Why Oil-Free Air is Critical in Medical and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Manufacturing processes rely on a wide range of equipment and mechanisms to create products for people around the world. The same holds true for medical and pharmaceutical manufacturers. These facilities use conveyor belts, drums, rotary devices, and compressed air to manufacture medical devices and medicines. However, unlike other companies, pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers must maintain the highest air quality and clean rooms possible to prevent contaminants from getting onto products.

Oil-Filled Compressed Air Contaminating Products

If contaminants enter medical and pharmaceutical products, they can negatively impact a person’s health. National and international regulations are strict when it comes to contaminated products, as companies can face stiff fines and penalties. A major issue impacting medical and pharmaceutical products is oil contamination. Many mechanisms use oil as lubrication. They also contain oil filters that help separate water and air from oil. Many pieces of equipment also use compressed air in their applications.

Compressed air can operate mechanisms such as drums, conveyor belts, and rotary systems. The compressed air can also be used directly onto medical products, such as applying coatings to pills. Another application that uses compressed air is jet milling. When grinding powder ingredients, the milling process uses compressed air to reduce the active ingredients.

If compressed air contains oil, it can directly or indirectly contaminate medical devices and medications. Processes that may become contaminated with oil-filled compressed air include:

●      Tablet, capsule, and caplet manufacturing

●      Bottling, packaging, and canning

●      Instrumentation tools

●      Fermentation processes

●      Medicine drying processes

Ways to Obtain Oil-Free Compressed Air

With oil free compressed air, pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing processes can be in compliance with national and international regulations. It also brings consumers peace of mind that the products they use will help them instead of hurting them.

There are many ways to generate oil-free compressed air. Deciding on which compressor to use will depend entirely on the application and the amount of filtration necessary to have the highest levels of clean air. Multi-filtration systems for oil flooded screw compressors and oil-free screw compressors are two types of systems commonly used.

Multi-filtration Systems

For oil flooded screws, the oil helps to lubricate the systems to keep the components moving freely as well as works as a coolant and sealant for processes. The multi-filtration system helps to screen the oil from the air, as the oil droplets become trapped within the filter devices and oil separation systems until the air comes out nearly clean.

The main issue with multi-filtration systems involves the maintenance required for these lubricated compressors. In time, the filters become so saturated with dirt, oil, and other contaminants that they will need to be regularly replaced with clean filters and separators. Another issue that has to be addressed is that when using multiple filters, some of the air becomes trapped as the pressure drops. So the system has to push harder to get enough compressed air to the application. This pressure drop leads to inefficient processes and may cause issues to the products. It also raises energy usage and costs.

Oil-Free Screw Compressors

For oil-free screw compressors, the system is kept cool due to an air cooler so the rotors can operate at high speeds. A separate lubricating system works to keep timing gears operating. With the lubricating process separate from the compressor chamber, oil doesn’t mix when the system compresses the air for the application. A sealing system is used to ensure that no oil lubrication enters the compression chamber. These compressors use less oil while still offering the same air pressure rates required for operations.

Oil-Free Scroll Compressors

Oil-free scroll compressors operate using two scrolls: one stationary scroll and one orbiting scroll that rotates. Both scrolls are mated together to form the compression chamber with an output line at the center. As air is sucked into the chamber, the orbiting scroll compresses it during the rotation movement further towards the output line. There are no oil filters or oil condensate treatment needed, as the main lubricating system is located outside the compression chamber.

Oil-Free Rotary Tooth Compressors

Oil-free rotary tooth compressors are another technology where there are two separate chambers. Instead of scrolls that rotate, there are smaller rotors on gear wheels that move in opposite directions in the compression chamber. The rotors displace the air within the chamber and compresses it. Then a rotor opens the discharge port to allow the compressed air to move into processes.

What to Consider When Evaluating Oil-Free Compressors

When selecting oil-free compressors, a manufacturer has to evaluate different oil-free compressor systems based on the quality of the sealing systems. If there is even one area of the lubrication system or the sealing system that is not sealed properly, compressed air will be able to pick up the entering oil. Yet the market for oil-free screw compressors is steadily growing as varying price ranges may allow smaller manufacturers with tight budgets to find the oil-free compressors that work well for their operations.

Oil-Free Compressors Vital for Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries

For medical and pharmaceutical industries, the need for compressed air is vital for their operations. More companies are turning to oil-free compressors as an application solution. Also, technology is creating new innovations in this market, as many oil free compressor companies are adding smart technologies into their products for additional monitoring of their systems. Contact JHFOSTER to assist you in your industrial compressed air needs.