Best Practice for Pneumatic Systems: Air Preparation

Posted 16th July 2018

View All Posts

The air we breathe is free.  Compressed air, unfortunately, isn’t.  Traditional energy sources like electricity take the air that we breathe and compress it, creating the energy source that powers the pneumatic system found on your machine.

Looking to maximize performance of the entire pneumatic system, minimize maintenance/downtime by extending the life of pneumatic components, or just control the cost to run the compressor? Clean, dry, controllable compressed air is necessary for total pneumatic system efficiency. To maximize performance and extend the life of the components doing the work in a pneumatic system, compressed air preparation at the point of use is a requirement.  Basic air preparation equipment, or ‘Air Prep’, will commonly contain a filter, regulator, and possibly a lubricator in a series.  

Below explains the features of the CKD filters, regulators and lubricators for your air preparation.

Air Preparation: Filter

Double layer element eliminates need for multiple filters in series, providing large flow, minimal pressure loss, and 3x the life of a standard single layer element.

The filter should receive the supply air first.  This filter will extract most moisture and air-line contaminants typically down to 5 microns, and can get as small as 0.3 microns depending on the type of filter selected.  

Compressed air filters require preventative maintenance to ensure optimum efficiency and effective filtering.  Like the filtering elements in your car, a compressed air filter will likely need to be replaced approximately every 4-6 months, depending on use and the condition of the incoming air.  The filter will typically be visible through the bowl or sight glass for convenient self-monitoring.  

Moisture extracted from the compressed air will collect in the filter bowl.  As part of air preparation routine, this bowl needs to be monitored and drained periodically, either manually or via an optional auto-draining feature. Be sure to properly route the drainage using tubing for proper disposal (and to avoid a mess). Be sure to also monitor the condition of the bowl.  Physical damage or cracking may occur due to an incompatible fluid in the upstream air.  In these instances a metal bowl is the most practical solution.  Extreme conditions such as high humidity and rapid temperature changes may mean additional moisture extraction is needed as part of the air preparation process.  

Air Preparation: Regulator

Modulates supply pressure fluctuations for precisely controlled downstream pressure. Streamlined embedded gauge standard.

After the filter, a pressure reducing valve, or regulator, will take that clean, dry air and provide a means to control the pressure down-stream.  Working a manually controlled regulator may seem a bit counterintuitive.  “Closing” the valve by turning it clockwise will actually compress the regulating springs inside the valve and allow greater pressure to pass down-stream.  While a regulator will inherently effect flow in the process, best air prepration practice dictates that a regulator should be used only to regulate downstream pressure.  For on/off functionality, or to control the flow of the air in your system, a simple on/off valve and a metering valve (or flow control) are recommended.

Air Preparation: Filter/Regulator Combination

Combines superior double layer filtering with precise downstream pressure control in one consolidated module when space is at a premium.

A filter/regulator combo unit provides a unitized filter/regulator system as a single unit for space savings without compromising control or filtering. 

Air Preparation: Lubricator

Large storage capacity and refillable, even under pressure.

Using a lubricator depends on what your system needs downstream. Add a lubricator to the pneumatic system to provide downstream components with a constant supply of oil lubrication by introducing a small amount of oil to the compressed air stream.  Lubricators use an adjustable visual indicator to measure the amount of oil downstream and have an oil reservoir bowl that can be visually monitored to ensure constant supply.  Over the past decade, most downstream components such as valves and cylinders have transitioned to use grease lubrication instead of a lubricator, therefore eliminating the need for constant oiling as part of the air preparation routine.

Best Practice Tips for Compressed Air Preparation: