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Air Compressors in Construction: A Full Guide

September 9th, 2019 No comments

Air compressors are an essential aspect of the construction industry. You might be aware of them being used at construction sites for their high efficiency and output, but have you ever considered thinking about how air compressors actually work?

Direct Air have developed an insightful infographic detailing how they operate and the different types of air compressors that are available to use. 

Using Air Compressors in Construction

Air compressors are integral to the construction industry as they power a vast amount of tools a worker needs. The great aspect about pneumatic drills is that they are relatively light and powerful to use, allowing great amounts of energy to be exerted.

Compared to electric powered tools, pneumatic tools are safer to use and easier to maintain as there is not a risk of electrocution.

Some of the most popular construction application use comes in the form of jackhammers, pneumatic picks, air guns and many more.

It is important to emphasise the value of maintenance because failure to maintain tools regularly will lead to them deteriorating and not working properly.

Low Noise Air Compressors

Construction site managers need to think not only about the welfare of themselves but also of other fellow employees.

Workers should wear ear protection to protect themselves from hearing damage. Anything above 85dB is considered to be harmful and likely to cause hearing issues.

Air compressors can control and reduce noise levels, when generating power for equipment.

While 60 dB is considered a safe level, there is no reason why you should not be able to reduce the noise levels even further.

Low noise air compressors can decrease noise levels to around 40dB, of which this is accomplished through the addition of an acoustic chamber which function consists of containing the noise.

An additional tip to help reduce noise levels would be to choose an electric-powered compressor, rather than a gas-powered machine.The electric compressor’s power source can make a machine generate less noise.

Oil-free and Oil-based Air Compressors

Lubrication is an aspect that should be reviewed when using an air compressor.

Compressors that are oil-free already have a lubricated cylinder, mainly Teflon, thus ensuring no further maintenance is required.

Oil-based compressors require manual work as oil needs to be added to the piston area frequently, and how much depends on the instructions provided in the manufacturer’s manual that came with the compressor.

Oil-free compressors are lighter than oil-based compressors as the weight of the oil is not required and there are less parts to make them function.

Furthermore, oil-free compressors tend to be more affordable than oil-based compressors and usually have a less complex design.

Despite costing more, oil-based compressors are stronger and tend to have a longer lifespan than oil-free ones. Over time the material that is used for greasing, which is primarily Teflon, starts to wear out and endures a loss in its abilities of lubrication.

In comparison to oil-based compressors, oil-free compressors heat up at a higher temperature and tend to make more noise.

How do Single and Dual Phase Compressors Operate?

For single phase compressors, compression occurs within a vacuum system by a single piston movement.

The power is measured at a rate of PSI (pounds per square inch), of which the higher the PSI rate, the greater the power the compressor has.

In a single phase compressor, the PSI rate is usually at 120. Once the air has been compressed, it then gets sent into a storage tank. 

For Dual phase compressors, following the primary round of compression, air is dispelled into a second chamber at a rate of 175PSI, where the air gets compressed for a second time.

The piston forces movement allowing compression to occur, as both types of compressors are usually powered by electric or power motors.

Fixed and Variable Air Compressors

Fixed speed air compressors send continuous streams of power into the motor.

It’s great for certain industries where power demand is continuous. However, while being cost-effective, they are not energy efficient.

Variable speed compressors automatically adjust the motor speed in conjunction with air demand.

Power gets drawn into the convertor and converts AC power into DC power. A capacitor cleans the AC and converts it into DC using a transistor, acting as switches. This then ensures the power’s frequency is controlled that is distributed to the motor, thus also controlling the speed.

Variable speed compressors are more power efficient as you can control the output of what you need, which means that if you were to use less power, money would be saved and it would be more beneficial for the environment.

Unfortunately, maintenance repairs are frequent and there are higher capital costs. This compressor type is not recommended for machines that require streams of power that are continuous.

Piston, Scroll and Rotary Screw Compressors

Scroll compressors are a type of piston compressor, also known as reciprocating compressors.

The piston travels downwards, following pressure in the cylinder being decreased which creates a vacuum. This pressure change causes the cylinder door to open and draw air in. The piston then travels back up forcing the air to be released from the cylinder at a higher pressure point.

While they are able to cool down quickly and are energy efficient, they are harder to maintain and initial costs are high.

Rotary screw compressors use rollers to compress air. These are positioned in the middle of the shaft and one side of the rollers are constantly in contact with the wall, and they rotate an extreme speed.

Despite costing less, rotary screw compressors require frequent maintenance checks and cooling ability is quite limited.

Overall Thoughts

When choosing an air compressor that is needed for a particular job, there are vital aspects that need to be reviewed.

Do you require air compressors for continuous use of industrial machinery or only occasional use?

It is important to think about the budget because some compressors will be more cost-effective than others, and you need to consider how much maintenance work there will be in the future. Failure to maintain tools regularly will lead to them malfunctioning.

With all of this taken into consideration, you should be able to make an informed decision on selecting the right air compressor for the required job, one of which is the most suitable for saving your company money and being energy efficient.

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How the Skills Gap has Affected the Government’s Homebuilding Targets

September 9th, 2019 No comments

It’s no secret that the construction industry is currently facing an increasingly large skills shortage. The industry has long suffered from a lack of skilled workers, making it more difficult than ever to hit deadlines due to the shrinking talent pool.

