Air dryer for plasma cutter
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  1. #1
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    Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Looking for a efficient, inexpensive way to dry air for plasma cutting. Refrigerated units are a bit pricey (but effective). I'm trying to get by at under $100.

    The desiccant dryers seem to be a cheaper way to go but the disposable ones will add up the costs fairly quickly.

    How about this one from Harbor Freight with rechargeable media? Anybody have one or use one? It looks like a good deal if it works.

    http://www.harborfreight.com/desicca...yer-97686.html

    A search didn't show much about air dryers on WW.

    Thanks for opinions.

  2. #2
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    It says it includes a drain valve but doesn't say whether it includes or just uses replaceable desiccant pellets. No liquid should ever build up, so what is the drain valve for? Also, what type of desiccant is comes with it, or what does it cost, if sold separately? What is the moisture capacity (meaning, how long before a recharge)? Need more details to evaluate.

    Long ago, I built my own dryer using a Pepsi canister filled with either silica gel or desiccating clay pellets, all gotten free somewhere. The canisters were originally used to contain the syrup which was injected into the rest of the carbonating equipment; now such systems are hardly used so the canisters are "obsolete'.

    I now have a (scrounged) refrigerated air dryer for my beadblast cabinet and plasma.

  3. #3
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Agree about the drain valve - it shouldn't be necessary if the desiccant is doing its job. Maybe that can be a test that the pellets are saturated - water would drip out.

    Bags of the desiccant pellets are sold at $5 each. Maybe a good idea would be to change it out while the original pellets are drying in the oven.

    http://www.harborfreight.com/22-lb-s...ant-97924.html

  4. #4
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I have beeen using one for the last year and i am pleased with it. No liquid ever drains out. Dryed the pellets two times and not sure I needed to then.

  5. #5
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    mount a small vertical tank with a drain valve on the bottom, and an inline commercial grade moisture filter/separator..

    i have my compressor mounted outside, under my shed i built on the side of my garage.... its a 5hp-60gal craftsman....
    from outside the garage i plumbed straight into the garage, 4ft. is where my airline comes in, i then went straight up to the ceiling which is 8ft, then ran the length of my garage (30ft) then dropped down and added a large cartridge filter/separator... i also have a small moisture trapoutside on the compressor..

    its been this way for 15yrs, i think it depends alot on how you route your airline..

    i have dry enough air to paint a car with and i dont use a prefilter on my paint gun or my plasma.. i live in western ky, we have a broad temperature range and alot of humidity..
    Last edited by brucer; 11-29-2010 at 03:34 PM.

  6. #6
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Get an auto dump valve for your compressor, it installs in your drain valve and does not give your compressor a chance to collect moisture.As for dryer, a condensate trap for steam heating should work inline if you have a big shop.You've seem what is available commercially so you could probably upsize one from a peice of pipe and use sand as a dessicant.

  7. #7
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    All great ideas. Thanks for the input. Seems like many different directions are possible to get the desired results.

    Neglected to post the compressor: 6.5 HP, 80 gal, 17.5 cfm at 150 psi.

    I have some bids in on eBay for refrigerated units so we will see. If that doesn't work out then I'll go down the list of suggestions here and see what I can put together.

    Much appreciated.

  8. #8
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Hey GWD,
    A friend of mine asked me to make a small frame for him to mount a simple dryer he made with a pickup truck heater core. He put a couple air disconnects on the inflow/outflow lines, bleeder valve, got a 9" fan to mount them on the frame he made a drawing for. He called after a couple weeks & said it worked very well & kept his air really nice & dry. He does a lot of custom painting & airbrush work. Anyway, just some mental fodder to contemplate.

    Denny
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  9. #9
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I have 2 water seperators one on the compessor side of the hose and one on the plasma it self. They are I think $15.00 a piece at homedepo. I talked with the people at two local welding shops and they say all you really need is one on the machine side and to keep the compressor tank drained daily. They say as long as you don't have moisture coming out of the gun your fine and that was from the rep at Thermal Dynamic.
    Vantage 300 kubota ,miller 304 xmt ,lincoln ln 25 pro , ranger 305 G, plenty of other tools of the trade to make the sparks fly.

  10. #10
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I am just thinking out loud here.

    What about putting the compressor in a room with a room dehumidifier in it set at say 20% humidity? Right now I run my compressor in the garage and on really humid days I have to watch as the water filter on the airline fills up pretty quick. My plasma cutter really suffers when the rain starts to fall even with a water filter on the tank and one just before the cutter. And I hate draining the compressor tank with all that rusty water. I would build a wall around the compressor and run a dehumidifier in the room.

    I've been thinking that running the compressor in a room that is humidity controlled would allow for really dry air. I would also run the water filter just like before and just in case.

    Any comments on if it would work?

  11. #11
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Stevefromohio A dehumidifier would help a little.
    But the moisture in the compressor comes from the head getting hot while compressing the air to the pressure setting on the system, and then the moisture condenses while cooling in the tank of the compressor which leads to the water in the air.
    And a dehumidifier would also make the tank even cooler than the norm or ambient temperature of the season/confine.
    Last edited by STwelder; 12-01-2010 at 05:35 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Quote Originally Posted by StevefromOhio View Post
    I am just thinking out loud here.

