Professionals in dozens of industries have devised time- and labor-saving uses for compressed air. The applications of air compressors are nearly endless. The food on your table, the painkillers in your cabinet, the car you drive to work, the wooden chair you sit in — compressed air plays a role in their production in one way or another. We reap the benefits of compressed air constantly in our daily lives, but we think little about it.
Compressed air is an integral part of modern society, increasing productivity, precision and speed in a broad range of industries. It can strengthen power tools to make construction easier. It can portion ingredients with perfect, dependable accuracy, eliminating human error. It can increase the speed at which products move along assembly lines. Compressed air is an important tool for both mass production and do-it-yourself projects.
What Industries Use Air Compressors?
Each industry has unique standards, requirements and varying levels of demand. Businesses in some industries require several air compressors connected with one another, while companies in other industries fare perfectly fine with a single compressor. Due to this variation, experts have fine-tuned air compressor technology to fit each industry best. Different air compressor models and accessories are best suited to different industries. Compressed air has become commonplace in much of modern production. Among the industries that use compressed air are:
- The automotive industry
- The pharmaceutical industry
- The railroad industry
- The food and beverage industry
- The agricultural industry
- The woodworking industry
- The manufacturing industry
Professionals in all these industries have streamlined processes, improved precision and reduced labor demands with compressed air, and each industry has unique applications for compressed air. As a result, industries tend to use specific models with various advantages. Discover the different air compressor model preferences per industry.
Air compressors come in handy along every step of automotive production — from assembly to painting to quality control. Compressed air in the automotive industry has made vehicle assembly and maintenance less physically demanding and less time-consuming. Tasks that would take hours now take only moments with an air compressor. As a result, automotive factories are more efficient, and do-it-yourself vehicle projects are more accessible. Compressed air is useful for powering the pneumatic tools necessary for vehicle construction and repair.
For the automotive industry, the best option is a rotary screw compressor, which uses a pair of rotating helical screws to force air through the chamber. These air compressors offer continuous airflow with little downtime. They are easy to maintain, with fewer parts than other compressors. They produce less heat and operate at high horsepower, even in extreme temperature environments. They’re ideal for automotive factories full of heat-producing machinery or garages without temperature control.
The most advanced rotary screw compressor is a Quincy QGS model with 5-100 horsepower. With its low oil-carryover, this model is ideal for protecting automotive pneumatic tools. Additionally, its vibration isolation makes for quiet operation. This promotes operator comfort and safety, whether in a factory or a garage. The QGS model is also commonly chosen for the automotive industry because of its easy maintenance — the spin-on filter makes preventative maintenance simple, and one access panel contains all of the serviceable components.
In the pharmaceutical industry, precision and cleanliness are top priorities. For the most reliably accurate results, pharmaceutical companies use air compressors. In fact, compressed air was likely involved in creating almost every medicinal pill or tablet you’ve ever encountered. Laboratory professionals use pneumatic tools to portion ingredients exactly per their formulas. The hardening and coating of medicines also require compressed air. Even the plastic containers for packaging medicines are molded and labeled with compressed air.
The most popular air compressors in pharmaceuticals are oil-free compressors. An oil-free compressor provides the most sterile air possible, which is why they’re a necessity for pharmaceutical environments. Even the tiniest amount of oil contamination can compromise the air in a sterile industry. A QOF 2-30 horsepower Oil-Free Scroll Compressor meets the Class Zero Standard applied to many pharmaceutical facilities.
An oil-injected compressor might be fine for other industries, like automotive or railroad. But critical environments with high-sterility standards require oil-free compressors. You’ll find oil-free compressors in most pharmaceutical, food production and medical industries.
Even in manufacturing and factory environments, many industries are switching to oil-free compressors due to their cost savings and cleaner air production. Oil-free compressors are also a more environmentally-conscious choice, as they tend to require less power to operate.
The railroad industry’s need for compressed air is unique. When it comes to cargo or passenger trains, air compressors need to be able to function with impure ambient air containing dust, moisture or dirt, as well as in extreme temperatures. Impurities can lead to compromised lubrication in the air compressor system, rendering it unable to do its job. This would be disastrous, as several elements of a train require reliable compressed air.
If you’ve ever ridden a train, you’ve experienced compressed-air-powered components, whether or not you realized it. The doors, brakes and suspension of a train all rely on compressed air to function. Think about what could happen if one of these components failed to work. Failing doors result in trapped passengers. Unplanned halting causes delays and expensive repairs, while failing brakes are obviously dangerous for everyone involved. A poor suspension system means turbulence — for passengers, this would be unpleasant, and for cargo, this could mean damage.
To prevent any of these scenarios, reliable compressed air is a must. The best option for the considerable demand of railway operation is the QGD 15-60 horsepower Gear Drive Compressor. Up to six of them can network together for heavy-duty applications. Providing compressed air to dozens of doors, a suspension system and brakes certainly qualifies as a heavy-duty application. For the safety of everyone in or near a rolling train, reliability is paramount.
Food and Beverage Industry
Food and beverage production requires sanitary compressed air, free of impurities. Air compressors help speed the process of food production and limit waste. In the food and beverage industry, compressed air:
- Moves products along assembly lines.
- Peels and cuts products.
- Inserts fillings into products like pastries.
- Cools products quickly for faster processing.
- Freezes products to eliminate bacterial concerns.
- Packages products with uniformity.
- Blows away crumbs to avoid cross-contamination.
Many food items in your pantry and refrigerator were produced or packaged with compressed air. Using compressed air allows food and beverage factories to generate more products more quickly, more easily and with improved uniformity.
