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10 Current Trends in Filtration and Separation

Published: November 25, 2023

The global market for industrial filtration is expected to continue growing at a considerable rate in the coming years. Despite global crises, growth remained constant in 2023 – as was also evident at FILTECH. An overview of trends that will support growth and shape the industry in the coming year.

How is separation technology developing? One thing is certain: Separation and filtration will become even finer and more precise, even more digital and intelligent and even more sustainable in the future. With the defining trends in mind, industry players are already preparing for the industry’s most important platform. When FILTECH invites participants to the trade fair and congress in November 2024, experts from all sectors will exchange ideas, discover new technologies and shape the future of separation technology.

Apart from digitalization and sustainability, which topics will occupy the industry in the near future? An overview presents ten important developments that will shape various fields of application in separation technology.

AI: Boost for soft drinks

With expected growth rates of more than 30 percent over the next few years, it is clear that artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential for practically all industries and areas of application. This also applies to filtration: AI can be used to monitor and optimize the operating parameters of filtration systems in real time. Pressure, flow rates and other variables can be controlled to maximize filtration efficiency and minimize energy consumption. At FILTECH 2023, a presentation by researchers from RWTH Aachen University presented ways of using AI to improve quality control and work quality in the production of filters for the automotive industry.

AI also enables adaptive filtration systems that can automatically adjust to changing conditions. This is particularly relevant in environments where the composition of the substances to be filtered changes frequently. In general, AI enables the development of filtration systems that can better adapt to specific requirements. Possibilities range from adapting to different particle sizes to taking into account specific chemical properties of the substances to be filtered.

Predictive maintenance, higher filtration accuracy, greater energy efficiency, data analysis and pattern recognition – the use of AI in filtration technology offers numerous potentials for improving the efficiency, reliability, and adaptability of filtration systems.

Air separators: High demands on air filtration

Air classifiers are used in various industries to separate materials based on their specific weight or particle size. They are particularly important in recycling, where they separate a wide variety of materials such as plastic, paper, glass, and metals, thus supporting the transformation to a circular economy. Windsifters are also indispensable in agriculture, as they enable the efficient separation of grain and seeds from impurities such as dust or leaves and thus contribute to security of supply.

Regardless of the industry, air filtration plays a crucial role in the maintenance and proper operation of air classifiers. This is because all unwanted components must not only be reliably separated, but also safely protected from entering the environment. To ensure this, manufacturers are continuously working on improved air ducting systems and filter systems.

One example is the move away from point filters, as the conveyor technology for the material flows to be separated is increasingly concentrated in one place. Corresponding large filter systems collect contaminated air and reliably separate dust and other impurities. Such central dedusting systems are designed for continuous operation and are self-cleaning. Operators can therefore be confident that they will safely comply with legal limits.

Mobile screening plants: electrification is picking up speed

In passenger vehicles, electrification is progressing in leaps and bounds. The situation is different for commercial vehicles and mobile equipment – for now. Manufacturers of mobile classifying screening plants and other separating machines are now also recognizing the potential for reducing emissions through electric drives. This is because separating aggregates requires a lot of energy. More and more operators want systems that work on site without CO2 emissions.

Machines with electric drives have a positive impact on the environmental footprint of users. Electrified solutions are being offered for more and more tasks in quarries and sand pits, as well as in demolition. Many manufacturers are focusing on dual drive systems, in particular with the option of external power supply via a transformer station. Battery-electric systems are also increasingly available. Hybrid drives are a sensible option for widely branched locations and tasks with high peak loads.

Unlike in the passenger car sector, the requirements of operators of screens and classifiers are heterogeneous. There will never be a standardized solution for all their expectations. Suppliers are therefore required to respond flexibly to requirements and take all possible uses into account. This means that there is an increasing demand not only for expertise in separation technology, but also in terms of energy supply.

Filtration as a Service

Will operators of separation technology systems no longer buy filter elements in future, but book throughputs? “Filtration as a Service” (FaaS) is a concept that transfers elements of the “as-a-Service” model to the field of filtration technology. Similar to other offers of this type, where services are provided as a service, Filtration as a Service could be a way of offering filtration solutions on a demand-oriented basis in the future.

Customers can use filtration services on demand without having to invest in the ownership and maintenance of filtration equipment. Outsourcing allows companies to focus on their core competencies while using highly specialized filtration solutions. In this way, they avoid high initial investments and still always benefit from state-of-the-art filtration technology. FaaS could also include the integration of monitoring systems and data-based optimization solutions. The concept is an innovative approach to providing filtration solutions tailored to the specific needs of companies.

Cooling compressors: Filtration of the lubricating oil is crucial

Refrigeration compressors are used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems to absorb heat. They play a crucial role in generating cold and controlling temperatures in various applications. To ensure that the systems work safely and efficiently, they rely on pure lubricating oil – a challenge for modern filtration technology.

Application-specific lubricating oils contain functional additives that influence the properties of the lubricating oil. The filtration solution for cleaning the lubricating oil must take these components into account. Manufacturers are therefore required to have ever greater expertise in order to ensure that filters are not only resistant to the refrigerant used, but also do not negatively influence the effect of the lubricant.

