The Cost of Inflation (Compressed Air that is)

Metallisation | 10th September 2021

There seems to be a misconception that compressed air is ‘free’.

Most factories depend on compressed air for general use - it is one of the key elements of most production lines. Thermal spray systems rely on compressed air and because it is widely accessible on the energiser and flame spray boards and easily adjusted, it is one of the first things that is changed.

Predominately, a thermal sprayed coating finish is influenced by the amount of air pressure utilised. A finer coating finish requires higher air pressures compared to a coarse coating finish which utilises a lower pressure.

Setting the right pressure is key and it is easy to overlook. Operators know and understand the techniques involved in spraying; however, air requirements are one of the fundamental items that is completely overlooked. (Always refer to operator manuals to obtain optimum settings for general applications).

Realities of compressed air cost:

The initial compressed air system purchase makes up a very small part of the total lifetime costs of an air compressor; the main cost will always be the energy required to produce the compressed air. It is vital to match your compressor's operating output with additional allowance to ensure that when continually operating at high pressure, end product quality is not compromised.

The electricity consumed during operation over a five-year period accounts for around 75 per cent of the total cost of ownership, including the initial capital outlay for the air compressor, therefore it is important to consider the efficiency of the compressor and not just its capital cost.

How to maximise your Air settings:

  1. Wasted air

Most industrial facilities tend to leave equipment on when it is not being used. By installing a correct shutdown process for when and how to turn equipment off, you will save on the generation of redundant excess air along with reduced maintenance costs.

  1. Utilising valves

Once again, most industrial facilities use a single source air compressor to often supply several machines at the same time. Installing or utilising existing valves, diverters, and slide gates, idle machinery can be shut off easily.

  1. What air pressure is actually required?

Pressure requirements for machines are often overlooked. Ensuring the correct pressure requirement for the machine will ensure no detrimental damage to the machine and will ensure the equipment runs at optimum and overall reduce your air pressure requirements.

  1. Maintenance

Performance of our Energisers, Flame-spray, Powder spray pistols and ultimately the overall coating relies heavily on compressed air, therefore it is vital that maintenance schedules are performed regularly on your compressed air setup. Not only will it prevent unexpected breakdowns, but it will also improve system performance and efficiency.

  1. Find leaks

As with all industrial facilities, leaks are common - in fact around 30 per cent of air generated is wasted. Generally, leaks are most easily found when all the machinery is turned off, so it is good to have a walk around at end of shift to check for these. It is surprising how much an air leak can cost in lost overheads when totalled.

  1. H&S

We still hear of dangerous practices going on, such as people using compressed air to dust off machinery, work benches and even their clothes. If compressed air penetrates the skin and gets into the bloodstream, an air bubble could reach the heart or lungs, which could prove fatal. As it travels at a phenomenal speed, if it hits an eye or an ear it may lead to blindness or loss of hearing, respectively. Therefore, it is vital to follow equipment guidelines on the correct usage

Further Advice

There are numerous free resources that help businesses identify compressed air issues such as Air Data Logging and grants for a more energy efficient compressor. However, following these 6 simple steps will go a long way in making sure you get the best possible results from your setup.