Unlike industrial compressed air applications, where there are rigorous standards that dictate the quality and specification of air used during the process, there are no current standards in place for exhaust air quality from industrial vacuum pumps. Melissa Kelly-Jones, UK Food and Beverage Vacuum Solutions Expert at Gardner Denver, outlines key considerations that should be taken when looking at industrial vacuum technology.
Vacuum technology is used in a wide variety of processes within food manufacturing industry. Commonly, most people will understand vacuum packaging in areas such as MAP (modified atmosphere packaging). However, vacuum is also use in food processing in areas including:
Therefore, the benefit to understanding the potential risks of contamination and how to avoid it can be significant as vacuum is vital in many food manufacturing production processes.
In addition to oil discharge from the exhaust, there are a number of other issues that operators need to be aware of. Operating at high temperatures and an open-ended inlet port could result in oil carrying over from the pump, while a separator element may fail due to misuse or through the use of non-genuine spare parts. For this reason, it is important to work with a trusted and experienced maintenance partner, who can help and offer support should these matters arise.
The potential risks from leaks from an oil-lubricated vacuum pump can be avoided through a range of measures. These include using a food grade lubricant, fitting a downstream exhaust filter or remotely piping the exhaust air.
For those concerned about the risks of oil-lubricated vacuum pumps, Gardner Denver can help identify and reduce any risks through a free site survey, which may extend to working with the production team to ensure the equipment is included in the HACCP assessment.
The most efficient and assured solution would be to use an oil-free vacuum pump. These have been specifically developed to meet the needs of manufacturers that require only the highest air purity environments. These HACCP standard oil-free vacuum solutions not only reduce contamination potential, but do not require the same level of maintenance as their oil-lubricated counterparts. There is no requirement to replace oil or filters which significantly reduces whole life costs.
Additionally, the fact the dry technology vacuum pump does not have to be removed to carry out routine maintenance servicing means there is no additional unnecessary production downtime, as well as any indirect costs from lost pump uptime. There is also the benefit of the, now avoidable, cost of oil, waste oil disposal and labour. With potentially increased outputs and greater uptime, the benefits of an oil-free vacuum technology are clear.
Gardner Denver offers a range of food grade oil-free vacuum pumps, each suited to the particular requirements of individual vacuum applications in the food production process. For instance, the S-VSI dry-running vacuum pump for food packaging under protective gas needs no coolant or sealing medium in the suction chamber. This particular pump is water-cooled and offers low heat emission into the environment.
There is potential for food producers to reap the rewards of oil-free vacuum technology. Investing in oil-free vacuum technology will ensure the improved standards of air quality, as the food and beverage sector continually seek improvements in process efficiency and quality across all of their processes.