the piping distribution system. The air compressors simply replenish the air that is consumed.

The energy input in compressing the air is supplied to the connecting pipes for delivery to the various demands throughout the facility. The energy extracted from the system to perform the required tasks actually comes from air already stored in the pipes.

The inefficiencies of a plant air system are affected as much by how the air escapes the system as by how it is generated in the compressor room. Matching the supply with the demand at an optimal level requires that both generation and storage issues be addressed.

Every air system reaches a balance between the air compressor’s supply into the system and the downstream demands that use the air. The energy input from compressing the air equals the energy used plus the system’s inefficiencies. Any more or less energy goes into or is released from storage. Every time there is a change to either side of the equation the system rebalances at a new point.

Taking proactive, positive measures to control the balance point ensures the system always operates at its optimum energy level. There are two major sources of energy to draw from to accomplish this.

  1. Air stored at an elevated pressure in a fixed volume vessel
  2. Reserve rotating energy of off loaded operating air compressor motors

 

Air Storage: Volume alone does not equal storage. In order to replenish or release the energy of the stored air, the fixed volume must realize a change in pressure.

Pressure/Flow Control: The resultant pressure fluctuations from bringing compressors on and off line and the impact of short duration surge demands throughout the plant air system forces the system to continuously seek a rebalance point. The addition of the properly sized air storage receiver mitigates the magnitude and rate of change in system pressure but does not by itself eliminate it. System pressure must still be raised high enough to compensate for the cyclical profile. To stabilize delivered air pressure, the air release out of the receiver must be controlled.

A Pressure/Flow Controller installed downstream of the properly-sized air storage receiver(s) and upstream of the main piping header leaving the compressor room is designed for this task. It senses the pressure at its outlet and modulates the flow control valve(s) accordingly to control the air flow from the receiver to hold the pressure constant.

Reserve Rotating Horsepower: Significant reserve energy is available from air compressor motors that are running but not fully loaded. In combination with the Pressure/Flow Controller and air storage receiver, this reserve energy can be applied in a proactive manner to maintain an optimal balance point. As the receiver pressure changes, the trim compressor loads and unloads accordingly.

Running a partially loaded fixed speed compressor is inefficient and can be costly. Storage, therefore, is typically sized to allow unneeded compressors to time out and shut down. Ideally, all operating compressors run at full load with only one compressor trimming at any given time. Substantial air storage must be applied to cover any peaks so a shut down compressor doesn’t have to restart.

With both the supply and demand profile under control, any steps taken to reduce air consumption will positively translate back to the compressors and reduce the input energy. Leak repairs, regulating use points, and the application of high efficiency blow off devices are some additional cost effective measures to take.

If you hear a telltale hiss coming from a component in your air compressor, you might not realize how much damage it’s causing your system and your bottom line. Air compressor leaks can be incredibly costly, not just in terms of money, but also through productivity and efficiency. Compressors use a lot of energy. It takes about 7 to 8 horsepower (HP) of electrical power to produce 1 HP of compressed air power. With such high energy demands and effects, it is essential to keep your compressed air system running at peak performance.

Knowing how to find a leak in an air compressor and how to fix and prevent leaks in the future can offer enormous benefits for any company that regularly uses an air compression system. Keep reading for more information about finding, fixing and preventing air compressor leaks in your industrial operation.

The Cost of Air Compressor Leaks

Air compressor leaks can easily make up a significant amount of wasted energy in industrial facilities and can reach 20 to 30% of an air compressor’s output. That means 20 to 30% of all the money you put into your air compressor in the form of utilities is going down the drain — or more aptly, up in the air. With a proactive leak detection and repair program, facilities can reduce leaks to less than 10% of the compressor’s output. Depending on the size of your system and facility, air leakage elimination can be a massive saving and improvement to your bottom line.

Let’s take a look at an example. If a facility has 30% leakage in a 200 HP system, then 60 HP is lost due to leaks. At the national industrial average cost of about seven cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), this leakage adds up to over $31,000 in wasted electrical energy every year. Many refer to the cost of compressed air as “the fourth utility” for industrial facilities since it is such a significant part of their budget. Air leaks add to this cost.

In addition to the financial downsides, air compressor leaks can affect business operations due to:

  • Productivity losses: If your tools aren’t getting the right amount of air, they aren’t going to work as effectively. It may take employees longer to get a task done due to a lack of power, or they may struggle to get the results they need. Either way, productivity takes a hit.
  • Higher downtimes: With air compressor leaks comes air compressor repair. The more your system is down, the less you can get done. Maintenance takes the place of production time. Whenever this occurs, your production assets have poorer utilization and a lower return on investment.
  • Unnecessary capacity addition: If you need more compressed air than your leaking system can support, you may end up adding more capacity to compensate for the leaks. This addition increases your electricity bill and can wear out your system more quickly. Plus, if leaks cause a loss in production time, you may have to spend more on additional production equipment to increase production capacity.

 

One more area that gets hurt by leaks is the air compressor itself. Your machine can suffer in a few different ways if it is leaking. The overall system life is reduced since leaks put a higher air demand on the compressed air system than what is actually needed. The compressor then must cycle more frequently and run longer, which reduces the useful life of the system. Usually, facilities with high air leakage need to replace their compressed air systems more regularly. As a plant deals with reduced equipment life, they typically spend more time and money on maintenance as well. Longer runtimes and demands increase maintenance needs too.

How to Find an Air Compressor Leak

One of the most straightforward ways to check if your air compressor is leaking air is to listen for it. Establish a regular leak detection program in which someone walks the plant during a non-production period to listen for leaks with noticeable sound. Of course, not all leaks are audible to human ears, and many plants or production lines do not have regular shut-down periods. For these reasons, an industry best practice is to use ultrasonic leak detectors.

Ultrasonic leak detectors are sophisticated tools that accurately detect leaks, whether they make a noise audible to humans or not, within loud production environments. Combinations of directional microphones, amplifiers and audio filters allow them to identify high-frequency hissing sounds produced by air leaks. With advances in technology, these units have become highly compact and portable. Investing in one can help improve your air compressor leak detection methods. To use an ultrasonic leak detector, an operator will walk the plant with the unit in hand. Headphones or displays within the detector signal the operator to the precise location of the leaks.

