You’ve likely integrated pneumatic system components into your machinery due to their reliability and high safety ratings. To protect your investment, regular maintenance is essential. We offer the following tips to keep your equipment running at optimal levels and extend its useful life.
Common Issues With Pneumatic Systems
The key to problem-free performance with any pneumatic equipment is how it’s designed and built. The pipeline and layout of air systems should promote proper airflow to reduce the chances of system malfunction. Simple is always better when designing these systems to limit points of possible obstruction.
The two most common problems with this type of equipment, and the main causes of pressure drops or malfunctions, are leaks and clogged filters. Since airflow and pressure are essential for system functioning, special attention should be paid to valves, cylinders, and seals. Bad seals are a major cause of leaks and resulting pressure drops. These usually become damaged due to lack of maintenance or dislodged when attention isn’t paid to proper seating during dismantling and reassembly. Maintenance protocols should include inspecting valves, pipelines, and cylinders and monitoring pressure and resistance to ensure they’re at optimal performance levels.
Air leaks are the most common problem, but they’re also one of the easiest to detect and repair. Any major escape of air will cause a hissing sound. Smaller leaks are more difficult to hear, but a pressure drop is usually an indication that there’s a leak somewhere. Spraying hoses, pipes, and fittings with a solution of soapy water will help you spot a leak. If there is no leak in the area, the solution will remain unchanged. When there’s a leak, you’ll notice small bubbles forming at the point of escape. Tightening the fittings, joints, and glands in the leak area will usually solve the problem quickly. Otherwise, damaged parts or seals may need to be replaced.
Making Maintenance Easier on Your Crew
Anytime your equipment is upgraded or retrofitted with new components, there should be a new schematic created to provide the most up to date view of all circuitry. Service access panels should be clearly marked from other panels and easy to access for repairs. Any alterations or upgrades, especially relating to valve openings, should be done by an authorized representative of the manufacturer or builder as the specifications and placement are carefully engineered per system.
The First Line of Defense is in Your Filter Regulator Lubricator (FRL)
Regular visual inspections will help spot problems early, but your first defense against common problems lies in your filter regulator lubricator (FRL). This component regulates the amount of lubrication injected into your system to ensure smooth operation and prevents friction-inducing dirt and grit from getting into the works and corrupting vital elements.
Easy Troubleshooting Steps
Having your equipment down for any amount of time or not working at peak capacity can lead to loss of production and money. Always look for the most common causes of problems and simple fixes first. Using a set procedure for inspections and preventative maintenance will ensure continuity. Operation is systematic and runs on a carefully planned system of logic, so troubleshooting should follow suit. When working with compressed air, relieving pressure before initiating repairs is important for the safety of technicians. Any moving parts should be locked into place using manual overrides or lockout valves if the system is so equipped, and electrical circuits shut down.
Three questions should help you get to the root of the problem, or at least tell you where to start:
* What is the nature of the problem? Is something going on that shouldn’t, or are operations that should be taking place not occurring?
* Was the issue sudden or has there been a gradual slowdown of performance over a period of time? Sudden breakdowns signal mechanical problems, and gradual reductions in function can signal degradation of wearable parts.
* Where in the process is the problem occurring? Are there issues at startup or after the machinery has been running for a while?
Pneumatic systems are known for their high-function and longevity. They’re relatively trouble-free with daily inspections and preventative maintenance. When you need replacement parts for your system, consider using quality to protect your investment. Choosing parts from trusted manufacturers will cut down on equipment repair and maintenance costs and help ensure a longer life for your pneumatic systems.