Industrial air compressors are subject to constant usage, high pressures and operate under extreme temperature ranges. Oils used for these compression systems must be formulated to withstand these elements while providing a variety of benefits extending beyond basic lubrication.
Requirements for industrial air compressor oil vary according to the type of compressor used, the duty cycle of the compressor and the operating temperature. Synthetic oils offer advantages of extended life, wider temperature operating ranges and increased resistance to oxidation degradation.
There are three main types of air compressors used in industry. For applications that do not exhibit a constant load on the air supply, a conventional piston driven compressor is suitable. These types of compressors often use a splash type lubrication system where the crankshaft is partially submerged in the oil sump. As the shaft rotates, oil is splashed up into the cylinder lubricating the piston as well as the piston and shaft bearings. This requires an oil that is detergent free and resistant to foaming.
For industrial applications requiring a constant supply of compressed air, the most common type of compressor in use is the rotary screw compressor. Industrial air compressor oil used for the screws must provide excellent heat tolerance, the ability to carry heat away from the screw housing to a cooling system and enough viscosity to assist in sealing between the screw lobes for highest compressor efficiency. Rotary screw compressors also operate under high rotational speeds and some of the properties of an oil for this environment are very similar to the what is needed for a high quality gear oil. The forces encountered in the screw mechanism include shear as well as compressive components requiring oil that is not subject to degradation under high loads.
The final type of compressor commonly used in industry is the rotary vane compressor. The requirements for industrial air compressor oil in this application are very similar to those in the rotary screw system. While being somewhat less demanding on the oil with lower rotational speeds and reduced surface loading forces, the oil used must provide excellent lubrication and assistance to forming an airtight seal under pressure.
Plants that depend on a steady supply of compressed air live and die by this component. Maintaining these systems with high quality industrial air compressor oils can help operators focus on the work at hand without fear of unscheduled downtime from compressor failure.