By listening closely or using ultrasonic leak detectors, you can more effectively find leaks. They can appear throughout your compressor system, and some components can also be checked in other ways:

  • Air hoses: With the compressor powered off and its cables unplugged, lather up some hand soap along the hoses. Power the system on, and look for bubbles in the soap to indicate the location of the air leak.
  • Tubes: The metal tubes that link up certain parts of air compressor systems can also start to leak. Look for loose connections, rust or cracks within these tubes.
  • Connectors: Connectors are a common place for leaks to spring up. Check their condition and listen for wheezing noises.
  • Drains and condensate traps: Any loose components or buildup can indicate problems with airflow and system health. Maintain them and consider a replacement if they start to gather sludge or rust. If your air compressor is leaking water, it could be due to a bad drain.

 

Check every component you can for wear and tear or any visible breaks in a seal. Connecting devices are especially vulnerable to leak-causing problems.

Don’t forget to prioritize certain leaks. After you perform an air leak audit, you may find several leaks of various sizes, but some may be costing you more money than others. For instance, in one example, 10 leaks cost a company over seven times the amount that 100 leaks of a smaller diameter did. The 10 leaks were one-quarter inch in diameter while the 100 leaks were 1/32 of an inch around. These 110 leaks would cost $44,387 annually, with the quarter-inch leaks claiming $38,776 of that. Consider the size of your leaks and address the largest ones first to maximize your savings.

To gauge the effect of an air compressor leak, you can measure your plant’s leak load. To do this, operate the compressor in a load/no-load or start/stop mode. Record the time it takes to load and unload the compressor. It will load or unload based on the demand of air driven by leaks in the system. Record these times and compare them to the compressor’s capacity.

If T1 is on-load time in minutes and T2 is off-load time in minutes, use this equation to find your total percentage of air capacity wasted to air leaks:

  • Total leakage percentage = [(T1*100)]/[(T1+T2)]

Aim for a leakage percentage of less than 10%. Some facilities with poorly maintained systems can reach as high as 50%.

Common Leak Problem Areas

Leaks can happen throughout a plant — from the source of compressed air to the distribution pipes and the point of use. While it is important to pay attention to the whole system, some areas deserve a little extra care.Some of the most common problem spots for leaks include:

  • Control and shut-off valves
  • Couplings, fittings, hoses and tubes
  • Cylinder rod packing
  • Disconnects, especially if they are worn or missing O-rings
  • Filters, lubricators and regulators
  • Flanges
  • Leaking or botched drains
  • Open blow-offs
  • Open condensate traps
  • Pipe joints
  • Point-of-use devices
  • Thread sealants
  • Worn seals or gaskets

 

Another common place to lose compressed air that isn’t technically a leak is through misuse. If employees use air for a purpose it was not intended for, such as a blower for cleaning or to cool electric control panels or cabinets, they create another source for energy loss. Identify these alternative uses and have employees use more efficient, appropriate tools for the job. These tools may include engineered nozzles, explicitly designed for the task at hand, or cooling units intended for electrical panels or cabinets. They consume less energy and can help remove some of the load from your air compressor system. In addition, make sure tools are well-maintained so that they can use air power effectively.

One area that could be tricky to identify is diaphragms. Diaphragms exist inside several components of an air compressor system, and you may need to follow a process of elimination to find out what parts are failing. Diaphragms can become cracked or worn and may need replacing. You can find them in places like the regulator, pressure switches and more.

How to Fix an Air Compressor Leak

Once you find a leak, quickly repairing it is the next step. If your leak is at a place like an air hose connection, coupling, seal, gasket or control or shut-off valves, you might be able to fix the leak by tightening the connection. Tightening parts is one of the most straightforward ways to fix air compressor leaks. Of course, it’s not always this simple. Other times, leak repair is more complicated and costly, especially if you want to prevent problems in the future.

High-quality parts are expensive, and, unfortunately, many companies opt for cheaper parts to save money. We consistently see that investments in higher-quality parts, like fittings, tubes, hoses and valves, pay off in the long run. These high-quality parts tend to see fewer leaks and less downtime. Upgrading to quality parts can help reduce air leaks and other maintenance problems in the future. If you need to replace parts, see if an upgrade is in the budget. It may save you money and time down the road.

Start by going over your whole system and see if you can fix any leaks by:

  • Tightening connections: Anything that can become loose is a place where air can leak. Tighten your connections and secure any loose components.
  • Repairing or replacing parts: Some components may be repairable. See if you can fix a part if the rest of the component is still in good condition. If a part is old, damaged or worn, it may be a better idea or a necessity to replace it.

 

Here’s how you can address leaks in different areas of your air compressor system:

  • Hoses and tubes: Swap out the section with a leak for a new, well-fitted replacement.
  • O-rings and valve seals: Replace any worn or damaged O-rings and valve seals, and ensure that they are all delivering outgoing air accordingly. Rubber parts can lose effectiveness as time, heat and pressure take their toll.
  • Fasteners: Internally, the motor of an air compressor can become destabilized if screws come loose. Keep an eye on these fasteners and tighten any shaky or unstable parts.

 

In a similar vein, some old or poorly maintained tools can be a source of leaks. They may have weaker connections or be worn out from use, allowing more places for air leaks to occur. Replacing them with newer, high-quality models may offer improved performance and fewer leaks.

How to Prevent Air Compressor Leaks

Instead of continually repairing leaks, a more cost-effective approach would be to take preventative measures. Taking some time to perform simple maintenance tasks can save you significantly more time by keeping leaks at bay in the first place. Leaks create more downtime and may involve costs associated with new parts or repairs.

By following a strict schedule and training employees extensively, you can more readily avoid the costs associated with air leaks and compressor maintenance. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent leaks.

1. Develop a Maintenance Schedule

Create a plan and stick to it. Ensure that someone conducts a leak audit regularly and takes records afterward. For instance, any leaks found should be labeled and logged in your records or maintenance information system. Pay special attention to any problem areas or components that may be wearing out.

Some plants schedule leak repairs in line with their air compressor service schedule. For example, say you have quarterly scheduled maintenance for your air compressor. Then, you can visit areas of past leaks and identify and repair new leaks at the same time. Over time, new leaks and further misuses will continue to appear, and identifying and addressing them consistently is essential.

