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Compressed air in the shop.

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  • Compressed air in the shop.

    I'm in charge of a community workshop. We have compressed air, but I don't have it in the machining area. I've instructed everyone to NOT use compressed air because of the possibility of getting stuff in the eye's and blowing the chips into/under places on the machine they shouldn't go. However, I see all sorts of professional machinist using compressed air. I've even been tempted to myself. Always use a brush and vacuum to clean up the mill/lathe. Always use a acid brush for lube. and cheap paint brushes to brush chips off of the parts.. But, they're been times when compressed air would be nice. (Bores, slots).

    Can someone speak to this? How safe would it be to add a drop at each machine and restrict the air pressure WAY down to maybe 10-15 psi (if that much even)?? Something like you would get out of a can of air for cleaning computer's and keyboards etc? I don't want to end up being hypocritical.

  • #2
    Whats the difference in cost??
    The cost of a regulated low pressure drop vs a vacuum drop at each machine?


    • #3
      If it were in your own home shop I wouldn't see a problem with it, but in a shop where other people are working together it could be a problem. Even at reduced pressures 10 - 15 Lbs could send chips flying and in places on the machine where they normally don't end up. Besides 10 - 15 Lbs isn't much to clear slots and other places where chips pack and collect especially when they are wet with oil and sticking.



      • #4
        I put off using air at the machines for a many years. I put low pressure off a regulator to all the machine locations about two years ago. Best thing EVAR!

        You're right about the concerns for sure. But at the same time air can be one of the best options for cleaning away swarf on things like the chuck mounts too. The key is to educate folks to know how to blow the chips, especially the fine stuff, away instead of into the moving joints.

        And yes to the idea of a low pressure regulated feed to the utility air at the machines, I don't think I've ever needed more than around 20PSI to blow things neatly clean. More is fine of course but only when it's used with more care. Keeping it closer to the 20PSI mark will also limit the velocity of any particles that get past safety glasses and into eyes as well.
        Chilliwack BC, Canada


        • #5
          And you can/most times should, lay a shop rag over the spot that’s blown. I start with the shop vac detail work low pressure blow. Eye protection always required my home shop.



          • #6
            I think shop vac and fox tail's are good for after project cleaning.. Acid brush and cheap paint brushes are okay at cleaning up swarf while your turning/milling. But, Using the vacuum while turning/milling isn't practical unless your setting up to grind or cut cast iron. I was just wondering how well low pressure worked for evacuating bores, and inside the spindle of the lathe etc etc.. and how less dangerous it is for blowing chips into peoples eyes. This is a community workshop. Everyone goes through authorization to use the machines.. But, Once they're authed, it's hard to teach them new tricks, so, showing them how to safely use the air hose might be a issue, even on low PSI settings..


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ringo View Post
              Whats the difference in cost??
              The cost of a regulated low pressure drop vs a vacuum drop at each machine?
              The vacuum is in reach of both the lathes and the mills. It was just more a issue of convenience using the air while machining/turning.


              • #8
                In a professional shop there is, at lease the assumption, that the air would be used with due caution. But you say a "community" shop. That, to me, means that a number of people use it and they may not be the best trained. So what you should be asking yourself is, can I be sure that all of those users WILL use the proper cautions.

                Will they ALWAYS keep the chips from flying into the inner workings of the machines and their electric/electronic controls?

                Will they ALWAYS look around themselves before using air to be sure no one else is behind or or on the other side of them?

                Will they ALWAYS use proper eye protection on their OWN EYES?

                If the answers are not all very positively YES, then adding air to that shop may lead to disaster.
                Paul A.
                SE Texas

                And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                You will find that it has discrete steps.


                • #9
                  This is a given, "They will ALWAYS use proper eye protection while in the shop.", in a school shop, a shared workshop, in industry.
                  Shop liability insurance will have it stated, the safety course you will take to use the shop will stress it. You will sign a agreement....
                  There will be a penalty for not following the safety rules.
                  The blow guns will be the safety type which limit pressure at the tip.


                  • #10
                    If it is a community shop
                    having air blow guns will take a lot
                    to police the rules to keep people safe.
                    I don't think it is worth the headache.
                    The general public have some strange ideas
                    and can do some uncontrollable things.
                    Probably better not to have air hoses.



                    • #11
                      I would use t-slot scrapers, paint scrapers, wood sticks etc and a big ol shop vac.
                      Mainly because it sounds like a kinda public place and you don't want the liability headache
                      You really don't want the liability headache

                      Had a cow-orker yrs ago who did something stupid with an air blow gun
                      Ended up in the hospital getting his colon put back together
                      Guess who got the hospital bill
                      It was a big bill because he was a big guy
                      And he had a big colon.
                      25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA


                      • #12
                        might be more convenient to put an air brush compressor on every machine. i have one for the mill and it works fine.


                        • #13
                          Just put good shop vacs around. You dont need compressed air for most things and I wouldn't trust anyone not to mess with regulators if you put in low pressure lines.


                          • #14
                            Vacs are OK, but nothing gets chips out of a deep threaded hole halfway decently other than air, and even then you may have to stir them up a bit with a wire. And, yes, they then fly around at high speed, no matter what you do, unless you smother them with a rag.

                            Maybe if you put a plastic disc on the blowgun that will sit right up to the surface, kinda like the gas filler nozzles have, that might keep the blast of chips down a bit.

                            For a community shop? Not in a million years, the machines are enough of a hazard, but they are a hazard to each individual. The air gun is a hazard to anyone within 20 feet when used indiscriminately to blow chips away. And flying chips will get around a set of safety glasses in an instant. You need goggles to prevent that.

                            The way folks holler about their freedom when wearing a face mask is required, I give you good luck getting anyone to wear goggles consistently. At least you can (actually you pretty much have to) put up signs requiring safety glasses, and ban anyone who refuses consistently. Goggles? Doubtful.
                            CNC machines only go through the motions.

                            Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
                            Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
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                            • #15
                              Many new machines have hoses and blow guns installed, Haas and Fadal come to mind.

                              Some Fadal mills have a hose with a garden hose nozzle connected to the coolant for hosing down the inside of the enclosure, I connect a seperate hose and nozzle on the the lathes that I use for this purpose.