Oil-free compressed air is crucial for packaging companies as there is zero tolerance for oil vapor presence in production. For a flexible packaging company serving North America’s food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries, detecting oil contamination would mean a facility shutting down, resulting in significant production loss and maintenance costs. In addition, if oil traces reach critical equipment, it could cause damage beyond repair.
To maintain a smooth, consistent, clean air supply for its daily operations, the packaging company chose to work with Modern Compressed Air, an ELGi distributor and service provider in Iowa. The resulting compressed air solution replaced the original 6 oil-flooded rotary screw air compressors with 3 ELGi oil-free air compressors.
“Many packaging manufacturing processes rely on compressed air, and the air quality is paramount to daily operations,” said Tanner Hilton, Sales Manager at Modern Compressed Air. “One of the company’s goals is to transition to oil-free compressors that can provide reliable compressed air without worrying about oil contamination.”
Contamination downtime is one of the most critical challenges packaging companies face today. Oil-flooded air compressors use oil to seal, lubricate, and cool during the compression stage. Because oil is used so abundantly in the compressed air process, the potential for contamination is elevated. Even with proper filtration, oil vapor can be passed downstream. The oil trace could build up in the air system over time and eventually jam the key components, leading to facility shutdowns. Moreover, the oil vapor could reach the equipment from other parts of the factory and cause irreversible damage, significantly driving up costs.
“When the company used traditional oil-flooded air compressors in the facility, they would often see oil contamination occur during the process," Hilton said. “They are looking for less contamination in the air stream. The company also uses desiccant dryers to remove the moisture, and it can get pretty ugly when they try to get oil out of dryers during maintenance. ELGi’s oil-free air compressors help solve these challenges.”
In addition to removing the risk of contamination downtime, the facility has complete redundancy with its three ELGi OF170 compressors. The demand for the facility is met with two of the ELGi OF170s. The third, recently installed unit allows the facility to take one offline for service, so the facility doesn’t experience any downtime or impact on productivity.
ELGi is one of the few compressor companies to design and manufacture air ends for oil-free air compressors. ELGi’s oil-free air compressors are designed to provide class zero oil-free air without injecting oil into the air compressor. This eliminates the possibility of oil contamination and ensures the compressed air meets ISO8573-1 class 0 oil standards.
The rotors and housing are coated with PTFE-based food-grade PP coating to resist corrosion and endure high temperatures up to 482°F (250°). This results in optimum long-term performance with no loss in efficiency. Typically, an oil-flooded air compressor must go through a service every quarter. The mechanics must run through a comprehensive list of preventive maintenance measures, including checking the oil level, changing oil, changing filters, inspecting oil leakage, etc. As the company provides food, beverage, and pharmaceutical services, it must comply with a demanding hygiene standard for its production process.
With the oil-flooded compressors, the company needs to run food-grade oil, which has only half the lifespan of regular synthetic oil. This means the oil needs to be changed regularly, leading to higher maintenance costs. The company can significantly reduce the maintenance schedule with ELGi's oil-free air compressors, as oil is out of the formula. Oil-free compressors also eliminate the need for dumping oil downstream and save the company from oil disposal fees. In the long run, ELGi's oil-free compressors give the company more uptime and significantly fewer maintenance costs.
“ELGi’s oil-free air compressor offers an economical option with its impressive uptime and low maintenance cost,” Hilton said. “Going oil-free is a worthy investment that will benefit the company in the long run.”
Variable Frequency Drive
Another appreciated feature of ELGi’s oil-free compressor is the Variable Frequency Drive (VFD). Unlike traditional fixed-speed compressors, variable-speed compressors equipped with VFD can vary the speed of the motor and ensure that the compressor does not consume excess energy. This means compressors with VFD save up to 35% of energy costs compared with a fixed-speed unit. More importantly, VFD allows the facility to maintain stable pressure throughout.
“The equipment in the facility is from all over the world, and they all have different requirements in terms of energy. So, when the processes turn on and off all over the plant, it becomes difficult to react and maintain a stable airflow plant,” Hilton explained. “The VFD enables us to smooth the process and keep the compressors in the idle mode without turning them off.”
Modern Compressed Air provides ongoing support, handling equipment checkups and maintenance. In addition, ELGi provides a 48-hour uptime guarantee backed by ample parts supplies and a nimble maintenance team. ELGi also offers a 4-year air end warranty and a 1-year total package warranty at no extra cost nor with hidden conditions.