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Why Should I Care About Quality Compressed Air?

Quality Compressed Air

Compressed Air is the 4th utility, a staple in manufacturing and production, allowing for work that might otherwise be extremely dangerous, or even just being able to take your power source with you. The versatility of applications makes it a precious utility, especially in industries where cleanliness is vital such as food, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. Having quality compressed air is a necessity that may not always be at the front of everyone’s minds and keeping tabs on it will set you and your air system up for success.

 

Air is Dirty

When it comes to these systems, the output is only as good as the quality of the air being compressed. The ambient air around us contains small amounts of particulates, moisture, and even oil vapors, which don’t even include the oil from the compressor itself. Once this air has been compressed, the widespread molecules of those particulates and moisture become concentrated and condense together. Increased concentrations of these molecules can cause problems in your air system, from moisture buildup in the pipes to make your air completely unusable in applications like food.

Contaminated air can cause a problem in every compressed air application as it can deteriorate the system from the inside, increase the necessity of maintenance, and shorten the lifespan of your equipment. Still, it can be the difference between production and being completely shut down in applications requiring clean air. Industries based around human consumption, food, breathing air, and pharmaceuticals are just a few industries highly dependent on clean air. Oil, dirt, or water getting into the product would be detrimental to the product users’ health and the production company’s reputation. 

With wasted production comes wasted money, which can be the difference between your company feeling financially comfortable or being stretched too thin. When machines are poorly maintained or simply inefficient, they can be responsible for large amounts of wasted money on utility bills. Unclean compressed air is the culprit behind unnecessary financial problems and problems in your system, but it can also reduce the lifespan of pneumatic tools and increase the maintenance required. 

As we’ve noted, the air around us is full of particles that, in small amounts, don’t cause any problems, but when that air has condensed, the concentration of the particles increases and can cause problems. The question becomes how do you get rid of those molecules, moisture, and muck in your air system; you want to prevent those particulates from getting stuck in your pipes, machinery, and equipment, making your life harder. Getting rid of those particulates comes down to getting the right equipment, but you need to know the air quality you need before choosing the right equipment.

 

What is Quality Compressed Air?

Choosing the quality of your air depends on a straightforward thing and that is how you are using your air. How you use your air determines how clean it needs to be, plain and simple. Most industries have requirements that align with ISO Purification Standards to provide a guideline of how to properly clean your air and what the maximum concentrations of particulates are acceptable for each class. 

ISO standards ensure your system produces Quality Compressed Air for your compressed air application. These standards will give you a goal to aim for with your air quality, along with the necessary information to make the right decision in purchasing your equipment.

Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for to produce high-Quality Compressed Air, it might be helpful to understand what it is. High-Quality Compressed Air is ambient air that has been compressed down in a compressor and then passed through a series of condensate treatments, moisture removal, and filtration to remove particulates from the air. 

The air also has a few components that need to be checked to be classified as Quality Compressed Air, and they are:

  • Oil Content 
  • Dust Content
  • Water Content
  • Dewpoint
  • Microorganisms & Contaminates

For air to be considered Quality Compressed Air, it needs to have trace amounts of particulates, contaminates, and water while having a low enough dewpoint that condensation will not form when exposed to the ambient air. The parts of those materials will determine the level of quality; the more pure the air is, the closer it is to Class 1 Air. 

Following these guidelines will ensure that you are keeping your system clean, production is running smoothly, and producing quality compressed air. With a basic understanding of the benefits of removing particulates, oil, and water from your compressed air stream, you may now be wondering how you ensure that you are following the ISO Standards to produce clean compressed air. The solution to creating quality compressed air is the proper equipment in the right spots downstream.

 

How to Make Quality Compressed Air

Moisture and particulates have no business in an air stream, including yours. They provide no benefit to air production or movement and do not belong at the point of use. Removing these contaminants involves two significant pieces of equipment in every air system: a dryer and filters. Including these vital pieces can prevent damage to your air system and extend the life of your compressor and equipment while avoiding wasted energy.

 

Dryers

The mortal enemy of moisture in your air system is a dryer. These dryers can come in many different models with different means of drying air. Dryers typically come in one of three styles, refrigerated, desiccant, and membrane. Most traditional applications are going to use either a desiccant or refrigerated. Similar to air quality, the type of dryer depends on the application of the air, as both refrigerated and desiccant excel in different applications. 

When choosing between the two, the deciding factor typically is the air’s dewpoint. Refrigerated, or condensing dryers, are commonly used when Class 4 air is the maximum air quality required. If the air needs a lower dewpoint, a desiccant dryer, also known as adsorbing, would be the necessary equipment to properly dry your air for applications requiring Class 3 air and up.

Drying your air is the most critical step to removing moisture from your air. It can help remove vapors and moisture molecules. Reducing the air’s dewpoint requires a lower temperature for the moisture molecules still in the air to turn into condensate. Lowering the temperature dramatically, it can get down to -70℃, making it nearly impossible for the moisture to condense when it is exposed to ambient air or is at the point of use. This is beneficial to the end user, not having to worry about moisture and for the overall health of your system.

 

Filtration

While dryers are responsible for removing moisture from the air, dryers do not remove oil, dirt, and other particulates from the air as they are not suited to do so. A solid filtration system is needed to remove particulates and oil from your air stream. Now it may sound like a simple solution; throw some filters on your system downstream, and all the particulates will be cleaned out. If only filtration worked in such a simple manner.

When it comes to filtering your compressed air, you must pay attention to the little things. Filters are classified by the type of material that can be filtered out by it and the size of the holes in the filter for the air to pass through. Filters that can stop dirt and particulates are called particulate filters, while coalescing refers to filters that take oil out of the compressed air as it passes through.  Both types of filters can come in an array of Micron sizes from upwards of 70µ down to .01µ.

Problems can arise during filtration based on the sizing of the filters. If a smaller filter is placed in front of a larger filter, the large particulates and molecules will clog up the filter and cause a pressure drop and ruin the filter. The finer the size of the filter, the later downstream it needs to be. Like the idea of nesting dolls, you have to go through the bigger ones to reach the smallest layer. The lifespan of your filters needs to have proper filtration before the filters with finer filtration.

In filters, you start with your largest-sized filter, which is typically a particulate to remove the big particles of dirt and dust flowing through the air stream. Following your particulate filter, you would want to use a finer filtration than the previous one but not so small that it would end up getting clogged. It is imperative to know the size of your filtrations so that you do not clog up your filters and cause problems downstream.

When it comes to filters, there are just as many variations and options as there are compressors; therefore, it is essential to be aware of your system’s needs when adding equipment to it or changing out pieces that were in use. Knowing the individual details is vital to making changes to your air system and adequately servicing them. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to produce high-quality air.

 

 

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