As we have previously established, compressed air has a hand in producing just about everything we use daily and the quality of that compressed air always matters. Keeping it free from contaminates like oil, moisture, and particulates, is important to not only protecting your compressed air system but also your end products.
While high quality air is always important, for some industries it is just ‘nice to have’, while for other industries it is mandated to comply with the ISO 8573-1, the international air quality standard. Failure to meet the requirements can have expensive consequences. Contamination of a compressed air system can lead to production standstill, loss of products, cleaning costs and the recall of contaminated goods.
Requirements are the highest for products that are ingested by consumers, for example the food and beverage or pharmaceutical industry. The medical and electronic industries also have high air purity standards.
You may be wondering what is ISO 8573-1, the international standard for defining compressed air quality? ISO 8573-1 is divided into seven purity classes each for three types of contaminates; particles, humidity, and volatile organic compounds, which includes oil. These purity classes tell the operators of compressed air systems how many contaminates their compressed air may contain. The lower the class, the purer the air.
It is also possible that the air used for your industry may need to meet different classes for particles, humidity, and volatile organic compounds. For example, your compressed air might need to meet Class 2 purity for particles and volatile organic compounds and Class 3 for humidity.
There are different methods in which to test your air quality, to find out which testing method is right for you, it might make sense to contact an expert.
So, what kind of air treatment equipment should be used? This depends on what purity classes you need to meet. There are different solutions to choose from, such as dryers to reduce moisture contained in compressed air or filters that remove particles and oil.
If you are looking at an oil injected compressor, the oil that is injected in the compressor element to cool, lubricate, and seal during the compression phase, will have to be extracted again. This is done with a combination of coalescence filters and active carbon filters.
However, with oil free compressors there is no oil added to the compressed air at any time, so this is the only way to guarantee there will never be any oil contamination. While the initial cost can be higher, the investment can be recovered through lower maintenance costs. With no threat of oil contamination, there is no risk of production stand still, scrap cost of contaminated products, or a product recall.