Manufacturing News

Effective solutions for compressed air systems

Many improvements have been made in compressor design but attention is now turning to what goes in them. Katherine Crichton.

WITH climate change the hot topic across all corners of the globe, manufacturers are increasingly investing in new technologies to reduce their impact on the environment and become ‘greener’.

With the introduction of MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standard) advances in design and performance of air compressors has necessitated improvements in lubricants, resulting in not only environmental benefits but many advantages to the compressor itself.

According to Simon Wood, national sales manager, Australia and NZ from Boge Compressors, the change from predominantly mineral oils to semi and synthetic lubricants has resulted in many benefits for manufacturers.

“These lubricants can help minimise things like oil carry over as well as reduce operating temperatures and wear on components,” Wood told Manufacturers Monthly.

“They can also reduce energy consumption, decrease service costs, minimise noise levels and significantly increase compressor’s total life span,” he said.

While many of these developments have been driven by demands for longer lasting compressor lubricants, particularly for rotary screw compressors, an increased awareness of health and safety and environmental issues has further encouraged the development of these lubricants, as Dino Alessio, marketing manager with Champion Compressors notes.

“Around 20 years ago industry.was less vigilant regarding lubricant spills. There would be a stained spot next to the compressor, otherwise called contaminated soil, and it would cost companies a fortune to clean up.

“These days, there is an increased awareness that something needs to be done,” he said.

The change of attitude has translated into the increasing use of biodegradable or non-hydrocarbon lubricants, which can offer manufacturers sheer stability and more economical options for lubricant disposal.

“These lubricants have a much higher flash point than a compressor unit running a mineral oil. The lower volatility of the synthetics makes the possibility of an ignition caused by broken down bearings less likely,” Alessio explained.

“Because the lubricants are also biodegradable, usually they are able to be discharged to sewer (with permission from the relevant authorities)eliminating the need for oil/water separators,” he said.

The excellent oxidation resistance of the synthetic base fluids also makes the lubricants extremely resistant to viscosity increase and the development of varnishes, which Alessio says can be a common problem of compressed air systems.

“Compressors, especially if they employ hydrocarbon-based lubricants and are run at high temperatures, are susceptible to varnishing. Lubricant varnish can clog up the coolers and cause damage to the compressed air system. Often this damage can only be remedied at a cost through chemical cleaning,” he said.

The solution

Despite the benefits these lubricants can offer manufacturers, there are still some key challenges preventing mass adoption.

Wood says concerns about the lubricants are mainly derived around cost, including the removal and replacement of old lubricants from systems, as well as initial purchase cost of new lubricants.

“Another challenge is being able to demonstrate the advantages of such lubricants effectively, and to convince the customers the new lubricants offer much more than mineral ones,” Wood said.

“We address these concerns by marketing the product and educating potential users of the significant benefits and value of using such lubricants in their compressed air systems.

“Customers are shown case studies and are encouraged to speak to companies that are already using the products so they can see the differences for themselves,” he said.

Alessio says it is also important for manufacturers to look at the overall cost of production rather than just focusing on the initial capital cost.

“When we speak to the floor manager, they are very interested to hear the lubricant is longer lasting, but the procurement officers often just focus on price.

“When you consider lubricants often make up five percent of the cost of a compressor, often manufacturers just want to make their product look less expensive, but they are failing to weigh up the advantages such as improved compressor performance,” Alessio explained.

When asked about the future of lubricants in compressed air systems both Alessio and Wood believe oil injected rotary screw compressor lubricants are here to stay, largely due to end user preference.

“Lubricants are, and will continue to be a very important component in a compressors manufacturer, especially with new manufacturing materials becoming available and energy reduction being a major issue. Also environmentally, these lubricants are better and can, and do, reduce pollution and waste,” Wood said.

For more information email:

Champion Compressors – pissia@champion.com.au

Boge Compressors – s.wood@boge.de

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