What’s The Big Deal About Clean Air?

Compressed air isn’t called manufacturing’s “Fourth Utility” (the first three being electricity, water, and natural gas) for nothing. Pneumatic tools are popular because they’re often so much lighter than their electric counterparts. Compressed air can be stored in receiver tanks for use when other power supplies are unavailable or not feasible. Many compressed air operated products can be made to withstand environmental factors (high/low temperature, corrosive elements, atmospheric dust, oil, other contaminants, etc.,) that would make electric devices very expensive, unwieldy, or impractical.

One of the most valuable considerations, though, is that your compressed air system is, by and large, under your control.  The type and capacity of your air compressor can be determined by your specific operational needs.  The header pressure in your supply lines is based on the applications that your air-operated devices are used for.  And the performance & lifespan of every single component in your compressed air system is determined by the care you take in maintaining it.

I covered the importance of compressed air system maintenance in a blog a while back…today, I want to focus on clean air.  And, like the title (hopefully) makes you think, it’s a REALLY big deal.  Consider the effects of the following:

Debris: solid particulates can enter your air system through the compressor intake, during maintenance, or if lines are undone and remade.  If you have moisture in your air (more on that in a minute,) that can promote corrosion inside your pipes, and rust can flake off in there.  Almost all of your air operated products have moving parts, tight passages, or both…debris is just plain bad for them.  And if you use air for blow off (cleaning, drying, etc.,) keep in mind that anything in your compressed air system will almost certainly get on your product.

Your compressed air system may be equipped with a main filter at the compressor discharge.  This is fine, but since there is indeed potential for downstream ingress (as mentioned above,) point-of-use filtration is good engineering practice.  EXAIR recommends particulate filtration to 5 microns for most of our products.

Water: moisture is almost always a product of condensation, but it can also be introduced through faulty maintenance, or by failure of the compressor’s drying or cooling systems.  Any way it happens, it’s also easy to combat with point-of-use filtration.

EXAIR includes an Automatic Drain Filter Separator in our product kits to address both of these concerns.  A particulate filter element traps solids, and a centrifugal element “spins” any moisture out, collecting it in the bowl, which is periodically drained (automatically, as the name implies) by a float.

Point of use filtration is key to the performance of your compressed air products, and their effectiveness. Regardless of your application, EXAIR has Filter Separators to meet most any need.

Oil: many pneumatic tools require oil for proper operation, so, instead of removing it, there’s going to be a dedicated lubricator, putting oil in the air on purpose.  Optimally, this will be as close to the tool as possible, because not all of your compressed air loads need oil…especially your blow offs.  If, however, a blow off device is installed downstream of a lubricator (perhaps due to convenience or necessity,) you’ll want to do something about that oil. Remember, anything in your system will get blown onto your product.

If this is the case, or you just want to have the cleanest air possible (keep in mind there is no downside to that,) consider an EXAIR Oil Removal Filter.  They come in a range of capacities, up to 310 SCFM (8,773 SLPM,) and the coalescing element also offers additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.

In closing, here’s a video that shows you, up close and personal, the difference that proper filtration can make:

If you’d like to discuss or debate (spoiler alert: I’ll win) the importance of clean air, and how EXAIR can help, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Compressed Air Filtration – Particulate, Coalescing, and Adsorption Types

Compressed air systems will contain contaminants that can lead to issues and increased costs through contamination of product, damage to the air operated devices, and air line clogging and restriction. Proper air preparation is critical to optimizing performance throughout the plant operations.

Because there are different types of contaminants, including solid particles, liquid water, and vapors of water and oil, there are different methods of filtration, each best suited for maximum efficiency in contaminant removal.

Particulate Filters – The compressed air flows from outside to inside of the filter element. The compressed air first passes through a baffle arrangement which causes centrifugal separation of the largest particles and liquid drops (but not liquid vapors), and then the air passes through the filter element.  The filter element is usually a sintered material such as bronze.  The filter elements are inexpensive and easy to replace. Filtration down to 40-5 micron is possible.

Particulate Type Filter with Sintered Bronze Element

Coalescing Filters – This type operates differently from the particulate type.  The compressed air flows from inside to outside through a coalescing media. The very fine water and oil aerosols come into contact with fibers in the filter media, and as they collect, they coalesce (combine) to form larger droplets towards the outside of the filter element. When the droplet size is enough the drops fall off and collect at the bottom of the filter housing.  The filter element is typically made up of some type glass fibers.  The coalescing filter elements are also relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. Filtration down to 0.01 micron at 99.999% efficiency is possible.

Coalescing Type Filter with Borosilicate Glass Fiber Element

Adsorption Filters – In this type of filtration, activated carbon is typically used, and the finest oil vapors, hydrocarbon residues, and odors can be be removed.  The mechanism of filtration is that the molecules of the gas or liquid adhere to the surface of the activated carbon.  This is usually the final stage of filtration, and is only required for certain applications where the product would be affected such as blow molding or food processing.

When you work with us in selecting an EXAIR product, such as a Super Air Knife, Super Air Amplifier, or Vortex Tube, your application engineer can recommend the appropriate type of filtration needed to keep the EXAIR product operating at maximum efficiency with minimal disruption due to contaminant build up and unnecessary cleaning.

If you have questions regarding compressed air filtration or any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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