A good preventative maintenance approach should include:

  • Identification: Check for leaks regularly and find their exact locations. This check also includes tagging the leaks.
  • Repair: Repair the leaks as they appear with sufficient methods that will contribute to preventing leaks in the future, such as higher quality parts.
  • Verification: Test your system and ensure that your leaks have been followed up with and fixed.

 

2. Employee Training

Involving employees is key to proactively identifying new leaks and staying on top of air compressor leak repairs. They are consistently working with and around the tools that could indicate leaks, so they are one of your best sources for finding issues. Educate employees on the cost of air leaks, so they share the same concern as you when it comes to identifying and fixing those leaks. Develop a team-wide sense of responsibility that gets everyone aware of leaks and the problems they cause. Some facilities incorporate One Point Lessons around identifying and reporting leaks as part of their start-of-shift activities. Other, more detailed training sessions can also help.

As with any management program, you need to communicate often to engage your team members. Consider incentivizing employees for identifying and reporting leaks. You can get more people involved and help sustain the improvements you are making. Rewards can include recognition, prizes or monetary awards.

Air Compressor System Leak Maintenance

Air compressor leak maintenance requires ongoing, continuous awareness. Leaks can spring up anywhere and at any time, so you and your employees must be alert for any issues. Developing a consistent leak maintenance procedure can help your facility in many ways. It can:

  • Reduce downtime: Repairing leaks typically comes with downtime, so preventative maintenance can help you avoid this and prevent more significant issues that can result from them.
  • Improve efficiency: When you remove leaks, you improve the efficiency of your system, which makes tools run better since they receive the appropriate amount of air pressure. You may get tasks done faster or more easily, improving productivity as well.
  • Reduce energy costs: In another form of efficiency, a well-running system can more appropriately use all of the electricity it pulls. Since your capacity is more efficient, you won’t need to set it as high either and can reduce usage there. Minimizing unused air lost through leaks can save you a significant amount of money on utility costs.
  • Save money: With less downtime and fewer repairs, your system can keep moving, boosting your revenue generation. You might not have to pay for as many costly fixes and can reduce the time spend with the compressor off while you fix leaks.
  • Add reliability: In an industrial facility, downtime can cost you thousands. With a consistent leak maintenance schedule, you keep your machines running continuously and can rely on them more than you would a system that crashes all the time. You can worry less about performing repairs and more about running your plant.

 

In addition to developing an ongoing leak maintenance program, you can also take measures to set your employees up for success. Provide them with quality equipment that will last and won’t break on them every few weeks. Plus, better tools are likely to be more efficient and may use air power to better results. You could also review your pressure usage and ensure that you are only using what is necessary. Excessively high pressures can wear out your components more quickly, so only use what is needed to extend the lifespan of your system.

One important thing to remember is that a good process improvement program involves knowledgeable people, effective approaches and appropriate tools to achieve its objective. It also requires more than just a one-time fix — leak prevention and repair will need to occur regularly.

It takes a total team effort to drive and sustain these process improvements. Educate your plant employees on why it’s critical to address air leaks and ensure that air compressor maintenance is up-to-date. Show them how to repair and prevent air leaks, and give them the right tools to detect, repair and manage leaks efficiently. You will reap more than just monetary savings. You’ll also develop a more responsible culture and team-centric morale within your employees.

Air Compressors and Parts That Last From Quincy Compressor

Leak prevention is no simple task. It requires an ongoing and continuous approach to maintenance that involves employees on every level. All that work is worth it, though, when you consider how much these leaks can cost you. With efficiency losses that can reach half of your air demand, minimizing leaks is essential to your productivity, your capabilities and your bottom line.

We’ve mentioned how much high-quality parts can help. They require less maintenance, can last longer and offer improved performances. Quincy Compressor is your source for replacement parts and equipment that stands up for years to come. With a variety of service plans and high-end air compressor systems, facilities of all types turn to Quincy Compressor for their airpower needs. If you find an air leak and need to replace a part or even the whole system, we can help. Find your nearest location to reach out to a representative for more information.

A compressor’s air end, motor, air/oil after cooler, coupling element and separator reservoir are the five most costly components of a rotary screw air compressor. Fortunately, Quincy provides an unprecedented Royal Blue Warranty at no additional charge that allows ten year coverage on the air end and five years on the motor, air/oil after cooler, coupling
element and separator reservoir. To maintain warranty coverage – name brand parts and oil must be used in the compressor, oil sampling must be conducted every 2000 hours, and recommendations based on the results of the oil sample analysis must be followed. 

All too often, required oil sampling is forgotten by the owner and then warranties are denied when components fail. Motors are also evaluated and warranted through the motor manufacturer, but Quincy stands behind these components also.

Quincy Compressor is committed to providing its customers with the most reliable, quality equipment in the industry and has the warranty and factory personnel to back it up. Protect your investment, protect your warranty, and prevent costly down time by adhering to these recommendations.

Contributed by Mark Clapp, Quincy Compressor – Texas , Field Service Manager

Aftermarket kits air oil filter

 

When people think about factories that serve all sorts of industry, they often think of robotic machines, assembly lines, conveyor belts, and a perfectly timed series of movements that result ultimately in a finished product. But what makes those machines tick like the inner working of a fine Swiss watch? The answer in many cases is compressed air, and upgrading air compressor systems can provide a company with significant opportunities for cost and energy savings.

What’s Air Compression All About?

If you’ve ever had to “stoke” a fire, then you know about air compression. You breathe air into your lungs and blow it out to increase the oxygenation at the fire source. That’s a practical use of air compression, but nowhere near as practical as the standard bellows that was first put in practice in blast furnaces.

A bellows was a vital invention that allowed us to force compressed air into a furnace much more effectively than just using our lung power. A bellows works by sucking in air into a chamber, which is sealed off by a check valve when the bellows is expanded. Then that air is squeezed out of a nozzle under pressure and directed as desired.

The use of a bellows allowed blacksmiths to create fires that were much hotter than could have been generated otherwise. That led to a range of applications in metallurgy as fires were able to melt important metals, such as copper lead, and iron. Once melted, the metals could be formed into different functionally useful designs, such as a coin or a suit of armor.

It wasn’t long before machines were assisting us in compressing air. Rather than rely on human brute force to open and squeeze close a bellows, steam power could provide the energy needed to compress air much more efficiently.

