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Talk about the Weather…and Compressed Air

Writing for Compressed Air Best Practices, a leading publication on the utilization of and issues impacting compressed air across a broad spectrum of industries, Ron Marshall offers a selection of technical guidance from two key publications by Compressed Air Challenge. His article, “How’s the Weather in Your Pipes,” is worth a read.

Compressed Air Challenge is a voluntary collaboration of manufacturers, distributors and their associations; industrial users; facility operating personnel and their associations; consultants; state research and development agencies; energy efficiency organizations; and utilities. The mission of the CAC is to be the leading source of product-neutral compressed air system information and education, enabling end users to take a systems approach, leading to improved efficiency and production and increased net profits.

Marshall is a key member of CAC, and in selecting excerpts from the group’s Fundamentals and Advanced Seminar and Best Practice manuals, he’s done an excellent job of sharing full ideas and making clear how large and how complex compressed air issues are.

The management of moisture in compressed air systems is emphasized in Marshall’s article, with subjects such as “Why Does Compressed Air Need Drying?”, “Measuring Moisture Content,” and the importance of understanding temperature impacts and points covered succinctly and deftly.

“Moisture in compressed air used in manufacturing plants,” the article notes, “causes problems in the operation of pneumatic air systems, solenoid valves, and air motors by leading to rust and increased wear of moving parts as it washes away lubrication. Moisture also adversely affects the color, adherence, and finish of paint applied by compressed air.”

In facilities handling sensitive products, such as implantable medical devices or food and beverage items, improperly managed moisture can lead to contamination that renders products unusable.

Marshall also stresses an issue that we’ve drawn attention to on this blog on a few occasions: the absolute need to fully understand the specific use(s) of compressed air.

“To specify a dew point lower than required for an application,” he writes, “is not good engineering practice…. It may result in more costly equipment and greater operating expense.”

Another point worth mentioning in regards to the article is its concluding emphasis on plant engineers and equipment maintenance responsibilities. Improperly managed condensate, cooling surfaces and filters can cause significant and costly energy inefficiencies, destroy products, and present safety risks.

So how is a manufacturer to avoid these problems, particularly when there are not always—in fact, rarely are—firm guidelines for maintaining compressed air quality? One step is to read Marshall’s article and follow the work of Compressed Air Challenge.

Another essential step is to understand the options available to you from the compressed air testing side of the industry. We at TRI Air Testing welcome your questions. We offer test kits for capturing samples at the source and the most experienced testing laboratory in the field. We also offer 24-hour turnaround on most standard compressed air tests, 24/7 online access to account and report information, and much more.


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