    What about putting the compressor in a room with a room dehumidifier in it set at say 20% humidity?
    Any comments on if it would work?
    It will, but it would be horribly inefficient.
    If you're looking for an excuse to dry the air in your shop to stop tools from rusting, then yeah, its a good enough idea, but if you're just looking to dry the air in the compressor, remember that by drying the entire room, most of the air you're drying (and the associated electrical cost) won't even go through the compressor.
    A used refrigerated dryer isn't much more than a dehumidifier, and puts all of the energy consumed into drying your compressed air. Oh, and it's more efficient to dry the compressed air, than it is to dry air at atmospheric pressure.

    If your filter bowl is filling up, I suggest getting a larger filter. Oh, and do you have a smaller filter right at the plasma cutter's inlet? I keep a small filter bowl, followed by a desiccant filter inline with my plasma cutter's inlet.

    I have seen an brilliant idea on another board, which might help too, IF you have a two stage compressor.
    He used something like a heater core (or a large A/C condenser) in place of the intercooler, and put a water separator bowl after that, before the second stage. The idea is that if you can drop the air temperature a lot (which is what a refrigerated dryer does), you can get the water to fog, and it will coalesce out in the filter.
    The brilliant part, was connecting the unloader valve to the bowl's drain, so it automatically drained any water, at each run.

  13. #13
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I have one of these from HF and it is a godsend!:

    http://www.harborfreight.com/compres...yer-40211.html

    I spent a lot of time sand blasting and within a short period of time, no mater what the weather I was getting moisture. The moisture would wet the sand and block the line. An exercise in futility.

    The line dryer stopped all perceivable moisture not just in short term but even after a 14hr day of blasting.

    I use it all the time now. Irreplaceable when painting cars.

    I know of two different people who went about it slightly different. One shop mounted their piping in a massive zig zag along a wall which worked out well for them. Some one else I know buried their line in the ground outside. Both methods worked for them.

    For another shop we are working on we have been able to find name used brand industrial line dryers on places like Ebay, Craigslist for under $200.

  14. #14
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Hi, New here. I have a refrigerated drier, and all it is, is a heat exchanger to cool the air, then it goes to a water separator. The key is to cool the air below its dew point. Then the water separator can work efficiently. I then go through a motorguard filter, and then to local small water separators on the equipment. Prior to the dryer, I had a home made one from a garbage picked water cooler. I made my own heat exchanger by wrapping tubing around the cooler coil, and enclosing it in insulation (something like that. It's been a while). Then on the outlet I put a good water separator. It worked pretty well. You could also use a dehumidifier, by physically tying the air tubing to the cooling coil, then wrapping it in insulation. Its a bit of a makeshift way of doing it, but the bottom line is to get the air cool enough that the water will drop out. Be careful with the automotive heater core idea. The weren't designed to handle that kind of pressure.

    Paul

  15. #15
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Don't forget Craigslist. In the last 6 months I have seen numerous compressed air dryers for low money on Craigslist. Every auto body shop has one....and when they go out of business or upgrade, you can often get them for a deal. I bought mine for $75, works great, even came with a precooler (just a radiator and fan that precools the air before it goes into the refrigerated cooler).

    And, as I have said many times...the Harbor Freight refrigerated air dryer (usually $350, I have seen it on sale for $199) seems to work well.....I have heard from many users on this and other sites that it seems to be trouble free...and is much lower priced than other units on the market.

    Jim Colt

  16. #16
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I have been giving thought to using a late model air dryer from a semi truck. The new ones have a replaceable desiccant unit.
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  17. #17
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I have a cnc plasma along with a furnace that use air all the time. Both my air compressors are located in the basement. I originally moved them into the basement to free up space in the shop and quiet things down. As a benefit the basement is now dehumidified and warm. To keep the moisture out of the lines I did a couple things.

    I put automatic moisture drain on the compressor. Mine opens for 2 seconds every 10 minutes. This was based on experimentation. Next the air goes into a refrigerate air dry. I bought the dryer off CL for $100 Then the air is stored in a vertical tank I was given for free I check the drain on this second tank and it's always dry.

    Interestingly after adding the auto drain to the compressor my refrigerated dryer collects less moisture. I was surprised the auto drain made such a large difference. My compressor runs A LOT. I still have a moisture filter at the plasma cutter... just in case.

    Currently I'm using hoses draped through the shop but eventually I'd like to get everything plumbed. Bigger pipe = dryer air.

    I've also thought about adding an after cooler:
    http://www.mcmaster.com/#compressed-...oolers/=9zbez2

    I've posted a few pictures to explain my setup. Enjoy.
    Attached Images Attached Images   

  18. #18
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I agree that an auto drain on the compressor is the best possible investment....and is the best first attempt at minimizing moisture in your air lines. I took a chance on the Harbor Freight automatic drain kit ($9,95). This unit comes with some fittings and a nicely built pilot operated drain valve that mounts in place of the drain petcock on the bottom of the compressor tank, and has a pilot operator hose that splices into the compressors head relief valve (the little pipe that goes from the compressor pump head to the pressure switch). This unit opens on every compressor cycle for a few seconds and drains any moisture automatically. It has been on my compressor for a year, and works flawlessly.

