Kaishan USA | January 03, 2024 | Uncategorized
A CNC laser-cutting operation relies on compressed air to remove smoke and cutting debris from the laser beam’s path or the operator’s sight line.
Industrial air compressors and compressed air systems are a true fourth utility in the wide variety of shops that fashion materials like metal, plastics and wood with laser-cutting equipment. They join water, electricity and natural gas in providing essential services to these operations.
On the one hand, industrial air compressors supply the compressed air that drives the pneumatics used to handle, position and even shape workpieces in the facility. It is also used to cool the laser optics and in general cleaning operations.
However, the most significant use of compressed air in laser cutting is supplying the cutting gases that remove smoke and debris from the laser beam’s path or the operator’s sight line.
Many operations use nitrogen or oxygen, but some facilities are turning toward compressed air as a cutting gas, finding it significantly less expensive and allowing even faster cutting rates and throughput.
Some laser-cutting operations are choosing to develop their own nitrogen-generating capabilities to avoid the uncertainties of relying on outside vendors.
And now, some laser-cutting operators are taking compressed air a step further, using it to power their own nitrogen-generating equipment in-house.
After all, nitrogen makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, so separating it out of a compressed air flow requires mainly a nitrogen generator using membrane technology. Facility managers are finding they can get gas that is 99.9% pure, more than adequate for most laser-cutting operations.
In-house nitrogen-generating equipment offers several benefits:
It may take a lot of dedicated space to store enough nitrogen to meet your needs. That’s why so many laser-cutting operations have decided to make their own nitrogen.
Having your own generating capacity may mean you don’t have to worry about bad weather, delays or supply chain issues disrupting your supply of laser-cutting gases.
There are two main processes used most often to generate nitrogen:
Most applications use the PSA method, because it produces nitrogen of higher purity and can handle a wider range of CFM.
Your compressed air professional can be a great help in determining the feasibility of a nitrogen generator for your operation. They can work with you to measure the amount of nitrogen you are using and estimate what level of capacity you will need to generate. They will work with you to calculate the flow of nitrogen required, the number of laser-cutting machines and the percentage of times those machines are in operation. Sizing is a specific concern.
Suppose you have ten tools that all require 5 CFM of flow. Many facility managers quite logically conclude that they then need 50 CFM of flow. But that’s much more than necessary.
The reason is the “use factor,” which accounts for the fact that the ten tools are usually not working at once. Some, admittedly, are in continuous use. But others are “intermittent” at best.
So rather than needing the entire 50 CFM mentioned above, you only need 10 CFM. You can find a more detailed discussion of use factor for compressed air in general in our blog post, “What Type of Commercial Air Compressor Does an Auto Shop Need?”
Your compressed air consultant can help you assess whether a nitrogen-generating capability will be cost-effective for your operation.
The first step is usually an audit, where one of our local experts will assess how much storage you have, how much nitrogen you use per shift and how often you’re getting refills from your supplier. The goal will be to determine how many CFMs of nitrogen you need.
An audit will also help you take a long view of your operation, considering two key options:
One of the most expensive parts of the nitrogen-generating process is the membrane that removes the non-nitrogen materials from the air flow.
The higher the quality of the compressed air entering the generator, the fewer contaminants like dust, dirt and debris the system must remove. If you fail to remove those contaminants, you’ll have to replace the membrane more often, incurring additional expense.
It’s thus essential to make sure your compressed air system is being properly maintained so that it delivers high-quality air, free of liquid water. Filters are critical. Clogged filters will impede and eventually block airflow, causing energy loss that is both unnecessary and avoidable. As a result, we recommend:
And with dryers, you’ll want to ensure that drains and traps are clear and open.
As mentioned above, Kaishan USA works with a nationwide network of independent distributors, who can provide on-site help and consultation as needed. These factory-trained industrial air compressor experts can help you assess your needs and determine if developing your own nitrogen-generating capabilities would be cost-effective. And, if you decide to move forward, they can help you set up, operate and maintain your system or handle any other issues related to your air compressor system. They have staff members skilled in all aspects of compressed air technology.
Using an industrial air compressor to generate your own nitrogen to support laser cutting can be a cost-effective solution to supply chain issues. If you need help evaluating the potential savings in your operation, get in touch with the experts at Kaishan. Contact us today.
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