Having a steady supply of clean and dry air is a requirement for protecting pneumatic components and ensuring their proper operation.
For applications such as clamping, positioning, pushing and lifting, having good quality air flow for the required pressure is essential and must be designed into the system.
Compressed air often flows from the plant to the machine, passing through multiple devices, pipes and fittings along the way, that can add particulates, oil and moisture.
Preparing the air before it is used will help to ensure your machine gets the best possible protection and a better possible service life.
Compressed air filters should receive the supply air first and are necessary to reduce contaminates and moisture in the compressed air at the machine.
They are available in different sizes depending on the needs of your application, standard filters remove particulates around 40 µm while fine filters are available to remove particulates down to 5 µm or less, such as Parker's 14F miniature particulate filter.
Process instrumentation or high-speed pneumatic tools will require a finer particle filtration, along with food and pharmaceutical applications.
Filters require preventative maintenance to ensure they maintain optimum efficiency and filter effectively. The key area of maintenance for filters is taking care of the filter-bowl.
All the collected pollutants from the air will fill the bowl so you need to control the level either with a manul drain, a semi-automatic drain or ideally with an automatic drain. Also, the filter element should be controlled from time to time, for Coalescing Filters a PDI (pressure drop indicator) is used to see the rate of contamination.
After the air has been through the filter, a pressure regulator will take that clean, dry air and control the pressure downstream.
They are operated by turning a valve to determine the pressure – turning it clockwise will allow greater pressure to pass.
Air preparation best practice dictates that a regulator should only be used to regulate downstream pressure. For on/off functionality, or to control the flow of air into your system, a single on/off valve are recommended.
Combination filter regulator units have all the capabilities of the separate filters and regulators combined into a single unit. This design will save significant pneumatic panel space and also save on cost.
A lubricator should be added to a system to provide downstream pneumatic components with a constant supply of oil lubrication by introducing a small amount of oil to the compressed air stream.
The oil will be dissolved and transported by the airstream to the point of use, in the form of fog. This technology is important to guarantee the best lubrication of your components, keeping your machine operating at maximum efficiency.
Lubricators are available in a variety of port sizes to match other air preparation components. They often use an adjustable visual indicator to measure the amount of oil downstream and have an oil reservoir bowl that can be monitored to ensure a constant supply. The bowls are also available in several sizes to store more oil as needed.
Today’s pneumatic devices sometimes don’t require lubrication but high-speed pneumatic power tools often do. Some are pre-lubricated and don’t require it.
Air preparation systems
A typical air preparation system includes filters, regulators and lubricators (sometimes called FRL systems).
Proper design, the correct specification and regular monitoring of bowl, filter element and oil in the lubricator will lead to an air preparation system that will ensure many years of trouble-free operation for downstream pneumatic components.
Choose from a range of high performance and efficient Parker Air Preparation products for your application needs. Parker offers a large selection of dryers, filters, lubricators, regulators and combination units, available with a wide range of standard options to meet your air preparation needs.
Article contributed by Hermann Stoerk, product manager air preparation, Pneumatic Division Europe, Parker Hannifin Corporation.