The railroad is often seen as one of the main industries relying on compressed air systems, but the food industry also relied on compressed air for food safety. An air production system is often the way food processing and packaging is kept contaminant free in United States facilities. There are different production facilities and they have different applications for the use of compressed air.
Food Industry Applications
Within the U.S., there are approximately 100,000 people working 1,300 facilities processing fruits and vegetables. These plants can, freeze, and dehydrate the products, which amounts to almost 7.5% of the total shipment profit of the United States food industry. The compressed air systems are used in the automation of product filling, cleaning the packaging containers prior to being filled with products, and packing the products. Other areas of industries include bakeries, where the air is used for blow-off applications. Sorting, cutting, and shaping different food products is also done using compressed air.
The close proximity to the food sources supplying many global citizens requires that compressed air be contaminant-free. Contaminants include water vapor, moisture, oil aerosols, vapors, and solid particles. Moisture is considered the primary concern since even the smallest bit can create the perfect breeding ground for microorganisms that cause mold or another fungus. These microorganisms can reside in the piping system and get blown into the food containers or food products themselves. The compressed air systems have to maintain pressure dewpoints below 15 degrees Fahrenheit to help eliminate all moisture from the air. The different elements of the air systems must also be kept free from particles that could be swept into the food products when the system is in operation.
Compressed air systems are often liked to the working of a body muscle. They must be strong and flexible, capable of handling high-pressure demands for blow molding but also being adapted to low-pressure systems for tasks like blow-off applications. In order to keep the food industry safe, while supporting production and packing needs, the USDA has issued regulations that govern the construction, use, and maintenance of compressed air systems.