Artistic Finishes: Finding—and Fixing—a Pressure-Drop Problem
Artistic Finishes creates custom floor moldings and accessories for professional builders and flooring companies. They depend on compressed air for all of their production and finishing lines. They called on Fluid-Aire Dynamics to help them correct 2 main problems: their header pipe configuration that was causing excessive pressure drop at the ends of their distribution lines; and their air dryer that kept getting clogged with debris from the air lines.
Challenge: Excessive Pressure Drop and Equipment Shut-Downs
Artistic Finishes has multiple automated spray booths, each with multiple airdrops to run conveyors, rollers, paint mixers and sprayers. In all, there are more than 100 drops throughout the facility.
The compressed air piping system in their aging facility was inherited from the building’s previous occupants and had been modified and added to over the years. A lot of the piping was very old, and several sections had been abandoned and capped off. Some drops were located at the ends of lines with multiple branches. Rubber tubes were used to bypass closed-off piping sections and run air to distant parts of the factory. As a result, pressure drop between the compressor and the ends of the distribution lines could be more than 25 PSI. Equipment at the end of branching lines also experienced sudden drops of pressure when other processes closer to the compressor were switched on, resulting in unexpected shutdowns. Due to these problems, they had to maintain higher operating pressure for their air compressor to compensate.
They also had ongoing problems with an air dryer, which frequently plugged up with corrosion and debris from the aging pipe system. Every two weeks, the dryer had to be unclogged to maintain airflow and prevent water and debris from making their way into air supply lines.
Independent evaluations from the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) and the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) estimated that they were losing thousands of dollars in additional energy costs annually to these problems. Artistic Finishes used the recommendations from these programs to prioritize their energy efficiency initiatives.
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The Fluid-Aire Solution: New Air Dryer and Header Pipe Reconfiguration
Fluid-Aire Dynamics first replaced the faulty dryer. Trevor Kendall, their Fluid-Aire Dynamics representative, was able to source a 480V, 300 CFM air dryer that met their needs. Technician Jayden MacKinnon installed it with zero downtime for their paint lines by first isolating the dryer with ball valves on either side. Facilities Manager Chuck Boisvert says, “Other companies would only come between nine and five on weekdays, but we can’t afford to shut down our facility for a day or two while they work. Jayden came in early to isolate the dryer system and had it all roughed in before the switch over, so we didn’t have to interrupt any of our processes.”
The next step was tackling the aging tangle of header pipe in the facility. Fluid-Aire kept a newer closed-loop section of the header piping and removed the older section of complex branching runs and rubber hosing. A new closed-loop section created an efficient, modern double-loop configuration that ensures optimal air pressure to every part of the facility. Multiple drops to automated paint lines were replaced with manifolds that allowed the entire machine to be hooked up to a single drop. Chuck says the new configuration looks clean and professional in addition to being more energy efficient. “It’s an immaculate job, very nice looking and efficient. It’s great to look up there and see a clean loop instead of junk everywhere and rubber hoses stretched 50 feet across the ceiling and down to a machine.”
Once again, Chuck was impressed by Jayden’s knowledge and professionalism. “It was a lot of work all over the plant, but you hardly knew he was here. He worked on our breaks and before and after hours to isolate sections he was working on so we had no disruption to our production processes. He cleaned up after himself and made sure he stayed out of the way of our people.” When Jayden discovered more corrosion in a section of retained pipe, he suggested adding a filter to keep debris out of the new section. He even ordered extra filters so Chuck would have them on hand when needed.
Results: An Energy-Efficient System with Negligible Pressure Drop
The new dryer and header pipe configuration have completely eliminated Artistic Finishes’ pressure drop problem. As a result, they can now run their air compressor at a lower operating pressure. Before the header pipe reconfiguration, they had to run their compressor between 120 and 125 PSI to maintain pressures of 95 PSI or higher across all of their production lines. Now, they can operate their air compressor at 100 PSI, resulting in dramatic energy savings and reduced wear and tear on the compressor motor.
The energy savings are projected to be substantial. An independent evaluation from MnTAP estimates that they will save $9,280 in their first year. These savings result from lowering the operating pressures on their air compressor and replacing old, leaking header pipe with a new, air-tight closed-loop system.
Even better, they no longer experience unexpected equipment downtime due to loss of pressure at the ends of their lines. “My machine operators have been delighted,” says Chuck. “The machines run better, and we’re getting a better look and finish to the product because we don’t have those fluctuations in PSI. The energy savings are great, but what matters more to me is my operators are having a better day and my customers are getting a better product.”
“Fluid-Aire Dynamics is amazing to work with. Everything went smoothly, the quality of their work is great, and they gave me a quote down to the nickel with no surprises. I’ve got great peace of mind working with them.”
Chuck Boisvert, Facilities Manager