How Contaminants In Compressed Air Can Affect Processes

Contaminants can be introduced to your compressed air system through many mediums. Liquids like water and oil, solid particles, and vapor can cause contamination and affect production processes if precautions aren’t taken. Why is contamination such a concern?

Contaminants can wreak havoc on not only your compressed air system and parts, but they can endanger the health of your employees, impact product quality, and sicken customers using your end products. In order to prevent contamination in the first place, it’s important to understand how contaminants arrive in your system and what the repercussions of contamination may be.

How Contaminants Are Introduced

Compressed air systems draw in ambient air. As you can imagine, air can be easily contaminated in manufacturing and production environments. As ambient air is drawn into a system, water vapor, oil vapor, dirt, and microorganisms can also enter the compressed air system. Water vapor is known to allow rust and microorganisms to prosper which is why a proper contamination control process is important for the integrity of your system.

The Effects of Contamination on Processes

There are many ways that contamination by dust, microorganisms, oil, and many other substances will affect the integrity of your compressed air system and end products. Below you will find the common impacts of contamination on your compressed air system and production. Knowing these factors can help you create a process for expelling contaminants wherever possible.

Contaminated End Products

End product contamination can result from water and oil vapors, chemical vapors, dust, dirt, debris, and much more. Oil is one of the most common ways that your end products will become contaminated. This is especially a concern for manufacturing of food and beverage products. However, oil can also wreak havoc on paint spraying, powder coating, and powder conveying by affecting finish and performance.

Chemical contaminants often impact purity standards, like IOS 8573, that define purity classes for pharmaceutical, medical, and food and beverage applications.

Decreased System Efficacy

As previously mentioned, the introduction of water into your compressed air system can increase rust production and allow microorganisms to quickly multiply. While these are concerning in and of themselves, rust contamination will not only affect the integrity of your product, but it can result in blocked filters and damage to other parts and devices. Debris and other solid substances can also cause erosion and sludge formation within your system. Furthermore, liquid vapors can ultimately become condensed and freeze, impacting system functionality.

These types of contamination will overall affect the efficiency of your system increasing cycle times. Ultimately, the lifespan of your equipment may be decreased while the maintenance and repair visits your system requires will increase.

Operational Safety Hazards

Microorganisms are largely a health concern as they can impact both customers and employees. Exposure to microorganisms while operating devices utilizing compressed air can cause sickness and health complications for employees, while product contamination can create health problems for customers especially when products are consumed.

Preventing Contamination

There are a few different methods for decreasing contamination in your production process. One simple and highly effective way to lower the contaminants being brought into your compressed air system is to place your system in a location with as little dust and humidity as possible. This will ultimately decrease the amount of contamination possible as the compressed air system intakes air.

Other steps include utilizing a condensation separator, desiccant or refrigerated dryer, and filters. High-quality filters on the intake will prevent significant contamination from occurring right in the beginning of the process. Condensation separators can help ensure that liquid water is removed from your system, while a refrigerated dryer can chill compressed air allowing for water vapor to be extracted. An absorption filter can be used to remove vapor from oil-injected compressors where necessary. Finally, coalescing filters can be used to remove debris, microorganisms, and other particulates from the compressed air system. For even more tips on preventing contamination, read our blog post on controlling contaminants in your compressed air system.

Contact Us for Compressed Air System Needs

The best way to prevent contamination is to be sure that your compressed air system is operating correctly and that there are no operational or design problems promoting contamination. Routine checks will both catch efficiency problems but also identify where a contamination problem could develop before it even happens.

It is also an important step to be sure you have the right equipment for your production needs from the very beginning. Certain compressed air systems and equipment are considered “safer” for pharmaceutical, medical, and food and beverage environments and can be used as an extra step to prevent contamination when related products are being produced and packaged.

If you require help finding the right compressed air equipment or would like to speak to a specialist about maintenance requirements, contact JHFOSTER by phone or email.