Shield Technologies CEO Wayne Holt points out that the company identified a gap in the local market, after it became apparent that the majority of its client base makes use of air compressors on a regular basis. He indicates that one of the greatest benefits of compressed air leak detection is the resultant energy savings.
“Compressed air leakage is a very inefficient use of energy, and it is recommended that leak surveys be carried out at least twice a year in order to save on costs, and to eliminate the risk of downtime associated to large ruptures that have to be repaired,” Holt explains.
Compressed air as an energy transmitting medium is versatile, flexible and safe – making it a popular choice for use in industry.
Typically, compressed air accounts for about 10 percent of the total electrical power consumed by industry. According to research undertaken by the University of Cape Town (UCT), the cumulative costs of compressed air over a ten year period comprises of 10 percent maintenance, 15 percent capital and 75 percent energy.
The UCT study also found that 30 percent of the total electrical energy used to compress air is wasted, meaning that potential savings could be reaped through the introduction of simple and cost effective measures that minimise this avoidable wastage, without compromising production at all.
Leakage is not only a direct source of wasted energy, but also an indirect contributor to operating costs. As leaks increase, the system pressure drops, and air tools function less efficiently and production is affected. Often the only solution is to increase generation pressure to compensate for the losses. Increased running time can also lead to additional maintenance requirements and increased unscheduled downtime. Leaks can also lead to adding unnecessary compressor capacity.
As part of a value added service to its client base, Holt notes that the company makes use of the internationally recognised SDT Ultrasonic Detector to swiftly identify compressed air leaks which can then be easily repaired. The system is manufactured by SDT International – a global leader in the manufacture of ultrasonic measuring instruments and related technology.
“The SDT Ultrasonic Detector provides the most precise and cost effective solutions in leak detection, as any compressed air leak can be quickly and safely identified from up to 80 m away, even in a noisy factory environment,” he continues.
According to Holt, compressed air leaks generate friction, which in turn create ultrasonic sound waves that cannot be heard by humans. “Ultrasounds are recognised as sounds that cannot be heard by humans, with a frequency of more than 20 kHz. The friction created by leaking gas is very specific, and can be anywhere between 38 kHz to 40 kHz, which is completely undetectable to workers.”
Holt explains that the SDT Ultrasonic Detector enables Shield Technologies to detect the leak, even in a noisy factory environment. “High frequency sounds are more directional than lower frequency, which makes it easier to pinpoint the source even in the presence of other background noises.”
In addition to being highly accurate, the SDT Ultrasonic Detector is also user friendly. The basic set-up in control situations consists of a hand held unit with headphones, a meter, a sensitivity adjustment and a number of different sensors. Some applications, where leak tightness testing integrity is measured, also require a transmitter.
Holt continues: “The user simply has to walk with the unit at a standard pace to allow for scanning along the X axis and Y axis. Once the leak has been detected, the area can be identified using a laser pointer or gun sight on the parabolic dish, or more accurately detected when using a flexible sensor with an attached focusing cone. The leak is then marked with paint, and the relevant maintenance team can be commissioned to fix the leaks by making use of the correct fittings and sealer, as well as a recommended o-clip, which is crimped onto hoses where necessary.”
Although Shield Technologies does not undertake the necessary repairs internally, Holt concludes by adding that the company does, however, have a comprehensive list of recommended pressurised equipment installers that are fully authorised and equipped to undertake the relevant repairs.