In any compressed air system, properly treating the generated air prior to use is essential, but oftentimes picking the right air treatment equipment can be overwhelming. To select the right air treatment equipment, you first need to understand your application, environment and requirements. Knowing the system pressure, operating temperature, airflow, port sizes, etc will ensure you select the right air treatment equipment for the application. You also need to determine what class of air will be required. If the facility requires a more stringent ISO class of air, the quantity and sophistication of the air treatment equipment will change. As a general rule of thumb, always choose parts that have been thoroughly tested and designed to withstand the toughest operation, vibration, and impact conditions.
In a properly designed compressed air system, air treatment takes place in the compressor room (right after generation and before drying and right after drying) and at the point of use. Point of use air treatment units are commonly referred to as FRLs, which stands for Filter, Regulator, and Lubricator. FRLs provide a point of use filtration, management, and treatment for compressed air. In most applications, this point of use control is imperative for maintaining the health of your production equipment. Keep reading for an overview of the available types of FRLs.
Parker offers the following FRLs for use with a Transair aluminum piping compressed air system:
Keep in mind, that not every system will require all five of these FRLs, but EVERY system needs at least some basic level of filtration to prevent piping and/or machinery failure. As previously stated, knowing your application and requirements will determine the appropriate mix of Filters, regulators, and lubricators.
A particulate filter will remove solid particles, as well as bulk liquids. These types of filters are ideal for removing pipe scale, rust, pipe dope, and other solid particles or debris that may break free upstream and travel downstream to the point where the filter is installed. All generated compressed air should pass through a dryer being used, but a particulate filter can provide extra protection from water and oil entering the machinery. Particulate filters are designed to capture particles down to 5 microns. For a size comparison, a human red blood cell is 8 microns. When installing filters, particulate filters can be used as stand-alone elements, or as a pre-filter for coalescing filters.
A coalescing filter will remove liquid aerosols as well as sub-micron particles. The main goal of a coalescing filter is to remove 99.9% of the water and oil aerosols that might be present in the compressed air system. This filter will not remove vapors, only liquid aerosols, and sub-microns particles. The filter element in a coalescing filter removes particles down to 0.01 microns. For a size comparison, the average bacteria cell is 2 microns! Due to the sensitivity of the filter element, a coalescing filter should never be used on its own, For proper filtration, a particulate filter should be used as a pre-filter to a coalescing filter.
A pressure regulator controls the outlet pressure at the desired location in a compressed air system. The pressure is controlled by dialing in the desired pressure then an internal control spring will either raise or lower the flow of air which then raises or lowers the pressure in the pipe. Regulators are used in applications where the pressure needs to be heavily controlled for energy conservations, personal safety, or process control. A pressure regulator can also be used to transform a volatile supply of air into a controlled, constant supply.
A filter / regulator combines the functions of a pressure regulator with a particulate filter. This combined unit is ideal for installations with space constraints that require filters, controlled compressed air. This combination unit uses the same 5-micron filter element found in Parker's stand-alone particulate filters. This unit does not compromise performance for its compact footprint.
A lubricator provides a fine mist of lubrication oil for downstream applications. Lubricators can be set to deliver just the right amount of oil to lubricate pneumatic tools, air motors, and other pneumatic equipment while avoiding flooding the system with oil mist. A lubricator should only be used for applications that require trace amounts of oil in the compressed air system. These unit should be installed after the filters and close to the point of use to ensure the oil mist reaches its desired location.
Parker offers a complete line of air preparation (FRL) options for use with our Transair aluminum piping for compressed air systems. Transair offers stand-alone units such as filters, regulators, lubricators, filter/regulators as well as two or three-piece combination units. Our combination units combine a filter/regulator and lubricator (two-piece) or a filter, regulator, and lubricator (three-piece). The choice between our combination units depends on space constraints and personal preference. For more information on Transair aluminum piping and our FRL offering, please visit www.parker.com/transair.
This post was contributed by Jim Tuma, marketing services manager, Parker Fluid System Connectors Division.