Compressed air is a critical component in many manufacturing processes. It is often referred to as the fourth utility, beside electricity, gas and water, because it is used to power applications throughout the manufacturing process. In food manufacturing, compressed air is used in processes such as ingredient mixing, pneumatic conveyance and packaging, among others. In the industry, this is referred to as ‘active’ air; because it touches the final product in many food manufacturing applications, the air must be clean and free of any potential contaminants.
Air compressors have come a long way to ensure that the air used in food manufacturing processes is as absolutely pure as possible. Consider the modern lubricated screw compressor; technological advances have ensured that the oil content in the air is very limited and can be further reduced by using a multi-stage filter solution. However, it is difficult to control the amount of oil present in the air after filtration due to factors such as temperature, which has a significant impact on the separation process. The process of filtration is never really fail safe; failure of any component in the filter chain could lead to large amounts of oil contaminating the process and the compressed air distribution system.
An oil-free screw compressor virtually eliminates the need for in-line oil filtration and in most cases will eliminate the risk of oil contamination completely. The need for costly filter replacements, large sump tank oil changes and ongoing maintenance due to oil residue is eliminated and can result in substantial compounded savings over the life of the compressor. The result is life cycle savings that are much greater than the initial cost of choosing oil-free over oil-injected compressors.
For these reasons, most food manufacturers choose oil-free compressors that meet the ISO 8573-1 Class 0 2010 edition standards that define air quality levels and methods for determining contaminants in the air system. Class 0 is the industry standard in food manufacturing compressed air processes, as well as other industries that require 100 percent pure, oil-free air, such as the pharmaceutical, medical and critical electronics industries.