    I did have to go to the hardware store and pick up a couple of brass fittings to splice into the head relief line...as the ones that came with the unit were slightly different sized.

    Jim Col

  19. #19
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    It makes sense to keep the compressor's tank dry if there is any hope to keep the air dry. The drying components further down the line would not be stressed so much.

    JimColt - found the auto drain on Harbor Freight. Is this the right one?
    http://www.harborfreight.com/automat...kit-46960.html
    The cycling initiated by the relief valve is clever.

    forhire- the tank drain on your set up looks to be electrical but it is hard to tell. The description makes it sound electrical as well. Do you have a link, or at least more information, so I can find it?

    Your set up is fairly complex and must be ideal for a business.

  20. #20
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    GWD,

    Yes, that is the Harbor Freight compressor drain that I referred to. It is a bargain for the price....and I certainly recommend it.


    http://www.harborfreight.com/automat...kit-46960.html



    Jim Colt

  21. #21
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    I don't have that type of harbor freight dryer, but i have a different type and it has worked great for the past few years.
    Ya gotta spend money to make money!

  22. #22
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Best analysis I can give is follow what Jim colt tells you. I allowed a drop of water to go through my PM 1000 G3 with machine torch. It poppped and fizzled and the cuts looked like Rufus the dogs mangy butt after that, so best recomendation is better clean and dry by whatever means available. I have 2 HF dessicators in line and drip legs as well as a drier/seperato on my machine to prevent this in the future. I live in Fla, and the heat and humidity make me take extraordinary steps but at 35 bucks a fizzle it sure pays for itself quick. Just my .02 FWIW
    Bob
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  23. #23
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Quote Originally Posted by jimcolt View Post
    Yes, that is the Harbor Freight compressor drain that I referred to. It is a bargain for the price....and I certainly recommend it.
    It is a bargain, but I had issues with it, with a compressor whose tank was pretty dirty inside. I had to clean it regularly from crud dripping from my tank with the water (I bought my previous compressor used, and it's intake air filters were not treated so well).
    I can't really blame the drain valve though, because one time, the crud problem got so bad that when I pulled off the valve, nothing came out of the 1/4" ball valve that was screwed straight into the bottom of the tank. I ended up making a contraption that kind of worked like a hot tap to fix the issue (because I just didn't feel like draining and refilling the whole 60 gallon tank). I put one side of a tee onto the ball valve, the middle of the tee went to a hose (letting me drain without getting sprayed), and I drilled a hole into a cap for the bottom, wrapped a long drill bit in packing, and sent it up through the hole in the cap and the ball valve, to ream out the crud.

    Once I upgraded to a larger two stage compressor, I couldn't use one, because my tank gets up to 180PSI, and the hose is only rated for 145. I suppose I could put a proper copper line in it's place, but with my compressor in a loft, I just have a length of galvanized pipe hanging from my compressor tank, with a valve in easy reach. The pipe has plenty of volume to keep the water out of the tank (and reduce its surface area to the point that it doesn't affect my air), and draining is just too easy now.

  24. #24
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Quote Originally Posted by GWD View Post
    forhire- the tank drain on your set up looks to be electrical but it is hard to tell. The description makes it sound electrical as well. Do you have a link, or at least more information, so I can find it?
    It's an electric valve. Simply plug it in.

    These guys have them for a great price.
    http://www.ecompressedair.com/drain-...ain-valve.aspx

    I like the electric valve because it's easy to install and it will purge even while running extended time. The manual valve only discharges at the end of the run cycle.

    For the price the HF valve is a great value. Jim Wilson wrote a review about the installation and usage of the valve here. http://www.paragoncode.com/shop/compressor/

  25. #25
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    Re: Air dryer for plasma cutter

    Quote Originally Posted by forhire View Post
    It's an electric valve. Simply plug it in.

    These guys have them for a great price.
    http://www.ecompressedair.com/drain-...ain-valve.aspx

    I like the electric valve because it's easy to install and it will purge even while running extended time. The manual valve only discharges at the end of the run cycle.

    For the price the HF valve is a great value. Jim Wilson wrote a review about the installation and usage of the valve here. http://www.paragoncode.com/shop/compressor/
    That drain valve looks like what I need. It will take up to 230 psi and my two-stage compressor gets to 175 psi. Ordered today.

    The HF one is rated to 100 psi and Jim Wilson eventually did what I'd do first off.

    Also, my tank has an elbow and gas shut off valve like is pictured in your post that was installed when it was purchased to make draining less of a chore. It appears that the EAD drain valve will just have to be hooked onto the end with a close nipple.

    Thanks for the leads.

    Now onto the dryer acquisition. It may take a while to get something refrigerated under $100. There are a lot of good suggestions on this thread about putting together a homemade line cooler. A desiccant one will be used until something turns up or is fabricated.

    There weren't many posts when WW was searched but based on the number of responses and ideas it must be a significant issue.

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