What do you think would happen if you ran more than 240V through a 240V power tool? Would you expect the tool to last and do you think the manufacturer would honour warranty? This may seem like a silly thing to contemplate because common sense dictates that you would never do this, right? Then why is it so common to see shops over pressurise their air tools? Using too much pressure is just like running too many volts through an electric tool.
Many people are confused between air pressure and air volume. To obtain a basic understanding try blowing through a thin straw and then through a large tube; you will see there is much less restriction through the large tube allowing more volume to pass. Another example is if you go and purchase a cheap 8cfm (cubic feet per minute) compressor from a discount store it will be capable of reaching more than 90psi pressure, but will not have the air volume capacity to run most air tools.
The pressure most air tools are designed to run is 90psi. The volume of air it takes to effectively run the tool is primarily dictated by the size of their motor. This is a critical difference that you need to understand. Increasing pressure will not make the tool run more effectively, but increasing air volume will.
Running tools beyond their recommend pressure will result in increased ware on seals, gaskets and rotor blades resulting in decreased tool efficiency. In extreme situations where high pressure is used consistently over time steel and alloy mechanical components can literally be sheared and destroyed by the massive force exerted on them.
There are a number of reasons why shops feel it necessary to crank up the pressure through their air lines, but the most common is because they want to get greater performance out of their tools. If you are looking to increase air tool performance increasing air pressure is not the answer. Here are a few things you should look into if you do not think your tools are performing to their potential.
To start with observe if there is a dramatic pressure drop on the regulator gauge when operating a tool. If this occurs it is likely there are air flow restrictions in the supply hose, fittings, filters or regulators.
- Air Fitting Condition - Check your air fittings to make sure they are not worn or blocked. Air fittings are commonly dragged along the ground and run over which can cause them to get blocked with grime or pinched causing flow restrictions. Check to make sure air is not leaking from air fittings; this can cause significant air wastage and decrease performance.
- Air Fitting Type – Make sure you are using high air flow fittings. There are a number of air fitting brands on the market today and some of them can cause air flow issues. The easiest way to check if your air fittings are a high air flow variety is to look through a coupling, if the air hole is significantly restricted (this will be obvious when you see it), change your air fittings.
- Air lines Condition – Check to see if your air lines are worn, leaking or blocked. Compressors that have not been services properly or do not have adequate filtration will pass contamination into the air lines which can decrease air flow.
- Air Line size - If the air lines you are using for your primary air supply circuit is too small you will not be feeding adequate air flow to your work stations. This will commonly be the case if you have increased the number of work stations without modifying the primary air supply circuit.
- Air Regulators – Air regulators can cause air flow restrictions if they cannot allow adequate air to flow through them. High quality air regulators are not very expensive and can make a huge difference to your air systems performance.
- Filters – if you have air filters on your air line you are doing well. However there are 2 very important things to consider. Firstly like air regulators if they don’t allow adequate air flow to pass through them they can cause air flow restriction. Secondly, over time filters will become clogged and dirty so YOU NEED TO replace the filters.
- Compressor Size – Has your air capacity kept pace with your air consumption. If you have added workstations or equipment that has increased the amount of air you use, it is important that you upgrade your compressor. An easy way to determine if it’s time to arrange a visit from your compressor company is by listening at different points throughout the day to see if your air compressor is running. If find that the compressor is running more often that it’s not, it’s time to call your compressor rep.
- Air Tool Lubrication– Keep air tools properly lubricated with a product such as Inox MX3 to ensure maximum performance. Inox MX3 can help flush a lot of the grime that gums up air tools. A couple of drops at the end of each day will dramatically extent air tool life.
- Air Tool Maintenance – Quality air tools can be serviced. If you suspect yours are underperforming it pays to get them looked at by a professional tool repairer.
- Poor Quality Air Tools – Poor quality air tools are not efficient. The old saying is true for air tools “ You get what you pay for”.
If you think your tools are underperforming look at the reasons why you air flow is being restricted. Address the areas motioned above and you will be on the right track to having an efficient air system.