That in turn led directly to the use of piston-type air compressors, as found in gasoline engines. The pistons are driven by a gasoline-powered engine. The piston is forced down, drawing in outside air. The piston is then forced up, compressing the air in the piston chamber. When put in a high pressure fuel-air mixture and set off by a spark, you can create a very powerful device known broadly as the internal combustion engine.

Air compressors are a vital part of many industry applications. They’re used in fabricating metals, mining operations, ventilating tunnels, railroads, satellite component manufacturing, and a host of other ways. Importantly, modern air compressor technology is vastly improved over prior designs. This offers many opportunities for significant cost savings and energy efficiency.

Basic Types of Air Compressors

It’s important to understand the basic types of air compressors before addressing several case studies of cost savings opportunities. Compressors come in two basic types: positive displacement and roto-dynamic.

Positive displacement compressors act either as a reciprocating compressor or a rotary compressor. Here you can think of piston-based compressors or screw or vane-types of compressors. Roto-dynamic compressors use centrifugal force or axial flow to compress air.

Different types of air compressors are used for different applications, depending on the size required, the horsepower required and, of course, the cost.

More Efficiency from Air Compression Technology

Recently, new designs in various compressors have reduced energy consumption greatly. For example, early air compressors often utilized a load/unload compression. This required storage receiver volume, with the machine operating at full capacity until the unload pressure was reached. After that, the compressor would vent until a lower pressure level was reached and then the cycle would repeat.

This “bang-bang” form of control is very inefficient as compared to a variable displacement control (VDC). In VDC compressor capacity is adjusted by opening and closing pump ports. Some of these variable displacement machines offer five or more set points of compression (rather than all or none); rotary designs can offer a continuously adjustable capacity from 50 percent to 100 percent.

Variable speed drive compressors can provide 35 percent energy savings over load/unload designs. But very new designs use a vertically aligned motor and drive train that share a single drive shaft. This has the benefit of a smaller “footprint.” The tool can be operated closer to the desired point of use. All of this contributes to energy efficient air compression technology.

Case Studies

Case studies provide insights into how outdated and unreliable air compression equipment can be upgraded to yield significant energy and cost savings. Often, the cost of the upgrade can be recouped in 12 to 24 months, making the investment clearly beneficial to a company’s long-term bottom line. Here are four case studies of cost savings in the automotive industry, the steel industry, nuclear fuel production, and satellite systems production that all resulted from a systematic study of observed problems, and upgrading air compressors and their control systems for the desired purpose.

Case Study 1: Motoring to Savings by Upgrading Compressed Air Control Systems

Michelin North America is a large tire manufacturer with a manufacturing plant in South Carolina. At the time of this case study, about 1,000 people worked at the plant to produce truck tires and other automotive parts.

Air compressors are used widely in the automotive industry. Here they were used to drive the production process, powered by five 500-horsepower centrifugal compressors.

The South Carolina plant was identified as having larger air energy costs than a similar plant in Canada. A study was conducted to determine why this was the case. The study identified problems with the compressor control strategy, significant drops in pressure between compressors, and a high air leakage rate that required all five compressors to be operating in order to provide sufficient air pressure for the plant.

The solution was to upgrade the air compressor control system, which in turn maintained an appropriate pressure differential between the compressor pressure settings. A plan for twice-annual routine leak repair was implemented as well. In all, the upgrade created about $75,000 per year in energy savings, and the cost of the upgrade was recouped in about 18 months.

Case Study 2: New Centrifugal Compressors Generate Savings

U.S. Steel Group of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the largest producers of steel products in the USA. It’s also a significant player in the oil and natural gas business. Air compressors play a vital role in the steel industry. At U.S. Steel Group, air compressors have been used for powering two blast furnaces, the powerhouse for the plant, and the basic oxygen plant. The air compressors have served these needs via pneumatic actuators and piston-driven cylinders.

Prior to an independent study to see if an upgrade could improve performance, one U.S. Steel plant relied on six 400-horsepower air and oil-cooled rotary screw compressors. These compressors were old, leaking, and malfunctioned sufficiently often that they could not be relied upon to provide the air pressure needed for the plant’s operations.

Repairing the compressors was going to be very expensive. Fixing the oil leakage problem would have had multiple benefits. The leaks were bad enough that the machines had to be relubricated frequently. Oil managed to contaminate dryers and filters, so these weren’t performing well either.

The solution was to install two new 600-horsepower centrifugal compressors. Located centrally in the plant, they could easily service all demands. Some better performing rotary screw compressors were kept as backups for extreme weather conditions. In addition, equipment upgrades were made to the dryers.

In the end, the plant operators were able to reduce the air pressure requirements by about 20 percent, saving energy and ultimately about $140,000 in costs annually. Furthermore, more than $300,000 in annual maintenance costs were eliminated. The total cost of the overhaul was $521,000, so this was recouped in just over one year.

Case Study 3: Nuclear Processes Benefits from Upgraded Air Compressors

The BWX Technologies plant in Lynchburg, Virginia produces components that contain nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy. The nuclear fuel and associated reactor parts serve the propulsion units of Navy vessels.

The plant relies on compressed air to recapture uranium, treat waste, and operate its machine shop, including lathes, grinders, and drills. On top of the demands from these operations, vapor blasts put intermittent compressed air demand spikes on the overall system.

Before undergoing an independent study to determine how best to improve operations, the plant relied on two 600-horsepower water-cooled centrifugal compressors. These compressors had to run at full load but vented between one-third and two-thirds of their output – wasted energy going into the atmosphere.

The result of the study was to upgrade to more efficient smaller air compressors. Three 350-horsepower air-cooled rotary screw compressors were installed, along with other equipment. When coupled with a redesigned factory layout that included a special heat exchange room to maximize efficiency in summer and winter, the result was an annual saving of 4.2 million kWh, or about $146,000. In addition, $111,000 of annual water cooler costs were saved and there were lower maintenance costs as well.

Case Study 4: Upgrading Air Compression Saves Money on Satellite Systems

Boeing Satellite Systems, which was known formerly as Hughes Space & Communications Company, makes systems that go on satellites orbiting the Earth. This requires a high degree of precise automation and a unique manufacturing environment. Air compressors in space and satellite system development serve key roles.