This is a big problem for the government, whose plans to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s is becoming more of a pipe dream. In fact, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the lack of skilled construction workers is at its highest point since 2007. In order to get back on track, the industry needs to recruit over 200,000 more workers by 2020.

Below, industry experts at Vizwear explore what problems the skills shortage in construction is causing for the government’s homebuilding targets — and what companies can do to help fill key positions.

What’s causing the skills shortage?

The main problem that’s contributing towards the skills shortage is that as a whole, the construction industry is still battling with an image problem.

“The industry needs to attract a fresh workforce to keep up with demands”, says Daniel Ure from online PPE retailer Vizwear. “But for many on the outside, the thought of working in construction still conjures up images of wolf-whistling workmen on building sites. To attract a new stream of workers, the industry needs to shake this negative image and show how the industry has developed.”

It’s not just the difficulties of attracting new employees that are causing a skills shortage, though: it’s also due to the current workers.

Data from the 2011 census showed that in the construction industry, one in five employees were aged over 55. This means that by the early 2020s, when the industry should be hitting its homebuilding targets, most will have reached or be close to retirement age. An ageing workforce and an uphill recruitment battle are a combination that could have a detrimental effect on the industry.

What steps can be taken to close the gap?

The biggest barrier facing the construction industry is presenting itself as a desirable career path to potential employees. Although often seen in a bad light, there are fantastic opportunities to be had in construction, including mechanics, engineering and electronics.

There are a number of ways that construction companies can reach out to the right candidates and ensure them that a career in construction is exactly what they’re looking for.

1. Increase education

To ensure that the future workforce in construction is vibrant and engaged, young people need to be re-educated about what construction is really like

A survey created by L&Q Group discovered that only one in ten children between the ages of 16 and 18 would consider a career in construction, fearing that the industry would be ‘challenging and unexciting’. Although around 50% said that they were interested in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) career, the construction industry simply wasn’t appealing enough. Interestingly, though, the students who said they would consider a construction career said that their reasoning was due to the excitement of the role.

Working closely with schools and colleges to promote the industry is a great way to show young people that there are a number of avenues their career path can take in construction. By setting up a formal work experience programme, you can attract future workers with real, hands-on experience to give students the chance to experience the industry for themselves.

2. Don’t neglect training

By offering proper training programmes, construction companies have the opportunity to help close the skills gap with new talent. It’s not just labour-intensive roles that are suffering from the skills shortage —  there is also a demand for tech and digital skills.

But rather than looking externally for these roles, use it as an opportunity to upskill your current staff. Nurturing talent within your business is great for morale; plus, you’ll help to develop your team’s careers, skill sets and better utilise ambitious and forward-thinking workers.

The training involved with upskilling current workers can be as simple as one-on-one mentoring, or you can make use of the wide range of online and practical courses available for skill development.

There are also government-funded schemes available to help train future construction workers. For instance, we are currently in the middle of an 18-month fund set up by the government, launched with a budget of £22 million. This scheme launched 20 on-site hubs, of which people looking to join the industry, as well as people switching careers, can apply their knowledge in a real-world environment.

3. Look for skilled workers in the right places

Ensuring that next-generation workers are knowledgeable about the industry is vital, but there are other skilled groups that are waiting to be snapped up by the industry.

For example, over 14,000 leave the military every year, meaning the construction industry has a pool of highly trained individuals with transferable skills at their disposal. There are a number of companies that have already reaped the benefits of military leavers, and even provide specialist training and learning credits to get them fully trained as soon as possible.

Military leavers offer the unique opportunity for construction firms to hire workers that can effectively follow instructions, work well as a team and can keep calm under pressure. It’s a unique opportunity that is too good to pass up.

4. Address the gender imbalance

Part of the problem is that construction is a historically male-dominated industry. Between 2007 and 2016, reports found that the number of women workers in construction only rose by 0.7%, resulting in an incredibly low 12.8% total. But it’s not just workers in the industry, nearly half of construction workers claimed that they have never had a female manager.

Whatever the role, women in construction are being overlooked. As women make up half of the population, it seems crazy that the industry is ignoring so much potential talent that it sorely needs to help fill the skills gap.

Educating female students is a crucial step that companies need to take, as only 22% currently work with schools to help break the stigma of construction. But it’s not just about attracting more women to the industry — companies need to make sure they’re not ignoring their current talent due to their gender. For example, the international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty has taken strides to address gender inequality by introducing an initiative to support women through career breaks for childcare.

5. Embrace modern methods of construction

The government has already been warned by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee that an over-reliance on traditional building methods will see the UK fall short of its home-building targets.

To keep the industry on target, construction companies need to look outside the norm and embrace more modern techniques. From off-site construction, manufacturing and assembly to modular constructions, there are a number of avenues companies can take to improve efficiency while maintaining quality.

“The construction industry is always changing,” says Daniel Ure from online PPE retailer Vizwear. “We’re constantly seeing exciting new innovations that allow us to work smarter and more efficiently.”

“In order to make the most of new industry methods, it’s vital that new talent is found to close the skills gap. Construction is still trying to shake off its past image, but by pooling its resources into educating and training future generations and current talent, the industry can ensure it’s recruiting the right workers to hit its targets.” 

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