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Compressed Air System

Introduction

Compressed air is required in spinning, mainly for process control through valves and cylinders.
With the latest machinery and increased automation, use of compressed air has increased
substantially. In winding machine, compressed air is used for splicing of yarn. In air-jet loom
compressed air is required for the insertion of weft. As many mills are replacing their ordinary
looms with the air-jet looms, the requirement of compressed air has increased considerably
weaving also.

Compressed air required in the mills is at pressures ranging from 4 – 8 kg/cm2. Although,
atmospheric air is free, its compression to the required higher pressure by air compressors
costs money as the compressors are operated by electric motors. With the rise in power cost, it
has become necessary to optimise compressed air consumption so that compressor usage is
curtailed thereby saving electrical power.

To optimise the compressed air consumption, it is necessary to monitor its consumption and
compare it with some basic value or ‘Norm’. The only norms or recommended values for
compressed air consumption available till date, are those provided by some of the machinery
manufacturers. No data was available on compressed air consumption on actual basis for
various machines in operation in the mills. The aim of the present study was to measure/
estimate compressed air consumption for various machines and to correlate it with machine
production so that some sort of initial set of ‘Norms’ or practical values for compressed air
consumption could be made available.

Compressed Air System

Reciprocating type of compressors is normally in use in the textile industry. However, of late,
screw compressors are being preferred, as these are more energy efficient as compared to
reciprocating compressors. For very high capacity requirements, centrifugal compressors are
used.

The compressor capacity is stated in terms of CEM i.e. cubic feet per minute of air (being
compressed or free air delivery). Capacity range of air compressors normally used in the
industry is as follows:

v Reciprocating Compressor, Single Stage : Upto 50 CFM

v Reciprocating Compressor, Two Stage : 50 – 600 CFM

v Screw Compressors : 150 – 2500 CFM

v Centrifugal Compressors : 2000 – 4000 CFM

In the mill, previously large number of small capacity compressors was in vogue. Now-a-days,
centralised compressor(s) of higher capacity are preferred. This is because higher capacity
compressors are more energy efficient and also operation and maintenance of less number of
compressors is easier.
The compressed air generated by compressor is stored in the air-receiver of sufficient capacity
to smoothen fluctuations in the supply of compressed air vis-à-vis demand from individual
consumption points (machines). The air receiver also helps in cooling of air and thus facilitates
removal of much of the moisture in the air, which is harmful for the pneumatic system. For large
users/bigger compressors, air dryer units are provided. Air dryer units of two types are normally
employed in the mills. One, the heatless dryer and the other is refrigerated air dryer, which is
preferred of late. Although, the refrigerated air dryer has higher initial cost, it has less
operational air is lot in purging thereby wasting costly electrical energy. The air dryer helps in
making the compressed air almost 100% dry which is essential for some machines such as air-
jet looms.

As regards air distribution network, it should be ensured that pressure drop should not be more
than 0.5 kg/cm2 in the longest line. The pipe sizes are to be decided based on this
consideration. Also, the pipelines should be of minimum length with less bends and fittings. This
will ensure minimum wastage of electrical power.

For proper and trouble-free operation of pneumatic systems provided for the machines, it is
essential to ensure filtration, pressure regulation and lubrication of the compressed air.
Providing filters in the pipeline after the air receiver ensures that filtration. These can remove
dust particles upto 5 micron size. Pressure regulation i.e. monitoring the desired air pressure for
the machines used is achieved by the air pressure regulator. For reducing friction, wear and tear
and preventing corrosion, proper lubrication of compressed air is necessary. This is achieved by
the ‘oil-fog’ airline lubricator.

Compressed Air Consumption Study – Methodology

Preliminary visits were made to the mills for shopfloor observations and for discussions with the
concerned technical personnel to decide the course of action to be followed in execution of this
project. It was decided to use “Rotameter” type Air Flow Monitor (which was available with
BTRA) so that pattern of flow rate in CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) of compressed air required
for different machines could be established. As the Air Flow Monitor is required to be fitted on-
line, certain arrangements/ assembly of Air Flow Monitor was decided. Accordingly, valves and
pipefittings were procured and an Air Flow measurement assembly was prepared (Fig. 1).

Procedure Adopted for Measurements

After discussion with mills technicians as well as based on shopfloor observations, suitable
location for fixing the instrument was selected. Necessary care was taken while selection of site
viz.,
Ø Minimum replacement of pipeline.

Ø Near to the stop valve and union joint.

Ø Easy to plug and remove the flexible/removable assembly of Air Flow Monitor.

Ø Suitable height to note the Air Flow Monitor reading.

As most of the machines are operated on continuous basis, all the preliminary preparations
such as providing distance pipe pieces, etc., are required to be done in advance and during the
recess/ stoppages; the instrument assembly (fixed part) is required to be fitted. While
commencing studies, instrument part (flexible/ removable assembly) is plugged in fixed part,
which is provided in the pipeline. The stop valve of fixed assembly is then closed so that air is
passing through the instrument.

Reference book:
The Bombay Textile Research Association
Final Technical Report No. 03.2.62
July, 2001