At the Boeing plant, air compressors provided air for machines that used balloons to generate vibrationless movement of satellite components. To accomplish this, the machines had to receive constant steady pressure. Boeing had the problem of having unstable pressures generated from two 200-horsepower rotary screw compressors.

The instability was caused by intermittent interruptions in air flow, which caused potential machine shutdowns. In addition, about 25% of the system’s output was leaked air.

A systematic study of the production area identified the opportunity for installing a new pressure/flow controller (P/FL) with additional storage. The extra storage was used to maintain a steady flow. Simultaneously, efforts to repair the leaks in the system reduced leakage to 10%. Other equipment was upgraded in addition.

The result was an energy savings of 289,000 kWh per year by running only one of the two air compressors, which became more than adequate to do the entire job. Annual cost savings run about $26,000 and the investment cost was recouped in less than two years.

Air Compressors in the Railway Business

The case studies detailed above suggest that air compressors are vital components of myriad industries. Let’s focus more intently on one more industry: rail transportation. Air compressors are key components in passenger rail safety systems.

For example, passenger trains use compressed air for their braking and suspension systems. These are critical systems for passenger safety, and there are many engineering design considerations that must be addressed when determining the best air compressors for the job.

An Early Advance in Railway Air Compression Design

Today’s trains use a brake system that has roots back to the mid-1800s and a patent by George Westinghouse. Prior to Westinghouse’s invention, straight air brakes were use to push air on a piston that connected to brake shoes on the train. The shoes were pushed against the train’s wheels, causing the train to slow down.

The difficulty with the straight air brake system is that it’s subject to a single point of failure. If any separation occurs between hoses and pipes, it results in a loss of air pressure, and ineffective braking.

Westinghouse redesigned the braking system to have separate air reservoirs and a control valve that can charge air into an air tank, apply the brakes, and release the brakes. The control valve is known as a “triple valve” for these three functions.

The use of air reservoirs means that if the pressure in the main line is lower than that in a reservoir, air from the reservoir is pumped into the brake system, or more properly the brake cylinder. Once the pressure in the cylinder matches the pressure in the reservoir, the control valve maintains constant pressure. It also handles the reverse situation when pressure in the cylinder exceeds pressure in the reservoir.

Importantly, Westinghouse’s system relies in a reduction in mainline air pressure to apply the train’s brakes. This makes braking a fail-safe system: Any loss in system pressure causes the brakes to be applied, ultimately stopping the train.

Design Criteria

Some of the design criteria for air compressors in passenger rail systems include the ambient conditions where trains will be operating. The temperature and humidity are often included in a technical specification. In addition, the systems have to be stable and reliable. A “duty cycle” for the equipment is estimated and the requirements for the braking system, as well as secondary systems such as air springs and door, are factored into the overall design.

Air compressors on passenger trains are controlled by sophisticated software control systems. They maintain air pressure in a main supply reservoir. To control this air pressure, the compressors on trains are often set to run with a 50% duty cycle each day.

Let’s examine one additional case study of how upgrading compressed air systems in passenger rail cars can provide significant cost savings.

Case Study 5: Quincy and Compressed Air Systems on CN Rail Cars

Workers at Mays Yard were experiencing break downs in their rail equipment. Break downs led to costly repairs and down time. The main problem was the antiquated equipment that was being serviced at the yard.

Older equipment requires more electricity to operate, and when the charging systems fail, locomotives are used as generators to charge braking systems. This works, but it puts additional wear on the locomotives, and also uses more fuel – up to 20 gallons extra per hour. It’s a costly solution.

Mays Yard found that an old air compressor system was the main culprit to their problems. They replaced the old system with a Quincy QGV-50 variable speed rotary screw air compressor. The newer system saves about $30,000 per year in energy costs, and can deliver high-quality, dry air even on northern tracks in freezing winter weather.

Quincy Compressors

When it comes to air compressors, Quincy Compressor is the leader in modern technology and design. We offer cutting-edge manufacturing and research that’s geared directly to each specific industry.

At Quincy, we tailor our products and services directly for your needs. With uncompromising reliability and performance, our products are used internationally in diverse industries. We offer premium performance and 24-hour service/support through authorized partners who are there to help you directly.

Quincy systems can be a very valuable purchase over time, helping replace old systems that cost money and waste energy with new much more efficient systems that pay for themselves quickly.

Quincy has been trusted in the market for nearly a century. Come check out our products and contact your local sales representative.

Clogged Air Compressor Drains

Many compressed air users utilize filters to trap dirt and moisture, and nearly EVERY compressed air user has an air storage tank.  Both of these items are great for trapping and removing liquid water from the air stream – preventing rust and corrosion in pneumatic tools and process equipment.

Usually, collected water at the bottom of a tank or filter is released by an automatic drain valve.  These handy devices open on a timer or float mechanism and spout pressurized water from the bottom of the reservoir.   The bad news is most drain valves are equipped with a very small orifice for draining collected condensate – it’s usually only 1/
4-inch.  This means that even a small piece of dirt or pipe scale can clog the orifice and prevent the drain from functioning properly.

For this reason, it’s important to check your filter and tank drains periodically to ensure they’re up to snuff.  Even if your compressor service provider checks them during regular maintenance, make a point to check them between visits for proper operation.  Most electronic drains feature a test button, and almost all drains can be rebuilt fairly cheaply if their seals or diaphragms have been damaged by pipe scale.

Catching a clogged drain can prevent huge hassles by keeping slugs of liquid water from entering your plant’s air header.  If you need advice on how to check your various plants’ drains, feel free to call your local Quincy Compressor distributor. To find your local Quincy distributors visit https://www.quincycompressor.com/sales-service-locator/


Mention utilities and energy in a discussion about manufacturing and the Big Three – water, electricity and natural gas – immediately come to mind. But compressed air is commonly accepted as a manufacturing facility’s fourth utility. A careful examination of a facility’s compressed air system will likely reveal several opportunities to improve the performance of the system by effectively and efficiently removing moisture that may be present. The information listed below can be found on the Compressed Air & Gas Institute website at www.cagi.org.

