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When we consider pneumatic systems and ensuring we get the best out of them, we often think about having the right equipment for the job, ensuring maintenance work is carried out regularly and that the equipment is serviced, as well as energy efficiencies and operator training. However, one of the key areas that can affect the operational effectiveness is the air quality for pneumatics equipment.

We take a look at why pneumatic actuator air quality is so important and some of the key signs to look out for operationally to judge whether or not your air compressor is providing the right level of air quality.

In what way can air quality for pneumatics cause the failure of a pneumatic actuator?

There are two primary causes of failure in a compressed air system due to poor air quality: moisture and particulates. Oil can also be an issue for some applications.

Corrosion, caused by moisture over time, can come loose and work its way through the other components. This, in turn, will cause a multitude of problems such as sticking control valves, plugged orifices in the pressure controls, and potentially even making its way into flow control valves causing malfunctions.

Particulates can enter the system through dirty filters on the inlet of the compressor. They can also be ingressed from the product or environment during normal production, and they can also be self-generated from components wearing internally. These particles affect the pneumatic actuator air quality, becoming lodged in the piston seals and acting like sandpaper on the rods and barrels, causing severe scoring, leaks and premature failures.

Oil lubricates the compressor, but by the time it has mixed with the compressed air it has usually lost any lubricating capability and has instead become an aggressive contaminant, a particularly bad outcome which then creates poor air quality for pneumatics equipment. Much like moisture, it can cause issues with control valves and orifices.

How can you positively affect the air quality for your pneumatics equipment?

For moisture coalescing filters, in-line desiccant dryers and water separators are used to mitigate the issues that are caused by poor air quality for pneumatics through moisture. For particulates and oil, a simple air filter will improve the pneumatic actuator air quality.

What are the signs that your pneumatic actuator’s air quality is poor?

There are a number of things to look out for if you are concerned that the air quality for pneumatic equipment that you are using is not up to scratch. Signs that your compressed air is suffering with moisture or oil issues include:

  • Severe corrosion visible on the pistons
  • Pooling or egress around fixings and sticking valves

Symptoms that your pneumatic actuator’s air quality is poor as the result of particulate ingress would include:

  • Scoring on the piston rods
  • Pitting in the seals
  • Poor sealing in general

The quality of the air used to drive your pneumatic actuator is critical to not only ensuring the system runs efficiently and at optimum output levels, but poor air quality can also cause severe damage over time, costing you downtime for repairs and the obvious cash outlay for replacement parts. Using the appropriate system set-up and filters will help to prevent poor pneumatic air quality for your equipment. Maintenance and replacement of wearing parts as well as checking your equipment regularly are all good practice in ensuring that your pneumatic actuator’s air quality is as it should be. For advice on choosing the right pneumatic actuator and air compressor design and installation for your environment, talk to the experts at Best Pneumatics on 01254 390555.

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