Compressed air is often known as “the fourth utility” because of its broad application across a variety of industries. Air compressors are extremely valuable in the food and beverage industry as they provide a clean and efficient tool for packaging and processing. From peeling vegetables to consistently filling pastries, air compressors can streamline food and beverage production to increase productivity and reduce waste.
What Are Screw Air Compressors?
Air compressors are machines that transform power into potential energy using a diesel, electric, gas or other engine to reduce the volume of air. This potential energy is stored as compressed air that can then be used for a variety of applications. Rotary screw air compressors use two interlocking helical screws, called rotors, to pressurize air inside the compressor.
Many screw air compressors use oil to run the motor which turns the male rotor blade. The male rotor then drives the female rotor. An oil film is formed between the two rotors and works as a sealant and coolant in the compression chamber. This means that some oil will be present in the compressed air. To remove any oil particles, the compressed air passes through the sump, or separator tank, which reduces the oil in the air to around three parts per million or less. The purified compressed air then passes through a cooler before it is ready for use.
Screw air compressors are favored in industrial applications because they are very efficient and able to run non-stop. Rotary screws run in a sweeping motion, so they provide a steady flow of air with little pulsation or surging. They are quieter than many other types of air compressors and generate lower temperatures. These air compressors also allow you to get a large volume of compressed air in a smaller space.
Types of Compressed Air in Food and Beverage Production
Compressed air has a wide variety of applications across industries. In the food and beverage industry, air compressors are used in production chains, packaging and cleaning. Generally, there are three different types of compressed air systems in the food and beverage industry:
- Contact: Compressed air that comes in direct contact with food products is categorized as a contact system. This compressed air must be properly purified and filtered to ensure food safety. Maintaining the proper dewpoint of contact compressed air is also essential to prevent microbial growth. In their Compressed Air Best Practice Guideline, the British Compressed Air Society recommends a pressure dewpoint of -40 degrees Fahrenheit for contact compressed air.
- Non-Contact High-Risk: When compressed air is used in the production environment but does not come in direct contact with food products, it is considered a non-contact high-risk system. For example, when compressed air is used to create packaging that will later come in contact with the food product, this is a non-contact high-risk system. The same safety standards applied to contact compressed air should be upheld for non-contact high-risk compressed air systems.
- Non-Contact Low-Risk: In some instances, compressed air does not come in direct contact with any food products or food contact surfaces. When used in pneumatic systems, compressed air powers machines, control valves, air motors or other pneumatic devices. When compressed air does not come in contact with food or food contact surfaces, it does not need to keep such stringent purity standards and should be maintained at a pressure dewpoint of 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Can Rotary Screw Air Compressors Be Used in Food Processing?
Rotary screw air compressors have a variety of uses in food processing. Food grade compressed air can be used for cutting and preparing products or creating clean and consistent packaging. Below are a few common applications of air compressors in the food industry:
- Sorting and Moving Product: Air compressors can be used to move food and ingredients down a process line. For example, powdered products are often pushed through pipes using compressed air. Compressed air cylinders and air hoists are also able to move products more quickly down the line to keep up with necessary production speeds. Compressed air can also be used to power control valves and other pneumatic systems in the automated sorting of products.
- Peeling and Cutting Products: Compressed air can be used to peel fruits and vegetables, such as onions, to prepare them for packaging. A jet of pressurized air removes the peel from the product efficiently and cleanly. Compressed air may also be used to remove shells or peels from nuts. High-pressure compressed air can be used to cut food products and is often a cleaner alternative to knives or blades.
- Filling Pastries: Cakes, pies, cookies and other baked goods may be filled using compressed air to help the liquid filling be distributed evenly each time. This produces a consistent fill as well as cutting down on waste.
- Cooling Products: Air knives are devices positioned above conveyor belts that use compressed air to cool products as they move down the production line. Baked goods are often cooled using streams of compressed air after they leave the oven. Other food products that need to be roasted, such as nuts or coffee beans may be cooled with compressed air. Cooling products with compressed air allows them to be packaged more quickly after baking or roasting for more efficient production.
- Mixing Product: Compressed air may be used to mix dry food products, such as cereal. Air compressors provide an efficient and clean way to mix product that is also gentle enough not to damage the product.
- Freezing Products: Many frozen food processing plants use air compressors to freeze products. The air compressors produce streams of cold, dry air that effectively cools and freezes the product.
- Creating Packaging: Blow-molding can be used to create food packaging containers using an air compressor. Glass or plastic is heated up inside of a mold and then high-pressure compressed air is used to force the material into the shape of the mold. The container is then cooled, often using compressed air, and the mold is removed.
