Machines can (finally) breathe easily

The right compressed air improves performance while efficient air preparation improves machine productivity.

Efficient air preparation creates ideal operating conditions for continuously operating pneumatic units like cylinders or semi-rotary drives, and improves machine productivity. 

Not all air is the same – that is most obvious when you return to the muggy air of the big city from a holiday by the sea or in the mountains. Fine particles, air humidity and air pressure can make it more difficult to breathe and adversely affect the quality of people's lives, particularly those who are sensitive to such issues. Machines in industrial applications are no different. The purer the compressed air, the better their performance and the longer their service lives.

The problem with contaminated air
One cubic metre of untreated ambient atmosphere contains up to 180 million dirt particles, water, oil and chemical contaminants like lead, cadmium, iron and mercury. When compressed, the concentration of contaminants increases many times over. Effective air preparation can help. Developed for the requirements of a range of applications, high-quality individual components for on/off switching, building up pressure, filtering, regulating and drying can be combined to harmoniously functioning units.

Three key variables
In air preparation, three variables play a key role: compressed air purity, compressed air quantity and air pressure. Depending on the requirements and condition of the system, coordinating these three variables ensures a high compressed air quality and forms the basis for selecting the corresponding service unit components.
The required compressed air purity increases both the running performance and the efficiency of pneumatic systems and can ensure compliance with legal specifications in industries such as the food industry. The flow quantity is largely determined by flow cross-sections, and the design dimensions of the machine. In general, provided the design is the same, the greater the dimensions of the service unit, the higher the flows. Optimised operating pressure increases the efficiency, minimises wear and reduces power consumption. 

Interaction of forces
In order to coordinate the compressed air purity, compressed air quantity and pressure for the specifications of a system, the correct individual components must be chosen, and they must interact in coordination. For example, this includes on / off, pressure build-up and pressure regulating valves, water separators, filters, and drying units. On / off valves like the MS6-EM1 or MS6-EE from Festo, manually or solenoid-actuated, open and close the air supply. When closed, the valve is exhausted automatically. That prevents undesirable motions in a system that is switched off.
Soft-start valves build-up pressure slowly and safely and do not switch to full pressure until a specific point. That protects downstream equipment such as cylinders. Pressure regulators control the operating pressure of a system constantly and compensate for pressure fluctuations.

Compressed air purity
Different filters make an important contribution to compressed air purity. They remove particles, condensate and oil from the compressed air. That protects pneumatic components against contamination and increased wear, and permits compliance with defined purity classes.
Refrigeration dryers, diaphragm dryers and adsorption dryers cool the compressed air down to almost freezing point, and channel off the condensate, which is precipitated as a result. Water separators remove additional condensate from the compressed air lines. Beyond the central units of a service unit, additional components like pressure sensors and differential pressure sensors also contribute to the performance and safety of systems.

New technologies on a proven basis
Companies like Festo are continuously optimising its service units. New technologies and proven components have lead to products like the 2-channel safety valve MS6-SV-E which permits a very smooth pressure build-up and fast, safe venting.
In addition, the energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M prevents undesirable compressed air consumption by interrupting the compressed air supply when the system is at a standstill. It allows important operating parameters such as flow and pressure to be monitored, thus sustainably increasing the process reliability of production.

These modern air preparation components clearly show that security and efficiency, combined with competency and simplicity, are now the minimum requirements for air preparation.

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