If you operate a manufacturing plant, you will probably understand the importance of compressed air as an energy source in industrial settings. It comes into use in a variety of day-to-day operations for diverse product lines. Whether you manufacture general goods, furniture, plastics, rubber, or food and beverages, you need compressors to run the unit. They also play a significant role in the construction, mining, and metal fabrication industries.
Modern mechanical systems rely on compressed air for different applications, such as operating tools and lifting equipment, spray finishing, painting, drilling, shot blasting, cleaning, cooling, and heating. While air compressors have extensive use in manufacturing operations, you need to choose the right one that matches your needs. It makes sense to brush up your basics on different types of compressors so that you can make an apt choice. Here are the three types that manufacturers should know about.
Rotary screw compressors
A common type of compressor manufacturers should know about is rotary screw compressors, which are more suited for stationary applications and larger plants. The machine generates energy via two rotors turning in opposite directions. As they move, the air gets trapped between them, and pressure builds up within the housing. The machine is meant for continuous use as it comes with an internal cooling system.
Rotary screw compressors cost more than reciprocating units. But they tend to last longer due to fewer moving parts and lesser wear and tear. They have an independent lubrication circuit, so the oil they use is specific to the machinery. Additionally, you must know that they require routine maintenance to run seamlessly.
Manufacturers seldom mind spending a tad more on these units as they have a high airflow delivery and long life. At the same time, they are relatively compact in size, so space constraints are not a reason to worry. Rotary screw compressors are ideal for high duty cycle applications because they are designed to run constantly. Even as you need to invest in routine maintenance, it isn’t much work as just changing the oil and filters is enough.
This variant is most common for mobile applications, making them apt for small manufacturing units. A Reciprocating Air Compressor has multiple moving parts that need lubrication to operate smoothly. It comprises a piston inside a cylinder, and the piston compresses the air to build pressure. But it is not meant for continuous use, though you can pick a multi-stage compressor if you need more power. A single-stage variant is apt for smaller projects such as metalworking and woodworking, while the multi-stage option is ideal for operations like auto assembly and maintenance.
These units are the largest and heaviest as compared to the other variants. It means they will require more space on the shop floor, and it can be a hassle for smaller factories. Since they have multiple moving parts, maintenance requirements and oil costs can be a burden in the long run. Further, reduction of air temperatures before it reaches tools and equipment can be a concern.
The best thing about reciprocating compressors is that they do not cost a fortune, which makes them suitable for small manufacturers with tight budgets. Moreover, they are a perfect choice if you need them for low-duty cycle operations. They can give you a good start, though you can move to a more powerful option as your business grows and operational needs increase over time.
Rotary vane compressors
The least common type of air compressor used in industrial settings is the rotary vane compressor. The machine has a cylindrical casing with two openings, one for suction and the other for discharge. A rotor is placed eccentrically in the casing, and compression occurs when a refrigerant flows into the chamber and air reduces in the desired volume due to eccentric rotation.
The variant is used in diverse manufacturing applications including woodworking tools, cooling operations, material handling operations, paper pressing, and printing pumps and equipment. But these compressors are relatively less popular as compared to the other two types, so finding service parts can be challenging at times.
The compressor has fewer moving parts like the rotary screw variant, so it is less susceptible to regular wear and tear. Its compact size is another benefit that makes it apt for manufacturers struggling with space constraints. Additionally, it is great for continuous duty and provides consistent airflow to tools or equipment. The initial purchase cost is on the lower side, making it a good option for budget-conscious manufacturers.
Factors to consider for choosing the right air compressor
Now that you know about the different kinds of air compressors, selecting the right one for your manufacturing business will be simpler. Here are the factors you must bear in mind while choosing the apt one:
- Air quality – Oil-powered air compressors are not right for clean manufacturing environments because the oil used to lubricate may contaminate the air. Conversely, oil-free machines are the best because they curb the risk of contamination and damage to products.
- Energy-efficiency – Spending a bit more on an energy-efficient air compressor makes sense if you run high-end manufacturing operations and want to save up on energy bills in the long run.
- Size and performance – The size and performance of the unit are also significant aspects to bear in mind while choosing one. Small, lightweight units work well if you have space limitations, but ensure that they do not fall short on the performance front. Spending on large, high-power variants is worthwhile if they suffice your requirements and fit into the available space.
You must also consider other factors like the initial purchase price, cost of maintenance, and longevity because money is crucial for any business. The right choice sets up your business for success, so good research is vital. If you are still unsure about picking the right air compressor for your business, seeking guidance from an expert is a good idea. They will assess your current and long-term requirements and offer the best recommendation to match them.