The Basics of Pneumatic Air Preparation

Jun 26th 2020

Technicians will sometimes work to develop an advanced level of skills in almost every aspect of pneumatic technology yet save the basics for last. You certainly could do things this way, but it makes the learning process that much more difficult. Learning about the basics of pneumatic air preparation before you work with a pneumatic circuit will make things much easier to configure in the long run.

Air preparation is one of the most fundamental aspects of working with pneumatic equipment, but it often gets neglected while people rush to get every other part of their installation working. Those who are trying to get downstream devices to enjoy a proper amount of clean air at the right pressure won’t want to neglect it.

We asked the experts at SMC Pneumatics for their favorite tips in regards to this vital practice. They provided

Basic Tips For Preparing An Airstream

Engineers can design or at least specify what are sometimes called air prep subsystems, which make sure that all pneumatic equipment keeps performing at the highest level for years. This helps to slash long-term maintenance costs and cut down on the amount of downtime caused by periodic equipment failures.

Perhaps the most important aspect of air prep is the specification of port sizes. You’ll want to match the size of all of your ports to the inlet and outlet air tubes that are attached to your compressor and every other part along the air plumbing that you’re run.

All of your devices also need to be rated for a standard operating pressure range. At times, you’ll want to specify a proof pressure or even a burst pressure. Those systems that are particularly sensitive will certainly need to have all three. It’s usually not a bad idea to specify a burst pressure that’s a bit generous, making sure to err on the side of caution so you don’t risk any damage from possibly blowing a line or valve.

Any device that exhibits an operating pressure should never be ignored. Consider the situation posed by a valve that has a pressure rating of 50-150 psi. Anything below this range may not actuate the valve properly. On the other hand, more pressure might damage it. In either case, it isn’t a good idea to operate it outside of this range. In many cases, this might actually be unsafe.

Proof pressures are the maximum amount of air that a device can handle before it fails completely, even if you make an effort to restore proper pressure or cut the cylinder once you realize something is wrong. Burst pressure refers to the pressure level at which a device fails completely in a way that’s absolutely catastrophic.

You’ll want to pay close attention to both of these ratings so you don’t run into any major difficulties down the road. Once you’ve gotten all the figures down, you’re ready to do some of the heavy lifting involved with the air prep process.

Shut-off Valves & Other Considerations

If you’re working in a particularly sensitive environment, then you might want to consider the possibility of installing additional shut-off valves and other similar safety systems. The ability to remove energy from machinery that isn’t in use is critical, especially when it comes time to perform maintenance at a later date.

Representatives of organizations like ANSI and OSHA have considered compressed air to be a potentially hazardous source of energy. Of course, pneumatic equipment is extremely safe and many individuals have specified its use in critical situations. However, it’s in part due to these excellent safety precautions that pneumatic gear has such an impressive record.

As long as you keep to a list of best practices and make sure to perform your air preparation process right from the start, you shouldn’t run into any real problems. After you’ve made sure to sort these elements out, you’ll be in a great position to check your system for cleanliness and lubrication.

Keeping Compressed Air Clean & Dry

Depending on the type of environment that you’re working in, you’re going to want to reorient your compressor or intake valve so that it doesn’t start absorbing some sort of debris. At the same time, you’re going to want to take a few moments to clean out all of the filters.

While it’s not technically part of the air prep process, you do want to ensure that all of your equipment is working properly before you put it into play. You might want to invest in a modular filter regulator lubricator so you can be sure that any compressed air flowing downstream has been properly cleaned and lubricated before it makes its way into any components.

Lubricating your actuators can be difficult simply because it’s so easy to put more oil than you need, which will gum up the air very quickly. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to worry about this if you work with one of these components.

At the same time, you’ll want to make sure that the air is the right temperature for what you’re trying to do. You may want to relocate your compressor or air cylinder to an area that doesn’t receive too much direct sunlight or gets an unnecessary amount of heat. If your machinery is positioned too close to something that puts out a lot of heat, like another piece of manufacturing gear, then there’s a good chance that the air your compressor draws in will also start to exhibit signs of said heat.

Over time, too much heat can make the compressor work harder and might even exceed the original manufacturer’s suggestions on how certain parts should work. When you operate these parts out of spec, you’re risking a failure.

That being said, you shouldn’t have to worry about running into any major issues as long as you take a few simple precautions. Perhaps the most important step is to take the time to look over the equipment that you currently have attached to your system so you can be sure that everything is working properly.

Find The Parts You Need To Improve Air Flow At SMC Pneumatics

At SMC Pneumatics, our team of experts is here to help you find the kind of pneumatic components that will best fit your particular use case. In some cases, all you need to get going is a few simple components.

Those who are working to stock their equipment stores will certainly want to contact SMC Pneumatics online. You’ll always be ready to tackle the air prep process and then perform useful tasks on any workpieces that you might have in your company’s manufacturing workflows.

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