Why – And Where – Do You Need Filtration In Your Compressed Air System?

Good engineering practice, and proper system design, call for filters at various points in a compressed air system. I’m going to go through these along the path that compressed air follows, from being drawn from atmospheric pressure in to the compressor, to being returned to atmospheric pressure at its point of use.

Any air compressor is going to have an intake filter. The small “pancake” compressor in my garage has a little disc looking thing with a screen whose mesh is about the same as my house’s window screens. Larger industrial air compressors have cartridge-type filters that impart a spiral motion to the incoming air. That motion actually removes most of the incoming particulate, while the rest gets caught in the pleats of the fiber element. The main purpose for an intake filter is to protect the compressor’s internal components. Solid particulates can really do a number on the high speed, close tolerance moving parts inside a compressor, in a hurry.

All the other filters you might find are there to ensure proper operation of the rest of your compressed air system:

  • Distribution. No intake filter is going to be 100% efficient, nor will it remove especially fine particulate that doesn’t present a real risk of damage or wear to the compressor. Intake filters also will not remove oil (or oil vapor) and water (or water vapor). The compressor itself can actually add contaminants to the compressed air, in the form of wear particles (remember those close tolerance moving parts I mentioned above?) and oil carryover. All of these contaminants will, however, be detrimental to the pipe & fittings that takes the newly compressed air to where it’s used. They can cause a buildup on the inner walls of the piping that inhibits flow. Water causes the pipe to start rusting from the inside out. When that rust scale breaks loose, it can clog, foul, or damage valves, fittings, and other control devices in the distribution header. Ideally, you’ll use filtration with a particulate element, a centrifugal element for water, and a coalescing element for oil/oil vapor (if needed…this isn’t a concern for oil-free compressors, for example).
  • Distribution, part 2. If your facility is large enough, you may need filtration at strategic locations…perhaps one for the air going to the machine shop, another for an area with machinery equipped with pneumatic cylinders, another for an assembly area where pneumatic tools are used, etc. The type(s) of filter(s) you use at those points will be determined by what the air is used for. If you know you have oil carryover from your compressor, you probably want a coalescing filter on the line to Safety Air Guns that blow off parts before painting. You don’t need them on lines going to your pneumatic tools, though…that carryover will likely help supplement the point-of-use lubricators that they use.
  • Point-of-use. Good engineering practice calls for a final stage of filtration, located as close as practical to the air operated device(s). EXAIR includes a Filter Separator with a 5 micron particulate element and a centrifugal element for water with all of our product Kits. Oil Removal Filters are also available for oil/oil vapor. They also provide additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.
EXAIR offers a variety of Filter Separators (left), Oil Removal Filters (middle), and Pressure Regulators (right) that are suitable for a wide range of point-of-use compressed air applications. Contact an Application Engineer for more details.

At EXAIR, we’re here to make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system. If you’d like to find out more about filtration…or any other aspect of air treatment (drying, regulating, cooling, etc.)…give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
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Benefits of Atomized Liquid Nozzles vs. Liquid Nozzles

There are a great many applications that require a spray (as opposed to a stream) of liquid. Certain droplet sizes, and flow rates, are beneficial for certain applications. For example, if you’re fighting a fire, you want as high of a flow rate as possible – the more water you douse the fire with, the quicker it goes out.  You also want a fairly large droplet size, since a mist would tend to evaporate instead of extinguishing the flames.

Pressure washers also benefit from higher (though not near as high as fire hose) flow rates, and droplet sizes.  You want an appreciable flow rate, because that means high velocity, and good sized droplets combine that velocity with their relative mass to “blast” away dirt and detritus from the surface.

Medicine delivery devices, like asthma inhalers, are designed to produce mid-sized droplets, but pretty low (and controlled) flows.  The droplets need to be small enough to efficiently spread the medicine through the breathing passages, but large enough to where they won’t evaporate before they ‘plant’ on the nasal & bronchial membranes to get absorbed.

These are examples of “liquid-only” nozzles…no other media or means of force are used to effect the spraying action.  Most of the time, the droplet sizes in these applications are measured in hundreds of microns, which “liquid-only” nozzles are ideally suited to generate.  Other applications, however, call for much smaller droplet sizes…such as those only attainable through atomization.

EXAIR Atomizing Spray Nozzles use compressed air to create a fine mist of liquid, with droplet sizes as low as 22 microns.

A typical “liquid-only” nozzle is capable of producing droplet sizes of 300-4,000 microns. Atomizing Nozzles’ droplet sizes are consistently under 100 microns, and can be as small as 20 microns!

Small droplet size is key to cost effectiveness in many applications:

  • Think about expensive coatings…the smaller the droplet size, the better and more even the coverage, and the less you have to spray (and pay) out.
  • Or humidification…smaller droplet size means more stays airborne, for longer, and in a larger space.
  • Petroleum based lubricants, by their nature, only require a thin layer for best results.  Smaller droplets make as even and thin of a layer as possible.
  • Dust control is much more effective with smaller droplet sizes, since the longer the mist lingers in the air, the more dust particles the individual droplets will adhere to…and then drop with them to the surface.  This also prevents getting the surface of the material any wetter than it has to be.
142 distinct models. 8 different patterns. Liquid flow rates from 0.1 to 303 gallons per hour. If you’ve got a spraying application, EXAIR has an Atomizing Nozzle for you!

If you’d like to discuss a liquid spraying application, I’d love to hear from you.  Call me.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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