To prevent the spread of microorganisms and food-borne illness, the food and beverage industry requires air compressors that will maintain high cleanliness standards. Much like the pharmaceutical industry, this application benefits from oil-free compressors. For higher-sanitation standards, supplementary air-treatment products are often used alongside air compressors. These products include high-pressure filters and heavy-duty mist eliminators.
Mist eliminators are specialty filters that remove oil, moisture and particles from compressed air. Additional air-filtration systems like these are vital for a critical environment like food processing. If impurities contact the food, consumers may ingest bacteria or mold. This can cause painful sickness or even death. Contaminated compressed air leads to the spread of dangerous microorganisms — an oil-free compressor with multiple filters is necessary for the food and beverage industry.
Agriculture is a timeless industry that will never be obsolete. For thousands of years, people have engaged in crop and animal husbandry. Everyone needs to eat, after all. The days of oxen-drawn equipment and hand-sown crops are long gone in favor of more automated and efficient processes.
Modern technology has increased production in the agricultural industry. This benefits all of humanity by lowering food costs and increasing food availability. On farms across the world, compressed air irrigates, sprays crop seeds, operates dairy machines, inflates tractor tires and ventilates greenhouses, among other applications.
Jobs like these require tough compressors. Unexpected downtime and emergency maintenance can hinder production or damage great quantities of food items. This can have expensive consequences. That’s why a cast-iron compressor with an advanced lubrication system, like a QP 5-15 horsepower Industrial Duty Compressor, is the best option for agricultural use.
These compressors last longer than others under conditions of heavy usage. Their pressure-lubricated system makes for smoother operation. Additionally, they have a decreased risk of overheating, which is important for outdoor use in extreme weather. With pre-installed oil filter and pressure gauges, maintenance is quick and uncomplicated. Since unexpected downtime of machinery is so detrimental to the agricultural industry, this is a major benefit. Easy preventative maintenance allows for smoother and more consistent operation.
Compressed air can increase the capability and efficiency of power tools. This is especially useful when it comes to woodworking. Large-scale construction projects, sawmills, wood flooring companies and furniture producers benefit from compressed air — it powers drills, nail guns, stain guns and other common woodworking tools. These pneumatic tools come in handy for several woodworking applications, including:
- Securing pieces of furniture together.
- Moving and sort large loads of lumber.
- Cutting lumber at precise measurements.
- Coating surfaces with varnish or finish.
- Automatically inserting nails.
Using compressed air during these steps in the woodworking process prioritizes both safety and efficiency. Air compression minimizes the time and labor required to produce finished products.
Woodworking can present a harsh environment, which is why air compressors in woodworking need to be reliable and provide consistent air pressure. While large manufacturers will fare best with a robust rotary screw air compressor, smaller operations, such as custom woodworking shops, will likely want a reciprocating piston compressor, which forces air through a series of valves.
With strong cast-iron components and minimal maintenance requirements, the QR-25 model is a viable option for a reciprocating piston compressor. It’s flexible enough to meet the needs of various applications, with between 1 and 25 horsepower. This is important because using more horsepower or pressure than necessary will increase operating costs. Providing compressed air to a single nail gun requires much less power than automating entire factory processes.
In addition to its customizable settings, the QR-25 is pressure-lubricated. Partnered with the model’s cast-iron cylinders and valve seals, pressure-lubrication will allow the air compressor to continue functioning for a long lifespan.
Air compression is a necessity in manufacturing processes — factories rely on compressed air as much as they rely on water and electricity. Pneumatic tools, whether hand-operated or automated, make every step of a manufacturing process easier and faster. Compressed air is useful for precise, powerful and efficient stamping, mixing, injecting, clamping, cleaning, separating and many other manufacturing processes.
Different types of compressors perform these functions best. Manufacturers generally use either rotary screw compressors or reciprocating piston compressors. One of the main benefits of a reciprocating piston compressor is that it can operate at 500 pounds per square inch in gauge (PSIG), while a rotary screw compressor can only reach about 150 PSIG. Whether this increase in pressure is necessary depends on the specific needs for compressed air.
Additionally, many manufacturing companies are opting for environmentally-friendly purifiers to separate hazardous waste from condensate. Moisture buildup has to be removed from an air compression system to avoid harboring bacteria and mold, but potentially contaminated condensate is not safe to dump down the drain.
Because it can contain lubricant oil or particulates, liquid waste from an air compressor can cause harm in plumbing and waterways. To address this issue, many manufacturers purchase condensate purifiers. The QCS Series of Condensate Purifiers allows for the safer removal of hazardous condensate.
Air Compressors Improve Efficiency in Many Industries
Air compressors have thousands of applications, expanding with experimentation every year. Whether we realize it or not, compressed air technology is an integral part of all of our lives.
Compressed air precisely portions medication ingredients to ensure its safety and effectiveness and packages food for a longer shelf life without contamination. Compressed air fills the tires of the vehicles we use for transportation and opens and shuts the doors on the subway and powers its suspension for a smooth journey.
Using compressed air reduces the need for hard physical labor, improves precision and accuracy and streamlines manufacturing processes. This results in less expensive and time-consuming production of goods, lowering costs for producers and consumers. The increases the accessibility of goods that we need every day — from food to vehicles to furniture.
Learn More About the Many Applications of Compressed Air
Different air compressor models and filtration systems work best for each industry. When cleanliness is needed, especially for food or medicine production, oil-free compressors provide the purest compressed air. For heavy-duty applications, some industries need to combine multiple air compressors into one cohesive system, as is the case in the railroad industry. For this, midrange horsepower gear drive compressors make the best choice.
To learn more about the benefits and applications of various air compressors, contact Quincy Compressor today. We can connect you with an authorized dealer representative to help you determine your air compressor needs. Whether you need compressed air in your home garage or your high-operating factory, Quincy can provide the right compressed air technology for you.