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Preserving the power of air

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Well designed air piping systems ensure high quality compressed air reaches its desired point-of-use with the right pressure and flow. Manufacturers’ Monthly discovers how the Airnet solution is helping Australian manufacturers protect the downstream manufacturing process thanks to consistently clean air.

Phil Shallvey, business development manager for AIRnet, spent the first ten years of his professional life in an engineering business specialising in pipe as a fitter and turner tool maker. He has since travelled the world heading sales teams for specialised industrial products. His journey has been upward all the way to his current role with AIRnet – which he finds exciting because of the myriad capabilities he sees in the solution.

Compressed air is often referred to as being the fourth utility within industry, behind electricity, water, and natural gas. Over the last couple of years, the AIRnet brand has gained serious momentum in the Australian market. Owned by Atlas Copco, AIRnet is stocked in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth branches – as well as the main distribution point in Sydney.

“We identified that we needed to capitalise on situations where our solution is needed right here right now,” Shallvey said. “We reset the whole product category and stock profiling, to the point where we’re overcoming the challenge of not having access to enough stock or the right stock.”

Aluminium AIRnet pipe and fittings are pressure rated and specified for most industrial applications where standard compressed air is required, including nitrogen generation, and rough vacuum installations. The system can be used to pressurise any machine process, product diverter apparatus, automation, and machining equipment, as well as common AIRnet Aluminium fittings and pipes can be removed, reconfigured and reused to move with a business’ changing demands. Industrial air facilities like automotive assembly, distribution centres, loading docks, molding, cabinet, furniture, and service and repair centres.

“It’s a modular piping system to assist with the distribution of air from the compressor into a pipe network system which goes down and feeds whatever service is required – whether that’s a panel beater workshop, blow gun at a mechanics workshop or a plasma or laser cutter in an engineering workshop,” Shallvey explained. “Being owned by Atlas Copco, we can provide the customer with that complete turnkey solution. The supply of the air compressor, all the way through to the service point of the air can be done by the one company, which provides greater continuity and ease for customers.”

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AIRnet Aluminium fittings and pipes can be removed, reconfigured and reused to move with a business’ changing demands.

AIRnet Aluminium fittings and pipes can be removed, reconfigured and reused to move with a business’s changing demands. According to Shallvey, a burden of the past has been left behind with the absence of complex tools and no welding, gluing, or crimping required.

The AIRnet brand has gained serious momentum in the Australian market.

“Being a modular system, it allows itself to be changed depending on that businesses’s requirements,” he noted. “So if the business grows over time, and they need to add more machines, it’s so easy to cut into the system, extend it, change or reroute it, without the use of any major tools because of the way that the couplings all fit together from 20 millimetres to 50 millimetres – it’s an easy-to-use push fit system.”

This flexibility has to be provided without disrupting operations. Certain businesses can’t function without the compressed air for any period because they run 24 hours. In this case, by the use of valves, the AIRnet allows the required pipework section to be added without disrupting the current infrastructure. Once installed, the systems are joined and the extra piping becomes a part of the original system.

A pressure drop of one bar results in a seven per cent increase of energy consumption, meaning a properly sized, leak free piping system is integral to keeping energy costs down.

“Aluminium doesn’t have the corrosion factor steel does, and because it doesn’t corrode the internal surface of the pipe, it remains much smoother, allowing for less turbulence through the flow of the pipe,” Shallvey said.

“Turbulence and friction are the greatest enemies of a compressed air system because the compressor needs to work harder to be able to maintain and supply the amount of air that’s required. The improved smoothness creates better efficiency than the likes of black iron or steel.”

AIRnet system’s overall capability is from 20mm to 158mm:

PF series is 20 – 50mm

PM series is 63 – 80mm

Large bore is 100 – 158mm

From a design point of view, AIRnet’s research and development has ensured the product creates the least amount of resistance. AIRnet design technologies and innovations are based on technical expertise gained from Atlas Copco – more than 140 years of experience with pressurised air applications and equipment.

“Having that longevity within the industry of making these products for industry creates a huge amount of experience,” he added. “A lot of research and development has gone into that to enable those fittings to be to be as efficient as they possibly can be.”

AIRnet can save up to 70 per cent on installation time when compared to traditional piping systems – the previously complicated journey of designing and installing a piping system has been revolutionised by the AIRnet planner 2.0.

The AIRnet Planner is a design tool – now available on the iPad – which enables a sales representative to design, visualise and create the Bill of Materials for total installation. The planner uses integrated calculations for compressed air, vacuum and inert gases with a database of thousands of pre-built and generic equipment models to help sales representatives simulate design as realistically as possible.

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AIRnet uses an easy-to-use push fit system.

Shallvey explained that ascertaining the correct diameter for a piping system is key. Pressure drop within a compressed air system is unavoidable, but it must be man¬aged for the system to achieve its maximum operational efficiency. Pressure drop wastes energy, it confounds compressor controls, and excessive pressure drop can adversely affect equipment operation and create quality issues with the work being performed by compressed air.

An inadequately sized piping distribution system will cause excessive pressure drops between the air compressors and the points of use, requiring the compressor to operate
at a much higher pressure in an attempt to over¬come these parasitic pressure drops, but an oversized piping

Air Piping distribution system design unnecessarily wastes money for businesses. The difference of just 10 millimetres in diameter can result in a 20 per cent increase on aluminium costs.

“The tool can allow the installers to design the piping system because all of the equipment data is already known by the system, where it chooses the right size of pipe almost instantly,” he said.

“Then it provides you with a Bill of Materials after you’ve finished the designing of it, which allows you to put a quote together. A medium to large job would take an installer anywhere from three to four days to work out everything and submit that as a quote to the customer.

The AIRnet planner that can do all of that in about three hours – the aim is anyone with just a little bit of knowledge within the industry should be able to design a piping system relatively easily.”

AIRnet also has access to a team of 20 design and mechanical engineers in its own design centre in India, which further aids the quick turnaround for customers.

“The team can put together some mechanical drawings in the file you want, whether it’s a 2D PDF version or a full 3D CAD version of a system,” he added. “These can be provided to the customer free of charge, and it helps to create a really professional presentation to their prospective client.”

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