Moisture is Always Present

All atmospheric air contains some water vapor, which will begin to condense into liquid water in the compressed air or gas system when the air or gas cools past the saturation point, i.e., the point where it can hold no more water vapor. The temperature at which this happens is known as the dew point. This dew point becomes all-important in determining how much compressed air drying is needed.

The increased use of compressed air and the development over the years of many new and more sophisticated devices and controls has increased the need for clean dry air. Hence, drying technology advanced, and dryers came into general use. CAGI and their Air Drying & Filtration Section remain committed to educate users on this topic.

Moisture is Damaging.

Moisture in compressed air used in a manufacturing plant causes problems in the operation of pneumatic systems, solenoid valves and air motors and can adversely affect the process or product being manufactured. For many years, problems from moisture in compressed air lines were simply tolerated as unavoidable. Moisture:

  • Causes rust and increased wear of moving parts in production equipment as it washes away lubrication
  • Can adversely affect the color, adherence, and finish of paint applied by compressed air
  • Can jeopardize process industries where many operations are dependent upon the proper functioning of pneumatic controls. The malfunctioning of these controls due to rust, scale, and clogged orifices can result in damage to product or in costly shutdowns
  • Can freeze in control lines in cold weather, which may cause faulty operation of controls
  • Causes corrosion of air or gas operated instruments, giving false readings, interrupting or shutting down plant processes.

Plant Air – In almost every operation, clean, dry compressed air will result in lower operating costs. Dirt, water and oil entrained in the air will be deposited on the inner surfaces of pipes and fittings, causing an increase in pressure drop in the line which results in a loss of performance efficiency.

Liquid water accelerates corrosion and shortens the useful life of equipment and carry- over of corrosion particles can plug valves, fittings and instrument control lines. When water freezes in these components, similar plugging will occur.

Valves and Cylinders – Deposits of sludge formed by dirty, wet and oily air, acts as a drag on pneumatic cylinders so that the seals and bearings need more frequent maintenance intervals. Operation is slowed down and eventually stopped. Moisture dilutes the oil required for the head and rod of an air cylinder, corrodes the walls and slows response. This results in loss of efficiency and production.

Moisture flowing to rubber diaphragms in valves can cause these parts to stiffen and rupture. Moisture also can cause spools and pistons to pit. In high-speed production, a sluggish or stuck cylinder could create costly downtime. A clean, dry air supply can prevent many of these potential problems.

Air Powered Tools – Pneumatic tools are designed to operate with clean, dry air at the required pressure. Dirty and wet air will result in sluggish operation, more frequent repair and replacement of parts due to sticking, jamming and rusting of wearing parts. Water also will wash out the required oils, resulting in excessive wear. A decrease in pressure at the tool caused by restricted or plugged lines or parts will cause a reduction in the efficiency of the tool.

Clean, dry air at the required pressure will enable the production worker to start operating immediately at an efficient level, with no time lost to purge lines or drain filters and will help to maintain productivity and prolong tool life.

Instrument Air – Control air supplied to transmitters, relays, integrators, converters, recorders, indicators or gauges is required to be clean and dry. A small amount of moisture passing through an orifice can cause malfunction of the instrument and the process it controls. Moisture and resultant corrosion particles also can cause damage to instruments and plug their supply airlines. Pneumatic thermostats, which control the heating and air conditioning cycles in large and small buildings, also require clean, dry air.

Instruments and pneumatic controllers in power plants, sewage treatment plants, chemical and petrochemical plants, textile mills and general manufacturing plants, all need clean, dry air for efficient operation.

Preservation of Products – When used to mix, stir, move or clean a product, air must be clean and dry. For example, oil and water in compressed air used to operate knitting machinery will cause the tiny latches on the knitting needles to stick. When used to blow lint and thread off finished fabrics, contaminants in the air may cause product spoilage.

If air is used to blow a container clean before packaging, entrained moisture and oil may contaminate the product. Moisture in control line air can cause the wrong mixture of ingredients in a bakery, the incorrect blend in liquor, waterlogged paint, or ruined food products.

In some printing operations, air is used to lift or position paper, which will be affected by dirty, wet air and any water on the paper will prevent proper adhesion of the inks.

In pneumatic conveying of a product such as paper cups or cement, dry air is essential.

Test Chambers – Supersonic wind tunnels are designed to simulate atmospheric conditions at high altitudes where moisture content is low. These chambers use large volumes of air, which must be dried to a very low dew point to prevent condensation in the tunnel air stream.

Selecting the Right Compressed Air Dryer

Before looking at the several types of dryers available, we need to look at what to consider in deciding which dryer is best for the specific requirements.

Know the Specific Uses of the Compressed Air – The selection of an air dryer is done best by the professional who knows or learns the particular end uses, the amount of moisture which each use can tolerate and the amount of moisture which needs to be removed to achieve this level. Air, which may be considered dry for one application, may not be dry enough for another. Dryness is relative. Even the desert has moisture. There is always some moisture present in a compressed air system regardless of the degree of drying.

For compressed air, the best way to specify dryness is to cite a desired pressure dew point. Different types of dryers, therefore, are available with varying degrees of pressure dew point performance. To specify dew point lower than required for an application is not good engineering practice. (Naming a pressure dew point is how to state the degree of dryness wanted.) It may result in more costly equipment and greater operating expense.

Know the Temperatures – To determine whether or not the compressed air will remain sufficiently dry, we must know the end use of the air and the temperature at which it must work. In an industrial plant where the ambient temperature is in the range of 70ᵒF or higher, a dryer capable of delivering a pressure dew point 20ᵒF lower than ambient, or 50ᵒF, may be quite satisfactory.

Summer temperatures do not require a very low dew point whereas winter temperatures may dictate a much lower dew point. In winter, the temperature of the cooling medium, air or water, usually is lower than in summer, resulting in a variation of the air temperature to the dryer. This will affect the size of the dryer needed, since the same dryer must work in both summer and winter temperatures and relative humidities.

Many chemical processing plants, refineries, and power plants distribute instrument and plant air throughout the facility with lines and equipment located outside the buildings. In such plants two different temperature conditions exist at the same time in the same system. Also, a dryer which may be satisfactory for high daytime temperatures, may not be satisfactory for lower nighttime temperatures. In areas where freezing temperatures are encountered, a lower pressure dew point may be required. In general, the dew point should be specified 20ᵒF lower than the lowest ambient temperature encountered in order to avoid potential condensation and freezing. To specify a winter dew point when only summer temperatures will be encountered, can result in over-sizing the equipment and increased initial and operating costs. A system designed to dry air for cold weather conditions will greatly increase operating costs if used year round.