- Cleaning and Filling Packaging: Compressed air can be used to clean containers prior to filling them with products. This can include cans, bottles, bags and other containers. Using compressed air in packaging ensures that packaging stays consistent. Air compressors can also be used to vacuum seal packages after they are filled.
- Nitrogen Generation: Packaging for delicate items, such as chips, sometimes uses nitrogen gas to prevent the product from being crushed. Nitrogen gas is pumped into the package with the help of an air compressor to pressurize the atmosphere inside the packaging.
- Maintaining Cleanliness: Air compressors may be used to remove excess debris or food products from the process line. This is commonly found in the commercial bakeries as compressed air can be used to clean crumbs off of equipment and baked goods, such as bread.
How Can Screw Air Compressors Be Used in the Beverage Industry?
On the production side of the beverage industry, air compressors are used in many of the same ways they are in the food industry. Air compressors assist in packaging and filling to increase efficiency and create consistent products. Air compressors also have many uses on the service end of the beverage industry, as they help power liquid through machines and dispense it evenly. Here are some common applications of air compressors in the beverage industry:
- Fermentation Processes: Compressed air may be used during fermentation when producing wine or beer. The compressed air increases oxygen levels that help bacteria complete the fermentation process.
- Aeration: Air compressors can be used to add more oxygen into a liquid product in a clean manner.
- Water Sterilization: Compressed air can create ozone gas that is used to sterilize water. Ozone works as an oxidizing agent to remove undesirable compounds from water, such as iron or magnesium.
- Quick Thawing Processes: Frozen juice concentrate is sometimes shipped in large, frozen drums to packaging centers where it is thawed and bottled for consumption. These plants may use compressed air to heat the drums more quickly than other thawing processes, creating a more efficient and streamlined production line.
- Moving Product: Compressed air is used in beverage production to move liquid products through pipes. Beverages must go through many processing stages, such as blending, pasteurization and bottling. Compressed air allows the product to move more quickly through the production line.
- Creating Packaging: Bottles for sodas, juices, wines and water are often created using blow-molding and then cooled with compressed air. Labels are applied or indented onto packaging through mechanical arms that are often pneumatically-powered.
- Cleaning and Filling Packaging: Before bottles are filled, they are cleaned with compressed air. Compressed air dries bottles to remove any excess water vapor or moisture. The liquid contents are then poured into the bottle with the help of an air compressor for consistent and efficient filling. Air compressors used for filling reduce waste and ensure products are filled precisely.
- Sealing Bottles: After bottles are filled, pneumatically-powered machines are often used to seal bottle caps.
- Bottling Beer: Air compressors are used in bottling beer to reduce the residual oxygen content. Bottles are flushed with CO2 using air compressors and then filled with beer using pneumatically-powered machinery.
- Dispensing Soft Drinks and Draft Beer: Soda machines often use air compressors to push sodas through the machine’s lines and dispense it in an even stream. Draft beer is also dispensed using air compressors that push the beer from the keg to the tap using air pressure.
Challenges of Compressed Air Use in the Food and Beverage Industry
Air compressors can be an extremely beneficial tool in the food and beverage industry, however, they are not without their challenges. Because many compressed air systems involve compressed air coming in direct contact with food, this compressed air must maintain purity and cleanliness standards to prevent contamination. These standards include purifying compressed air, removing oil from ambient air and drying the air to prevent microbial growth. Food contamination is a major problem in the U.S., so the cleanliness of compressed air used in the food and beverage industry must be taken seriously.
Below are some challenges of using compressed air in the food and beverage industry and best practices to ensure safe and healthy use:
1. Moisture Removal
Moisture in compressed air is the number one safety concern of using compressed air in food and beverage production. Food and beverage grade compressed air must be properly dried to remove moisture that could lead to fungus or microbial growth. Microbial growth can occur inside the piping of air compressors if the air is not properly dried. These contaminants will then be blown onto the food products or containers when the compressed air is used. Compressed air containing excess moisture can also cause microbial growth directly on food products. When using compressed air in food or beverage production, it must always be dried to the proper pressure dewpoint. Direct contact compressed air or non-contact high-risk compressed air should always be maintained at a pressure dewpoint of -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Non-contact low-risk compressed air systems should be maintained at 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Oil Removal
Air compressors must use filters to ensure that oil particles are removed from the air. In a production facility, oil vapor in the air is a common concern as it can be produced from other machines on the production floor and can be present in the ambient air. Oil vapor should be removed to the highest degree possible — for direct contact compressed air 0.01 milligrams per cubic meter of oil or less should be present and for non-contact low-risk compressed air systems, 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter of oil or less should be present.
