Who Needs an Oil Free Air Compressor?

picture of a oil free air compressorMany air compressors on the market today are designed to operate with oil, which helps prevent air from escaping, helps to clean foreign particulate matter from the air and otherwise tends to help most modern air compressors work better. When the air/oil mixture is expelled from the compressor, it goes into a separator unit that is designed to separate the air from the oil. The air continues on to the output valve or hose, while the oil is filtered and then recycled back through the air compressor. The problem is that there are no separator units on the market today that have the ability to completely separate all of the oil from the air. Therefore, without exception, all air compressors that use oil end up expelling at least a little bit of it with the compressed air that it generates.

Plainly having oil in the compressed air is a major problem in many different applications. One of the most important being air that is compressed the purpose of being breathed. Examples of compressed air meant to be breathed range from scuba tanks used by divers to oxygen tanks used by firemen. Obviously this also applies to almost all compressed air used in medical applications, from oxygen given directly to patients to the air picks used by dentists. Another major application of compressed air meant for breathing is the air that is carried about airplanes to keep the cabin pressurized during flight. The military also has a number of more specialized compressed air for breathing, such as the air used aboard submarines, in high altitude aircraft, or in the space program. In none of these instances would oil in the air be desirable or tolerated.

It is often the case that oil could poses serious problems when it comes to other gasses that are compressed other than just air. Oxygen, helium, hydrogen and any of a number of other specialized gasses are routinely compressed and stored for a wide range of purposes, from blowing up balloons to operating atomic colliders and in almost all cases these gasses have to meet certain purity standards in order to be sold legitimately. These purity standards do not, in most cases, make allowances for oil; therefore oil-based air compressors are frequently not appropriate for the compression of these other gasses.

Oil can also cause major problems if the compressed air is to be used in the production or operation of highly sensitive equipment or technology. For example, most assembly lines producing high technology devices and their components today use lots of compressed air, as is the case with almost all factories. However, compressed air with oil in it could cause major problems to sensitive electronic components, optical devices (like lenses), and magnetic devices and so on and so forth. Therefore, once again, air compressors that use oil are simply not acceptable for these applications.

Oil-based air compression works very well in many cases and in many applications; however, as illustrated above, this is certainly not the case in all applications. For this reason, most major manufacturers of air compressors offer both oil and oil free varieties. Depending on how you intend to use the air, an oil free air compressor might be the right investment for you or your company.


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