Pneumatic tools these days play a major part in any industrial setting. Many types of heavy-duty equipment run on pneumatic systems. With pneumatic tools, problems may not be visible easily, but that does not mean that they do not need routine maintenance.
The maintenance of pneumatic tools is quite often overlooked. But to ensure productivity and consistent performance from your pneumatic tools, it is important to conduct frequent check-ups and optimize their performance to reduce wear and tear.
The most important components of any pneumatic tool are the air motors, wear parts such as vanes, and bearings and seals. These are the parts that require maximum attention. As long as these parts are functioning correctly, your pneumatic tool is sure to function at its best.
Here we shall discuss everything you need to know about maintaining pneumatic tools and optimizing their performance for industrial use.
In the case of pneumatic tools, like most other mechanical tools, there are two types of maintenance involved – preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance.
Preventive maintenance, as the name suggests, involves all kinds of precautionary maintenance activities. These are regular check-ups and testing that can be done to prevent any foreseeable issues with the equipment. This kind of maintenance activities involves lubrication, replacement of worn-out parts, checking for damaged parts, and checking the air pressure. In other words, any activity that can prevent downtime for the pneumatic tools falls under preventive maintenance.
Corrective maintenance, on the other hand, is maintenance activities undertaken after the tool has shown some signs of failure. It is a reactive approach and usually involves repairs and replacements after the tool has failed due to some unforeseen issues. Proper preventive maintenance can help avoid the need for corrective maintenance.
Preventive maintenance of pneumatic tools involves the following measures:
The most important thing that any pneumatic tools needs is air. It is extremely important to maintain continuous air supply as well as to maintain the pressure of the air in the system. Air sent by the compressor is usually hot, dirty, and moist. Before this air is allowed into the pneumatic system, it must be cleaned and made suitable for use in the pneumatic tool. For this purpose, a Filter Regulator Lubricator (FRL) must be used. This device filters the air, regulates its temperature and humidity, and lubricates it for smooth functioning.
The air pressure and quantity inside the cylinder must be maintained as per the operator manual that comes with the pneumatic tool. The recommended air pressure for most air tools is 90 to 100 psi. Running pneumatic tools at pressures higher than the recommended air pressure can cause deterioration of the internal components, and in some applications, may lead to accidents, injuring the operator.
The pneumatic tool must be set up and installed strictly as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Not just the installation, but the routine maintenance that the tool needs should also be done as instructed by the manufacturer. Lubrication and spare parts for the tool should be used as suggested in the instructions. Some manufacturers also provide maintenance tool kits, which makes the job much easier.
If you need to do complete overhauling of a pneumatic tool for routine maintenance, make sure to use this time wisely. Conduct thorough check-up of all the parts of the tool that may be worn out. Do not leave out any part as that may create problems later and will cause you more loss of time then.
If you need to disassemble and reassemble the pneumatic tool, make sure to follow the user’s manual to the last letter. Doing it without the user manual will take up more of your time as there will be unnecessary guesswork involved. Try not to spend even one extra minute on anything that shouldn’t take time. The longer the downtime of the tool, the lesser will be its productivity.
Moisture is the biggest enemy of any pneumatic system. Humidity present in the air coming out of the compressor is more than that present in the atmospheric air. This happens because pressurizing the air causes the moisture in the air to get concentrated. This moisture begins to condense when it enters the pneumatic systems, producing water vapor. If it undergoes rapid expansion, moisture may instantly freeze at the valves of the pneumatic system. This water or ice formed can be very damaging to the pneumatic tool. It can cause corrosion and friction, and dries out the lubrication, wearing out the parts.
It is important to ensure that the air used in your pneumatic tool is completely free of moisture.
In most air compressors, lubricating oil is used. The air that comes out of the compressor may sometimes carry some of the lubricating oil with it. This oil becomes a contaminant when it is mixed with the air. This lubricating oil should not be allowed to enter the pneumatic cylinder with the air. Normal airline filters can be used to remove most of the contaminating oil, making the air suitable for most pneumatic tools.
Some applications, though, require completely oil-free air in the pneumatic tool. For such applications, you can use lubricated compressors with after-coolers and standard airline filters and fit high-efficiency oil removal filters only at the points in the system where oil-free air is required.
The storage of pneumatic tools also affects their longevity to a great extent. We have already seen that moisture and contaminants can be very harmful to your pneumatic tools. This must be kept in mind even during storage of your tools.
Always store pneumatic tools in clean and moisture-free environments. Avoid environments of extreme temperatures as well. It is best to follow the storage instructions given in the user manual to avoid damage.
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