Wireless monitoring measures dew point, keeps repair facility flying along

Energy efficiency and optimization are key factors in maintaining a reliable compressed air system. However, anything from ambient humidity to a less-than-perfect setup can make a system work harder, driving up energy costs, limiting production quality, and potentially damaging equipment.


Installation of a condition monitoring system—in this case, SCOUT Technology sensors—allowed Able Engineering workers to calculate dew point, a chief concern among many manufacturers with compressed air systems. (Images courtesy of Parker Hannifin)

For Able Engineering & Component Services, maintaining an effective and efficient compressed air system is vital for the company’s operation. Compressed air plays a significant role at Able’s 194,000-sq-ft repair facility in Mesa, Ariz. At this site, Able repairs aircraft components, offers FAA-approved replacement parts, and performs major overhauls and various assembly repairs. The company recently began operations at its new helicopter completion center, and just launched a new bearing overhaul and repair facility.

From powering media and air blasting equipment, to paint sprayers and air-driven cutting tools in its repair facility, Able is heavily reliant on compressed air. Its system spans 122,000 sq ft within the facility, with more than 7,500 ft of piping in 25mm, 40mm, 63mm, and 76mm diameters. The system is made up of Parker Hannifin’s Transair aluminum compressed air piping, and is powered by an Atlas Copco GA90VSDff 125-PSI compressor, with a Sullair 75 hp 120-psi backup.

System reliability is a critical issue. “If the compressed air system goes down, even for a moment, the entire plant suffers,” said facilities engineering manager, Will C. Rogers. “On average, the cost of downtime is about $350 per machine for every hour of being down. That adds up to about $9,000 per hour if the entire shop is down. Those numbers don’t even consider the additional recovery costs if we get behind on production.”

Clean, dry air is imperative for such systems as equipment for painting and sand blasting or coordinate measuring equipment that reads in the millionths of an inch. As a result, maintaining the proper dew point is critical. In an effort to gain better control over utility costs and avoid unscheduled downtime, Rogers wanted to install a condition monitoring solution that would allow him to keep an eye on changes in the system’s dew point, pressures, flow, and other vital conditions. This would help his workers address any issues before they could impede production, he says.

Rogers contracted with Arizona Contract Services (ACS), a Mesa-based supplier and contractor for advanced air piping systems. Two years ago, ACS designed and installed Able’s Transair system. Based on that past work, ACS already knew Able’s production processes and understood the facility’s unique needs, says ACS general manager, Joe Miller.

“For manufacturers that need clean, dry air, humidity and dew point are a big deal,” Miller says. “Able has several priorities within the same facility. In some areas, dew point and humidity are critical. In other areas, maintaining stable flow and stable pressure are more important in order to maintain the effective operation of cooling systems.”

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