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The food industry has strict regulations and laws in place to protect the consumer. These cover processing plants at all stages of food production: preparation, processing, manufacturing and packaging. Air compressors are a critical piece of equipment often found in all these processes. They’re also often missed in hazard analysis as a critical control point because compressors are sometimes viewed as a utility. Here, we take a look at the simple steps in compressed air filtration in the food industry that ensure the safe operation of the manufacturing process.
An air compressor system pulls in air from the surrounding atmosphere. This means that the compressed air is potentially full of aerosols, oil vapours (in oil-injected pistons and screw compressors) and particulates that can contaminate the compressed air and potentially cause damage to powered equipment – and even harm to direct users.
Incorporating the correct inline filter can help to eliminate the unwanted contaminants. However, as well as damage to equipment, if contaminated compressed air comes into contact with production equipment, ingredients, packaging or products, the sterile environment is compromised and there is the potential for the presence of microorganisms, among other things.
The presence of contaminants in food manufacturing can lead to health issues for the consumer, reduced product quality or shelf life and the potential for significant damage to the company.
Below are the three main contaminants that can greatly affect the output and quality of compressed air filtration in the food industry:
Particulates are small pieces of solid material, such as dirt, dust and pollen, as well as metal particles that can be caused by pipe corrosion. These are removed with a dry particulate air compressor filter, which has two main functions: interception and diffusion.
Interception: Particles that are small enough to follow the airstream will get caught by a correctly sized filter media. This is more effective on larger particles.
Diffusion: Diffusion occurs when small particles move erratically throughout the intake and filter. This irregular movement caused by the particles colliding is called Brownian motion. Particles moving freely in a system are more likely to interact with the filter media and will be removed from the compressed air stream. Through diffusion, separation of smaller particles is easier than separating larger ones.
An aerosol (abbreviation of “aero-solution”) is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air. Smoke is an aerosol, for example. These are removed with a coalescing air compressor filter and the process consists of bringing small droplets of liquid together in order to form large droplets. As the droplets increase in size, they fall from the filter into a moisture trap.
Vapour refers to a gas phase at a temperature where the same substance can also exist in the liquid or solid state. Clouds and water are an example of this. These vapours are removed with an absorption filter. Absorption is a chemical process which causes vapours to bond with the surface of the filter. Commonly, these use activated charcoal filters due to the high surface area and attraction of coal to the oil vapour. It is common to use a dust air compressor filter after an absorption air compressor filter to ensure no filter particles contaminate the airstream.
You must have the correct air compressor filters in place when seeking optimal compressed air filtration in the food industry. However, it is also vital that the air compressor selected for use is the most appropriate for the application and is cost-effective for the business.
At Glaston, we offer a full air compressor design and installation service to ensure that the needs of your particular processing plant are fully met, along with any hygiene standards. Our team has a wealth of experience in air compressor design and installation for the food industry and will give you peace of mind that your air compressor filters are appropriate, and that the equipment will suit your requirements.
Additionally, we offer a full air compressor maintenance service that not only ensures the longevity of the equipment and efficient functioning but keeps them exceptionally clean. One of the key areas covered by our air compressor maintenance service is the assurance that the filters are clean and functioning to meet food hygiene standards.