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Building an air compressor system that is suitable for the pharmaceutical industry requires some exacting standards. Air compressors are used in a variety of production and packaging applications that require different levels of air quality.

There aren’t any fixed standards for air quality within the pharmaceutical industry because each use is different. While the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t issued direct guidance, there are other general measures in place to help pharmaceutical companies build an appropriate air compressor for the job.

The International Organization For Standardization Provides General Guidance

The International Organization for Standardization issued ISO 8573.1:2010 as a methodology to determine compressed air quality standards. It is not intended to be industry specific, but it does address three categories:

  • Solid particles and dust
  • Humidity and liquid water
  • Oil

Those three categories contain classes that range from 0 to X. Class 0 is the most stringent and used when high-quality oil-free, contaminant-free air is required, as in some pharmaceutical or food and beverage manufacturing processes. Class 1 is the second most stringent and specifies the maximum number of particulates per cub meter.

In the absence of a pharmaceutical industry standard, the ISO air quality of a specific machine makes it easier to select compressed air dryers and filters that meet the specification.

Installation Plays A Part In Achieving System Goals For Clean Air

Selecting the right components is only part of the process for achieving clean air objectives in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s also important to understand that installation methods can impact clean air as well.

Once the components are selected, it’s important to realize how the parts work together as a system to achieve their goal. Otherwise, installation decisions can be made that unintentionally undermine clean air goals.

For example, including manual bypasses around the air treatment might influence air quality. Depending on the setup and configuration, it’s possible to create a scenario where moisture, particles, or other contaminants normally removed from the system remain in place. This would negatively impact air quality at the usage point.

Conversely, when you pipe air dryers and filters in a parallel layout, you create a built-in redundancy that also creates a scenario with dependable, enhanced air quality. In this scenario, if one section is closed off, you can still run the system without compromising quality. There may be higher cost to running the system this way, but it also allows for more exacting pharmaceutical standards to be met. Leaving both trains running can offer some savings while reducing the pressure drop and decreasing wear and tear on individual components.

If you do choose to run multiple dryers in a parallel configuration, selecting dryers with energy controls can make a significant difference. Running them in an energy efficient mode can help to reduce overall power consumption, resulting in additional savings.

A high velocity control valve would allow the supply side to pressurize first, and then slowly pressurize the rest of the facility. This reduces excessive flows and slows any wear and tear on your air compressor equipment.

Enhancing System Communications

There are advantages to creating a compressed air system where the air dryers communicate with the high velocity control valve. This allows the control valve to close if a dryer fails. This allows air quality to remain at a high level, by routing through a functioning air dryer to maintain system integrity.

In addition, compressed air system controls of today can more accurately match supply with demand. Compressor manufacturers have developed several different control methods, including:

  • Start/stop controls
  • Load/unload controls
  • Modulating controls
  • Dual/auto dual controls
  • Variable displacement controls

Each of these controls can play a role in maximizing the efficiency of your pharmaceutical grade compressor system.

Choosing The Right Piping Materials

Selecting the right piping has a significant impact on overall air quality within the system. For example, black iron or galvanized iron rusts. That rust can then enter the air supply, increasing wear and tear on other system components, while compromising the integrity of the end-use air.

Below are some of the better piping components for maintaining quality air:

  • Stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Aluminum

For more information on choosing the right piping for your facility, read What Is the Best Piping for Compressed Air.

Building A Pharmaceutical Compressed Air System

It’s important to consider air quality for pharmaceutical air compressor applications. It’s important to think about whether the process that you use compressed air for can tolerate moisture for any length of time, or whether contamination will cause product to be rejected, or damage the equipment.

A system built to run high-quality air will allow you to carry out these functions without worrying about compromising your business or adding expenses.

If you are unsure about any of your compressed air components for pharmaceutical applications, it’s best to contact an expert to help you find the right combination. Compressor Services has a selection of top-quality system parts and components, and we are experienced at installing systems that will help you maintain the highest levels of air quality. We help customers with air compressor needs in a variety of industries.

If you need help building your system, contact us today!

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