December 10, 2020
There are two main types of compressed air: “Energy air” and “Active air.”
As the name indicates, energy air is used for storing and transmitting energy required for mechanical work. Specifically, that means that this type of compressed air is used to power pneumatic tools – from a jackhammer to a dental drill.
Active air refers to compressed air that comes into contact with an end product. It is used to better preserve food and beverages, in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors and in the semiconductor and electronics industries, to name a few.
While the quality of energy air often is of secondary importance, active air usually has to be of a higher purity. That means contaminants, such as oil, water or dust, have to be filtered out. An apt comparison would be that the water needed to power a turbine or flush a toilet can be of much lower quality than drinking water or the distilled water used for experiments.
Next, you have to decide whether you want/need a piston compressor or a screw compressor.
Piston compressors cost less and are easier to maintain. They are primarily used for applications that do not need a lot of compressed air and/or only need part of the time, for example in a garage. They are also noisier, which makes them an imperfect solution in a setting such as a dentist’s office or a laboratory.
The other option is a rotary screw compressor. Here, the initial investment is higher but these air compressors have many advantages. They operate at a higher speed and can produce more compressed air. In addition, they are quieter, have a small footprint and are better suited for continuous operation. Perhaps most importantly, they are more energy efficient.
Rotary screw compressors come in two versions: Fixed speed and variable speed. Fixed speed compressors are the right solution for applications that require a steady flow of air. Variable speed compressors, like the VSD+ from Atlas Copco, are perfect for applications where the air demand fluctuates. They are even more energy efficient, meaning that their higher initial investment can easily be recouped through energy savings down the road.
Oil-injected and oil-free versions are available for both piston and rotary screw compressors. That gives businesses a wide range of options to pick the industrial compressor that is right for their applications … whether they operate a rollercoaster, a Formula 1 team, an oil tanker or a small manufacturing plant.
Ask an air system professional about the best industrial compressor options for your needs.