The ratification and further implementation of an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol has not only opened the eyes of the public and the industrial sector on the worsening situation of the earth’s ozone layer, but also opened opportunities for the manufacturing and development of safer and environment-friendly applications and chemicals, among which is the air knife systems.
The said protocol aimed to prevent the depletion of the ozone layer by eliminating the production of industrial and commercial substances believed to be harmful and destructive to the ozone layer. The treaty was commenced in 1987, requesting for signatures from countries and parties who are willing to participate in the said agreement. In 1989, it came into force, and several revisions followed.
Among the substance which was banned in the protocol was Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), which at the time was widely used in various industrial operations such as cleaning of machine parts and other materials. Before the Montreal Protocol came in view, many industries rely on solvent-based cleaning agents which dissipate into thin air and do not need further blow off or other drying techniques.
The shift of the global industries to water-based cleaning agents from solvents containing CFC and similar harmful chemicals, triggered for the boom and development in the usage of air knives. By the time, the printed circuit board industry was just starting off, but it was among the first to start the conversion to water-based and semi water-based parts cleaning methods.
Although air knife systems have been present since 1950’s it was after the dawn of the Montreal Protocol which urged the industrial sector to favor blower-powered air knives, which offer 50-75% reduction on energy usage in many applications compared to compressor-powered ones.
The protocol at the same time became the window for the discovery of other uses of air knives aside from cleaning. Air knife dryers came out of the market, and soon various industries were using the mechanical tool for a variety of drying processes.
Also, due to the global compliance to the Montreal Protocol, the once small air knife business became an industry.
Today, air knives have been the simple and inexpensive solution for various industrial operations such as in manufacturing, textile, packaging, printing, automotive, food processing, bottling and many more.
The industry for air knives is truly promising at present, yet we do not know, the future may hold more developments, technologies and numerous applications for the mechanical device.