Rotary screw air compressors are also available in two primary applications: oil free and oil injected. Here’s a breakdown:
Oil Free – External gears synchronize the position of the counter-rotating screw elements, and, because the rotors do not come in contact and create friction, no lubrication is needed within the compression chamber. As a result, the compressed air is oil-free. Precision engineering within the housing keeps pressure leakage (and drops) from the pressure side to the inlet at a minimum. And because the internal pressure ratio is limited by difference in air temperature between the inlet and discharge ports, oil-free screw compressors are frequently built with several stages and inter-stage cooling to maximize the pressure reach. The gearbox driving the mechanism does contain lubricants; oil-free refers to the compression chamber itself, and the delivered air is free of foreign contaminants beyond those found inherently in the air that passes through the intake.
Oil-Lubricated – In liquid-injected rotary screw air compressors, a liquid is injected into the compression chamber to cool and lubricate the compressor elements moving parts, to cool the air being compressed in the chamber, and to help minimize leaks from returns into the chamber during discharge. While oil is the most common liquid used today because of its lubricating and sealing properties, water and other polymers are sometimes used. The oil is then separated and passes through a filter and cooler before it cycles back into the process again. The compressed air can still be hot and often times is run through a cooler, depending on end usage.