3. Elimination of Contaminants
Compressed air may also contain solid particulates that can cause contamination if transferred to food or beverage products. Solid particulates sometimes form when compressed air is dried and microorganisms or fungi turn into spores. Other contaminants come from coatings on the rotors or the air compressor or other internal mechanisms. Dust and other particles found in the air will also naturally enter the air compressor and need to be removed. These solid particulates can be filtered out using an air filter inside of the air compressor.
4. Keeping Air Compressors Self-Contained
Because contaminants may be naturally present in production areas as dust or debris from processing, air compressors must be self-contained. Food particles must not be able to enter the air compressor and any lubricants inside the air compressor must not be able to escape into the food processing area.
To ensure the safe use of compressed air in food and beverage production, companies should establish Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans that include best practices for the use of air compressors. Compressed air standards for the food industry should always be met to avoid food product contamination. Testing should be performed periodically to verify that pressure dewpoints are maintained and compressed air is contaminant-free. It is also essential that air compressors be properly maintained and filters changed on schedule to keep up with purity standards. Finding a reliable screw air compressor for your food or beverage company is essential to safe production.
What Sets Kaishan Compressors Apart
Kaishan is a global manufacturer producing performance-proven air compressors for a variety of industries. Backed by over sixty years of research, our screw air compressors are reliable, efficient and affordable. Here are some of the benefits you can expect when you purchase a Kaishan screw air compressor:
- Clean Air Production: Perfect for food and beverage production, our air compressors are equipped with high-quality filters to remove any contaminants, oil or excess moisture. Our air compressors are reliable for use in direct contact and non-contact applications.
- Adjustable for Any Function: Kaishan screw air compressors have an adjustable output from zero to 100 percent. This means you can employ just the right amount of air pressure needed to complete a task, whether you are using high pressure for pneumatic systems or low pressure for cleaning applications. This adjustable output means lower operating costs for your business as you have total control over the energy you are using.
- Energy-Saving Performance: Our machines are designed to save you energy — when air consumption decreases, air output and the electric motor currents will also decrease. The air compressor will automatically idle and shut off if it is not consuming air for an extended period. When air consumption increases, the compressor will start again. This responsiveness saves energy and reduces operating costs.
- Electric Control System: Each screw air compressor is equipped with an electric control system that allows it to function 24/7 without human monitoring. This means your business can keep up with high productivity demands.
- Efficient Cooling System: Kaishan air compressors have an efficient cooling system that allows them to withstand hot and humid conditions in production centers while still operating effectively.
- Environmental Adaptability: Built for tight spaces in production centers, Kaishan screw air compressors require very little space for air circulation and machine maintenance. Our air compressors do not require a special base for installation and have excellent vibration isolation.
- Noise Reduction Technology: In an already noisy production center, any excess noise can make working conditions more difficult and even become a hazard if employees cannot hear each other over the sound of machines. Our air compressors have excellent noise reduction technology, so they do not contribute to the already noisy environment.
- Powerful Fault Diagnosis: Another exceptional safety feature of our screw air compressors is their fault diagnosis system. If something goes wrong with an air compressor, the machine will detect the fault immediately so action steps can be taken. This means you never have to worry about the safe and efficient performance of your Kaishan screw air compressor.
Kaishan offers a line of rotary screw compressors to suit a variety of applications in the food and beverage industry. Each of these models offers the distinct benefits and features to suit your needs:
- KRSB: The KRSB screw air compressor is a square unit with consistent system pressure. This single-stage rotary screw compressor is reliable for smooth and quiet operation from 10 HP to 50 HP.
- KRST: The KRST is a tank-mounted single-stage compressor with an integrated cooling system. This rotary air compressor provides a simple display panel for easy programming and ranges from 7.5 HP to 20 HP.
- KRSD: The KRSD is an industrial-grade air compressor with cooling fans and a digital control panel. This powerful direct drive compressor is single-stage and ranges from 30 HP to 200 HP for effective use on production lines.
- KRSP: The KRSP rotary screw air compressor is a premium compressor that is perfect for industrial application. With a range of 20 HP to 500 HP, it is highly efficient for large volume production. The KRSP single-stage screw air compressor contains a centrifugal cooling system and digital control panel for easy programming.
- KRSP2: The KRSP2 is a two-stage screw air compressor with high power ranging from 100 HP to 500 HP. This air compressor contains a three-stage oil separation process that is perfect for safe use in food and beverage production. A digital panel makes this air compressor easy to program.
Streamline Your Production With Screw Air Compressors
Air compressors have become an essential feature of food and beverage processing. Companies rely on compressed air to keep their production line moving quickly and efficiently day after day. Kaishan’s line of screw air compressors provides affordable solutions for any food or beverage company. Whether you are looking for an air compressor for cleaning, processing, packaging or to power a pneumatic system, Kaishan has a product for your needs. Contact us to learn more about how Kaishan screw air compressors can work for you.