Only the right filter elements for refrigeration compressor oils have a positive effect on the service life of the entire refrigeration solution. System operators benefit from solution providers who not only supply the pure filtration product, but also have the necessary expertise to equip the respective application with the perfectly suitable technology.

Parts cleaning: Filter systems for uncompromising quality

Parts cleaning places similarly high demands on filtration solutions as refrigeration systems. After all, maximum cleanliness is required for many parts & components – in automotive applications as well as in precision mechanics. Clean components prevent wear & damage, ensure functionality and quality, & improve the efficiency of production and assembly.

Suppliers of efficient filtration solutions for parts cleaning can deliver systems that not only meet the highest quality standards. The systems also meet the demand for ever more environmentally friendly processes by performing residual dirt analyses. These ensure that energy and water requirements are kept as low as possible. A process that is not only worthwhile for the environment: The more efficiently parts are cleaned, the lower the operating costs for users. To achieve this, the cleaning fluid is treated in several process steps from coarse to fine filtration between the washing and rinsing cycles until the required degree of purity is achieved.

Pharmaceutical production: Safe products thanks to activated carbon

Even greater demands than for industrial parts apply in the production of food and beverages, but especially in the pharmaceutical industry. Here, more and more manufacturers are turning to activated carbon. There are good reasons for this development: Depth filters containing activated carbon are suitable for separating unwanted by-products as well as for decoloring and removing taste or odor.

Two trends can be recognized: On the one hand, it is possible to add activated carbon in powder form to the process. It adsorbs impurities & is then removed again with a further filtration unit. On the other hand, more & more manufacturers are offering filter sheets with bonded activated carbon. These systems offer similarly large inner surfaces as activated carbon powder.

Pharmaceutical products are subject to increasingly stringent requirements in terms of product safety and purity. Activated carbon filtration offers manufacturers uncompromising processes for the safe separation of foreign substances in the product. If they use filter sheets with bonded activated carbon, they even avoid dosing the activated carbon.

Wine: Filtration problems due to Botrytis- and Oidium-contaminated grapes

Oversupply or shortage? On the one hand, in 2023 there were extensive reports about the French wine harvest and that the government wants to remove surplus wine from the market and compensate winegrowers. On the other hand, more and more traditional wine regions are expecting declining harvests due to climate change. In addition, large proportions of grapes are infested with botrytis or oidium.

Many aspects of these developments also affect the filterability of a vintage. The biggest problems include poor clarification of the young wine and clogged filters. In future, wineries will have to prepare and retrofit their filtration systems accordingly. In order to avoid high doses of kieselguhr and the risk of clogging, filtration specialists already offer suitable filtration enzymes and laboratory test kits for the glucan value.

Grapes infested with oidium also need to be separated – however, this has usually had to be done by hand up to now, as the grapes not only taste bitter and have earthy aromas but are also highly astringent. However, slightly contaminated grapes can be subjected to enzymatic must clarification and must fining as part of the filtration process. It is to be expected that more difficult climatic conditions will force winegrowers to take such steps more frequently in the future. Specialists for filtration in viticulture are already preparing for such requirements.

Fruit juice: Harvest problems lead to falling volumes

Harvest problems are also causing problems for more and more producers of non-alcoholic beverages. For example, the World Apple and Pear Association reports that the apple and pear harvest is expected to decline in 2023 due to droughts, flooding, hail, warm nights, and an increased risk of pests – with a corresponding impact on the quantity and quality of yields.

In this industry, too, filtration systems must perform better than before in order to continue to meet the quality requirements of the end products. Producing companies are well advised to obtain information from suppliers about appropriate solutions and to communicate their needs clearly.

Food: Stricter regulations through better testing procedures

Whether aromatic hydrocarbons in food or brewing residues in beer, the increasing accuracy of testing methods in food production has a significant impact on the requirements for and use of filtration systems. This is because the more accurate the detection of contaminants, the greater the need to use filtration systems with higher precision that are able to effectively remove even the smallest particles or contaminants.

The demand for fine filtration technologies will most likely increase accordingly in order to meet the increasing requirements for food purity. This may involve the use of filter media with finer pore sizes, high-performance filters, and advanced filtration technologies such as membrane filtration or nanofiltration. Systems may also need to meet higher performance standards and be regularly monitored, maintained, and validated.

Innovative solutions for complex processes

Few disciplines in industrial production are as diverse as separation technology. In all areas, the filtration & separation market is prepared for growth and change. Advanced technologies, IoT integration and a commitment to sustainability are driving the industry forward.

As companies recognize the importance of filtration in maintaining product quality & environmental responsibility, the demand for advanced filtration solutions will continue to grow. FILTECH will provide attendees with solutions that can meet any requirement – today and in the future.

The international meeting place for industry experts

FILTECH 2024 (November 12 to 14, 2024 in Cologne) offers a diverse program with informative technical presentations, panel discussions and poster sessions. The combination of trade fair and congress gives experts from various industries the opportunity to expand their knowledge, discover new trends and gain valuable insights into the future of filtration and separation technology. Whether solids separation, gas separation or solid-liquid separation: FILTECH is a must for experts working in filtration and separation technology who are interested in the latest developments in the industry.

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