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What are Pneumatic Air Filters?

Posted by SMC Pneumatics USA on 3/19/2020 to Basic Pneumatics
What are Pneumatic Air Filters?

Pneumatic air filters, also known as compressed air filters or air dryers, are an important component of your machine. They work with the rest of your system to ensure that contaminants do not enter your system. That way you have clean air. Many industries that implement pneumatics have compressed air filters, from pharmaceuticals to agriculture. They also have to abide by regulations to deliver products fit for consumers.

Natural air, which we breathe, is a renewable resource. It also has a combination of many elements and molecules. Some of these elements, such as nitrogen, will not affect pneumatics. Others will, however, and affect your machines negatively. That is why you need a compressed air filter, no matter the type of machine that you have, to handle contaminants on the microscopic level. These are measured in microns.

Types Of Air Filters

There are many selections of air filters, depending on the regulations that you must follow. At SMC Pneumatics, our series can handle particles with sizes of .1 microns. We talk about several common ones.

Membrane Air Dryers

We sell these at SMC Pneumatics. For a membrane air dryer, the air is gradually cooled and uses membrane fibers to separate the water vapors from the rest of the air by attracting the molecules. The dry air is then transported to the rest of the machine. They are best used when your operations are water-sensitive.


Carbon filters are best for when you want to remove specific gases, such as odors. In addition, they work well to remove oil droplets as well. Usually, the air passes through a cartridge filled with activated carbon to attract the unwanted molecules, which adhere accordingly and separate from the rest of the gases. Since the carbon cartridges have a limit of how many odors they can handle, you need to replace them from time to time.


This type of filter works to remove solid particles from the air, such as dirt and other sediments. In fact, in many cases, they are the main type of filter that you will see being sold commercially. They usually work with sediments that are as large as 5 microns.

Water Separators

Water separators work both on water and oil droplets. The devices first use high pressure to migrate these particular contaminants to another chamber while the clean air moves on.

Two Stages Of Filtration

First, the air leaves the compressor and goes through a mesh layer. As mentioned, this can be activated carbon, a membrane layer, or other material that attracts the unwanted molecules. The airflow is slowed down, which encourages the water droplets to condense and fall away from the compressed air. The same goes for oil droplets. 95 percent of contaminants are removed at this stage.

Second, the remaining air is put through a fiber layer. Then the machine accelerates the air and creates tinier vortices. The fibers cover a wider surface area and are more refined, to trap contaminants on a smaller level. As a result, the tighter gaps allow for the filter to capture even smaller particles that would have evaded the first step. This causes a drop in pressure that is completely normal.

Removing Contaminants

Particles, droplets, and particulates will significantly hinder your pneumatic operations. They will cause you to lose time and money and in some cases even increase workplace hazards. Thus, you need to know the dangers of each type of particle.

Consider water vapor, as one example. Water vapor is in the air all around us; nature uses it during the rain cycle as condensed droplets, and they also form clouds. You don’t want water in your machine, however; the molecules are damaging when they cool down. Droplets can cause machine parts to rust when they cool and condense.

Dirt particles, in contrast, have a high risk of causing clogs as opposed to damaging parts. 140 million of these particles can exist in a workplace, accumulating to block airflow. If they do block airflow, then you have an issue with wear and tear and your machine needing repairs in a shorter amount of time. Thus, you want to remove them as soon as possible before they can cause damage.

Oil droplets are another potential hazard. Sometimes it is used as a lubricator in pneumatic machines or in tandem with hydraulics. In other cases, oil droplets are already a part of the atmosphere and you have to work to remove a smaller amount of droplets. In addition to potentially clogging the machine, some may run the risk of combustion.

Living organisms can also flourish in natural air. These microorganisms include bacteria and viruses. If they get into your system, any person in the workplace can inhale them. While the human body has many natural defenses against such viruses, you would rather not concentrate them in one area. Oil droplets and water vapor stimulate them to grow, multiply, and spread around.

Most importantly, particulates can contaminate your products and render them unfit for selling. Consider how pharmaceuticals want to ensure that no one gets sick from the medicines that they produce. Usually, the process, which involves manufacturing, is to blame when they happen. Pneumatics is part of that, and any oil droplets or microorganisms can cause people to get poisoned from the medicines they need.

Find The Best Compressed Air Filters At SMC Pneumatics

SMC Pneumatics is ready to assist you with choosing the right filter for your machine. Whether you are operating on a small scale with dental tools or handling industrial operations, you deserve air that has pristine cleanliness. We know which models and parts are a good fit, and what replacements work in the case of discontinued series.

Reach out to us today to learn more about filters and other important components for your pneumatic machine. SMC experts are ready to direct you towards the right parts, complete with threading and size options. We will help you make the first step on that journey towards safer workplaces, and cleaner air.

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