For plant air and instrument air, primary considerations in specifying a dryer are condensation and freezing. In a system where a lot of internal pipe corrosion could occur, high humidity in the air stream should be avoided.

Know the Actual Performance – While many dryers have a standard rating of 100ᵒF saturated inlet air temperature and 100 PSIG operating pressure, it is important to check on the actual performance of the units obtained in actual plant operating conditions.

Know Each Use – In addition to plant and instrument air applications, there are many other uses requiring moisture removal to a low dew point. For example, railroad tank cars, which carry liquid chlorine, are padded (charged) with compressed air to enable pneumatic unloading. Chlorine will combine with water vapor to form hydrochloric acid; therefore, the compressed air must have minimum moisture content to prevent severe corrosion. Droplets of moisture in wind tunnel air at high- testing velocities may have the effect of machine gun bullets, tearing up the test models. Air used for low temperature processing (for example, liquefaction of nitrogen or oxygen) can form ice on cooling coils, thus requiring defrosting. The lower the moisture content of the air, the longer the periods between defrosting shutdowns.

For these and similar temperature applications, compressed air must not only be free of liquid phase water but must also have a minimum content of vapor phase water. Usually specified for these requirements are dew points in the range of -40ᵒF to -100ᵒF at pressure.

Compressed Air & Gas Institute – The Compressed Air and Gas Institute is the united voice of the compressed air industry, serving as the unbiased authority on technical, educational, promotional, and other matters that affect the industry. The next article in the series will focus on the different types of compressed air dryers and the features and benefits of each type. For more detailed information about Compressed Air Dryers, CAGI, its members, compressed air applications and other educational resources on compressed air, visit the CAGI web site at www.cagi.org.

Cagi

In 1920, Quincy Compressor established its reputation for engineered solutions. Its flagship products, QR-25 and QSI are proven reliable choices for users in some of the toughest conditions like mining, drilling, concrete production and shipbuilding. Nearly 40 percent of rotary sales are considered one-of-a kind configurations ranging from electrical specialties to freeze-protection options. Utilizing this New Engineering Firm Website Zone will provide you with the knowledge to specify the right Quincy Compressor to meet your compressed air needs.

To access the Engineering Zone, visit Quincy Compressor’s website at quincycompressor.com and click on the Engineer Login button found at the top of the homepage. Please click register to gain access to this valuable zone.

Find necessary information about Quincy Compressor products including white papers, dimensionals, bid specs, case studies, brochures and much, much more. Delivers fast and convenient information all in one location.


Does your company have a new crew of salespeople? This post is packed with introductory terms and concepts, and will help your rookies sound like pros when educating end users. 

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, compressed air is defined as air under pressure greater than that of the atmosphere. Compressed air can also be described as being free air that has been pressed into a volume smaller than it normally occupies. As it exerts pressure it performs work when released and allowed to expand to its normal free state. In today’s blog post, you will learn the basics of compressed air which will increase your credibility when speaking to clients about Quincy compressors. 

Why is compressed air used and who uses it? Since compressed air is essentially stored energy, there are numerous industries that use compressed air for various applications. It supplies motive force, and is preferred to electricity because it is safer and more convenient. Compressed air is the 4th utility to industry and is as important as water, electricity and fuel (gas, oil, etc.)

The great advantage of compressed air is the high ratio of power to weight or power to volume. In comparing electric motors, compressed air produces smooth translation with much more uniform force. Compressed air equipment can be more economical, and more durable without the shock hazard of electricity or the explosion hazard of oil. From a production assembly line to laboratories to heavy construction, compressed air can be used in endless industries.

Below are a list of examples in which compressed air can be used: 

  • Production Line Tools 
  • Automation & Assembly Stations
  • Plant Maintenance 
  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Aircraft Mfg.
  • Automobiles
  • Beverages
  • Agriculture
  • Cement
  • Foundries
  • Plastics
  • Construction 
  • Hospitals
  • Monuments
  • Power Plants
  • Sewage Plants

 

The ability of a compressor to supply energy is expressed in both cfm and psig. CFM or Cubic Feet Per Minute is the volume of air measuring the compressors capabilities. The amount of stored energy, or the ability of the compressor to supply this energy is expressed in both cfm and psig. CFM, or Cubic Feet Per Minute is the volume of air measuring the compressors capabilities, and PSIG means pounds per square inch gauge. Compressed air is usually 100 pounds over atmospheric pressure, or PSIG. Atmospheric air can be compressed in several ways: Positive Displacement Compressors, machines in which successive volumes of air are confined within a closed space and elevated to a higher pressure; Dynamic Compressors, machines in which air is compressed by the mechanical action of rotating impellers imparting velocity and pressure into the air; Centrifugal Compressor, which operates like a fan where the flow through the compressor is turned perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The volume (measured in CFM) required determines the size of the compressor needed to do the job. 

For example, a five horsepower compressor will supply 20 CFM at 100 PSIG. A 200 HP compressor will supply 1,000 CFM at 100 PSIG. So, the more volume, the faster the job gets done. In addition, greater pressure increases the force or torque. Some tools, motors, or hammers will not operate without sufficient volume, so it is very important to know what type of compressor to recommend for a specific application. 

Moisture in compressed air can cause big problems Hot air holds more water vapor, so it is vital to performance to make sure the air is cooled and the moisture is removed. To do this, an air cooler aftercooler, moisture separator and refrigerated air dryer are used. Some problems caused by water in compressed air include: maintenance and war increases; air equipment becomes sluggish; rust; air line freeze; shorter air tool life. 

Don’t forget that supplying compressed air is not free. The cost of compressed air can be one of the most expensive sources of energy in a plant. To calculate the cost of compressed air in a facility, use the formula shown below:

Cost ($) =

(bhp) x (0.746) x (# of operating hours) x ($/kWh) x (% time) x (% full load bhp)

Motor Efficiency

Where bhp = Compressor shaft horsepower (frequently higher than the motor nameplate horsepower = check equipment specification) Percent time = percentage of time running at this operating level Percent full-load bhp = bhp as percentage of full-load bhp at this operating level Motor efficiency = motor efficiency at this operating level. 

