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The Rock-Hard Truth
From the cutting to the grinding and polishing, compressed air is critical for any granite shop. Shops rely heavily on the compressed air system to assist in a variety of operation processes. Many day-to-day processes in the granite industry require the use of air compressors that can generate an intermittent or continuous source of pressurized air.
The wide variety of primary activities and applications that require compressed air include:
Stone Lifter: Also known as a “vacuum lifter”, is designed to lift smooth surfaced stone, powered by compressed air, from one location to the next with limited personnel and without damage.
Cutting Saw: Whether it’s wet or dry, is ran by compressed air. These saws are specifically designed to cut granite, marble and even concrete.
Grinding: Grinding of stone and concrete to eliminate imperfections after cutting is essential in the granite business. Pneumatic grinders are more cost effective and safer opposed to electric grinders in this wet environment.
Edging: “Stone Routers” are suitable for curved edge profiling on the stone for polishing straight and curved edges.
Polishers: Granite counter tops are still porous, which means that they can absorb liquids or moisture. After the cutting, grinding and edging process, next comes the heavy duty polisher.
Air Guns: Commonly used for drying the water off the granite slabs, during and after the filtration process. Also, commonly used to cure the epoxy used for the metal rods installed for safety during installation.
CNC Machines: Designed for counter top fabrication, this tool produces the edging finishes on counter tops. To make the seams as seamless as possible the CNC machine uses polishing tools to make the surfaces of the joints smooth, all ran by compressed air.
Water Recovery Filtration: Recycling water is a huge cost saver for any shop. The filtration process requires air to operate valves and re-circulation process.
Just like your team wears containment suits and respirators to protect themselves from silica dust , air compressors do not like breathing in dirt or dust in the air either. Dust and other particles in your compressed air can cause a lot of damage to your compressor, your tools and your equipment.
Ambient conditions of where you keep your compressor are crucial to it's success. Here are a few tips to consider on protecting your air compressor from elements in your shop. Remember, by following the advice below, you will increase the lifetime of your compressed air equipment.
- Regular Maintenance: Keep on top of your routine maintenance schedule, as outlined in your owners manual and inspect and replace filters regularly.
- Consider adding additional filters: The cost of adding filters to your system and regularly replacing those filters may seem daunting initially, but compare that to the damage dirty air can cause and suddenly that regular maintenance doesn’t seem so bad.
- Compressor room or better storage: Enclosure panels that include heavy-duty panel filtration, will assist with reducing granite dust and moisture settlement within the machine.
If your compressor gets dirty enough, your whole compressor could shut down. This could halt all production in your shop costing you lots of money and time.
The largest complaint in the fabrication industry is, “my machines are too slow to keep up with my demand. Can this be happening because of my air compressor?” Nothing is worse than waiting around on a slow machine to finishing cutting or polishing a slab of granite. We get it, time is money.
Here are a few reasons why your machines may be running slower than needed.
- Insufficient air pressure to your machine, causing them to run slower. If this is the case in your shop, you may need to upsize your compressor to maintain your air tools that may be using excessive amounts of air.
- Know the duty cycle of your air compressor and make sure you run the compressor within this period. Over use of the compressor can be a factor in why an air compressor bogs down.
Using an air compressor in your shop is far more economical and efficient than running electric tools. Air compressors can be located inside or outside of your shop. If outdoors, a separate shed should be built around it to protect it from the elements (rain, weather, dirt, etc). If located indoors, it should be placed in a location as far from the work as possible and will provide adequate ventalation. An indoor shed may also be constructed if this is not possible.
Add up all the CFM required for all the air tools you will be using at one time. For example, if you have three air polishers at 18 CFM per polisher, that's a total of 54 CFM required. Now add an additional 20%. In our example, that would be another 11 to 12 CFM. This means you will need at minimum a 70-CFM air compressor, and that does not include room for growth.
There are two types of compressors: Piston compressors and a Rotary screw compressors. I would recommend going with the screw compressor. A screw compressor produces a constant air supply and is much quieter than a Piston compressor.
As we wouldn't know which granite piece matches a blue backslash, picking the right compressor for your granite shop can leave anyone unsure on such a big decision.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when comparing compressors:
1. Maintenance: Select an air compressor that is easy to maintain and access. Chicago Pneumatic compressors take the guessing out of what to do. With detailed manuals to know what is required at each hour interval of your machine.
2. Replacement parts: Don't pick a machine that you have to track filters and parts down for. With a dedicated network of distibutors, it's simple to order parts and keep your machine always working at it's optimal performance.
3. Noise: Yes, noise is something to consider when selecting your compressor. No one needs a nagging employee complaining about the noise of a machine. Ask about the decibel chart and where the compressor ranks.
4. Installation: You need to be thinking about where this compressor is going to go. A quiet screw compressor (QRS) should go inside and can be right beside your employees with minimal noise. Looking to put your compressor outside? Keep in mind, not all compressors are meant for outside. Weather is a huge component to harming your compressor, so make sure you ask if they have a "weather kit".
5. Certified Tank: What's that even mean you ask? OSHA requires the tank of your compressor to be certified with ASME. The ASME certification states the pressure vesssel has been manufactured to specific standards. It should also on the tag have a NB (National Board) number stamped into it.
6. Drains: Compressed air produces moisture in your machine. Drains are essential to draining that moisture out of your machine. Make sure you ask where the drains are located, are they automatic and how often you should be manually draining.