Air Supply UK: Specialist Compressed Air Engineers

Published: 25/11/2021

Oil free air compressors: Pros and Cons

There are many different types of air compressors available and choosing the right one will depend on your needs and the application of the air compressor. 

For some applications of air compressors, purity of air is essential. As a result, oil free air compressors have been developed to meet quality standards and ensure safe manufacturing processes and end customers. 

Oil free air compressors provide a great solution for compressed air applications where air purity is important. In this guide, we’ll take a look at what oil free models are and their pros and cons to help you decide which air compressor is right for your application. 

What is an oil free air compressor?

Air compressors usually need to be lubricated with oil to ensure they keep running properly and to prevent friction between the moving parts. Lubricating oil is used for the pistons that draw in and compress the air inside. 

However, oil free air models can draw in, compress and store air with no added lubrication. The components inside the air compressor are coated with Teflon which provides a permanent lubrication and means that oil or additional lubrication is not required. 

The lack of lubrication is the biggest advantage of an oil free air compressor in comparison to a lubricated air compressor. 

Pros of oil free air compressors 

Less maintenance 

A normal air compressor needs regular oil changes, the regularity of which depends on the use and design of the air compressor. 

Once the oil has been changed, it also needs to be disposed of too which can take time and money. With an oil free air compressor, you do not need to worry about any of this and the lack of oil can make it a cheaper option over the long term. 

Lighter 

Oil free air compressors have fewer parts inside so they weigh less than regular air compressors, making them a great choice for small to medium sized applications. 

Lower costs 

Thanks to their simple design, oil free air compressors usually cost less than oil lubricated compressors and they are built to last. With fewer parts inside, they do not require repair or replacement as often. 

Oil free air compressors can reduce operating costs by:

  • Removing the cost of collecting and disposing of oil 
  • Remove the cost of replacing air and oil separator elements 
  • Remove the cost of ruined products, lost production or damaged reputation 
  • Lower energy costs 

Oil free air compressors can also reduce maintenance costs by:

  • Removing the need of expensive air filters to clean compressor air 
  • Minimising downstream labour and outage related costs 

Environmentally friendly

Getting rid of oil from the air compressor is better for the environment because contaminants are not released into the air. 

By minimising oil usage, it also minimises the amount of oil that must be changed and disposed of. In addition, when running an oil lubricated model, large amounts of oil contaminated condensate which must also be properly disposed of in order to protect the environment. 

Reduced risk of contamination 

When compressed air encounters an end product, there is always a risk of contamination. The best way to avoid this is by not introducing oil into the airstream in the first place. 

Class 0 air allows businesses to avoid contamination risks which can increase the risks of product recalls and unnecessary downtime for a business. Contamination can harm brand reputation, the bottom line of a business and the health of customers so it’s important to avoid this in certain applications. 

Preventing contamination can protect assets too. Oil lubricated compressors always have traces of oil in the air they produce. These oil traces can build up on pneumatic equipment and other assets that require compressed air which can increase maintenance and replacement costs. 

Cons of oil free air compressors 

Whilst oil free air compressors have a number of benefits, there are also a number of cons to consider too to make sure you choose the right air compressor for your needs. 

Lower lifespan 

oil free air compressors are cheaper than their alternatives but they can have a lower lifespan than oil air compressors because the Teflon coating can wear off and the parts will become vulnerable to friction induced damage. 

Oil lubricated air compressors tend to last longer because the oil can be changed on a regular basis as and when it is required. 

Noise 

Oil free air compressors can be noisier than regular compressors due to the parts inside that rub together. However, modern oil free air compressors are now relatively quiet which is achieved through sound dampening and soundproofing techniques. 

Which industries are oil free air compressors best suited to? 

Compressed air from an air compressor comes into contact with almost everything, including finished products. Ensuring that air supply does not become contaminated is essential in the following industries: 

Medical and pharmaceutical

In this industry, cleanliness is a critical factor in the quality and performance of the end products. The product being produced will dictate the risk tolerance for contaminants such as oil or moisture. Due to the critical nature of the products, every manufacturing touchpoint such as tablet coating and product drying needs to be reviewed and this will include the risk that comes from compressed air too. 

Food and beverage 

It’s essential to avoid product contamination which can lead to product recalls and damaged brand reputation. An oil free air compressor can prevent the air supply from being contaminated and remove the risk.

Electronics 

For applications such as PC board cleaning, delivering clean and dry compressed air is critical for minimising contamination in the end product. The highest class of air purity allows manufacturers to protect sensitive manufacturing equipment and the finished products. 

Textiles 

A high quality stream of compressed air is important for preventing fabric staining and loss of production. Having the highest class of air purity is essential for delivering high quality, oil free manufactured products. 

If you’d like more information on the pros and cons of oil free air compressors or which compressor to choose for your application, please contact our expert team

 

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