Case Studies

In today’s competitive sales world, finding ways to establish rapport and credibility can sometimes be tough to find. One tool often overlooked is a “referral” from current customers. Testimonial-type endorsements give potential customers more reasons to purchase from you. Research shows that testimonials can increase sales in consumer businesses by 30 percent and double or triple results in B2B sales.

Quincy Compressor believes these statistics to be true and has published more than half a dozen case studies to assist in spreading the word. A case study is a great way to not only put the spot light on the customer’s success story, but to also shed some light on the company who serves as the compressed air specialist. Although case studies are like endorsements, they are better because each one focuses on a specific industry issue and how a Quincy distributor and product provided the solution.

Now it’s your turn to submit a case study. Why not put your story out there for everyone to see? You’ve been working hard, not it’s time for you to shine! We’re looking for case studies of those who have purchased Quincy Compressor products. Step into the spotlight when your case study turns into an actual published piece for others to read and admire! Submit your case study to ashley.oberkirch@quincycompressor.com.

Resolutions don’t have to be made solely on New Year’s Eve. In addition, to your personal resolutions, why not make resolutions to help your business grow? One way you can do this is by creating a business plan for your company. A business plan will help you set goals and provide a road map for you to follow, ensuring those goals are met. Careful planning is fundamental to success. Each year, business goals and focuses change based on changes in the economy and other outside elements beyond our control. Far too often, people think they can achieve their goals but fail to outline the steps to help them along the way. That is where this plan will serve as a compass when the winds change.

So where do you start? Since each business is unique, you will need to create a plan that is specific to your needs. The first step is to identify what goals you would like to achieve this year and what goals will lead to growth. For example, let’s say one of your objectives for 2015 is to build a company website (or update an existing one) that will help customers identify your company’s products and services. You will need to identify this as a goal in your business plan, and then outline the steps you will take to achieve it. Also include your financial needs to get the website updated or started. This will help you set a budget and stick to it. Next, consider any low-hanging fruit. Have you included all of the areas that will build your customer relationships?

Along the way, evaluate your progress towards the goal. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly update meetings with everyone involved to find out if you are on track, see if any changes need to be made to strategy, etc. You should also do an evaluation upon completion. The knowledge you take away from this project will help you in setting goals and creating more accurate business plans in the future.

All of this may seem intimidating if you are not used to practicing it annually, but rest assured, there are plenty of resources available. You can find books, online publications and articles that will get you started and help you along the way.

Check out these great websites for templates, guidelines and examples to help you get started on your business plan:

https://articles.bplans.com/a-simple-step-by-step-guide-for-business-planning/

https://www.bplans.com/sample_business_plans.php

https://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business

Match the Supply & Demand in Your Compressed Air System

Posted on: September 15, 2015

Compressed air is a very high cost component in the production of goods and services at a plant. As such, improving the efficiency of an existing system offers a large savings opportunity. To realize the potential, the system dynamics must be understood and the supply from the compressors must always match the real system demands. […]

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How to Find and Fix Leaks in Your Air Compressor System

Posted on: September 10, 2015

If you hear a telltale hiss coming from a component in your air compressor, you might not realize how much damage it’s causing your system and your bottom line. Air compressor leaks can be incredibly costly, not just in terms of money, but also through productivity and efficiency. Compressors use a lot of energy. It […]

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Don’t Slip Up on Oil Sampling

Posted on: September 1, 2015

A compressor’s air end, motor, air/oil after cooler, coupling element and separator reservoir are the five most costly components of a rotary screw air compressor. Fortunately, Quincy provides an unprecedented Royal Blue Warranty at no additional charge that allows ten year coverage on the air end and five years on the motor, air/oil after cooler, coupling element […]

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Upgrading with Quincy Air Compressors to Save Money and Energy

Posted on: August 25, 2015

  When people think about factories that serve all sorts of industry, they often think of robotic machines, assembly lines, conveyor belts, and a perfectly timed series of movements that result ultimately in a finished product. But what makes those machines tick like the inner working of a fine Swiss watch? The answer in many […]

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Clogged Drains can be a Hassle!

Posted on: August 18, 2015

Clogged Air Compressor Drains Many compressed air users utilize filters to trap dirt and moisture, and nearly EVERY compressed air user has an air storage tank.  Both of these items are great for trapping and removing liquid water from the air stream – preventing rust and corrosion in pneumatic tools and process equipment. Usually, collected […]

Read More

Why Do Compressed Air Systems Need Drying?

Posted on: August 4, 2015

Mention utilities and energy in a discussion about manufacturing and the Big Three – water, electricity and natural gas – immediately come to mind. But compressed air is commonly accepted as a manufacturing facility’s fourth utility. A careful examination of a facility’s compressed air system will likely reveal several opportunities to improve the performance of […]

Read More

Quincy Compressor Engineering Website

Posted on: July 21, 2015

In 1920, Quincy Compressor established its reputation for engineered solutions. Its flagship products, QR-25 and QSI are proven reliable choices for users in some of the toughest conditions like mining, drilling, concrete production and shipbuilding. Nearly 40 percent of rotary sales are considered one-of-a kind configurations ranging from electrical specialties to freeze-protection options. Utilizing this […]

Read More

Air Compressor Introductory Terms & Concepts

Posted on: July 7, 2015

Does your company have a new crew of salespeople? This post is packed with introductory terms and concepts, and will help your rookies sound like pros when educating end users.  According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, compressed air is defined as air under pressure greater than that of the atmosphere. Compressed air can also be described as […]

Read More

Case Studies

Posted on: June 23, 2015

Case Studies In today’s competitive sales world, finding ways to establish rapport and credibility can sometimes be tough to find. One tool often overlooked is a “referral” from current customers. Testimonial-type endorsements give potential customers more reasons to purchase from you. Research shows that testimonials can increase sales in consumer businesses by 30 percent and […]

Read More

Business Resolutions

Posted on: June 9, 2015

Resolutions don’t have to be made solely on New Year’s Eve. In addition, to your personal resolutions, why not make resolutions to help your business grow? One way you can do this is by creating a business plan for your company. A business plan will help you set goals and provide a road map for […]

Read More