Expediting air leak detection

05-16-2019 | Industrial imaging
Production line that relies on compressed air implements new process for detecting air leaks

When a production line relies heavily on compressed air to run tools and processes, even tiny air leaks can multiply product and energy waste and lost production time. Staying on top of those air leaks is a priority. A leading heavy equipment manufacturer recently found a new weapon to help it combat those costly leaks.

This manufacturer uses between 1800 and 2600 CFM of compressed air each day. That volume of compressed air runs up to 200 torque tools per line and process equipment responsible for moving large sheets of half inch steel and positioning of parts. If the parts don’t have enough compressed air pressure to function properly, the results could be costly. Additionally, the more leaks there are, the higher the demand for compressed air. Increased demand for air pressure raises the risk of not being able to supply an adequate amount to all the tools and process equipment that need it.

Compressed air leaks also increase energy costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technologies a single 1/8” (3mm) line in a compressed air line can cost upwards of $2,500 a year.

When Fluke offer this company a chance to test its new Fluke ii900 Sonic Industrial Imager, they immediately accepted. The ii900 includes an array of tiny super sensitive microphones that detect sounds both in the human hearing range and the ultrasonic range. Even more unique, it allows the user to actually see sound.

“Being able to visualize where the problem is adds another dimension,” says the company’s maintenance manager. “You can identify which thread, fitting, or hose is affected. Being able to pinpoint where the leak is coming from on that image is extremely exciting.”

The ability to visually scan large areas from up to 50 meters (164 feet) away with the ii900 has expedited leak detection at the plant and has significantly reduced the hours of labor spent on that task. “Some days we can find and repair 30 or 40 leaks in just a couple hours,” the manager stated. “Plus, we can use the ii900 during product hours, when it’s extremely loud in here and still been able to capture leaks at the rafter level up to 20 to 30 feet away.”

The ability to scan for leaks without affecting production is a huge advantage. “Before we never thought of testing for air leaks during production because we couldn’t shut down the aisles and move people out of the area to go p and look at a potential leak,” says the manager. “Now, we can stand on the sideline and scan the airline overhead, while carts and people are moving underneath. We’re not affecting their work.”