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When working with chemicals and other unusual substances in a laboratory, you must have reliable, robust equipment. Lab equipment is designed to produce results with little to no variation, since results must be standardized. Because of how precise this equipment is, it is expensive. Membrane filters, syringe filters, capsule filters, filtration microplates, and other pieces of filtration equipment have justifiably high price tags. To protect this expensive filtration equipment, some lab operators have opted to use industrial filtration equipment for pre-filtration. By filtering out larger particles from fluids before sending them through lab filtration equipment, you are able to extend your equipment’s lifespan.

Industrial filtration vs. lab filtration

Industrial filtration equipment, unlike lab filtration equipment, usually deals with removing large particles from fluid, while lab filtration equipment removes particles unseen by the naked eye. Major manufacturers make a variety of filtration solutions, including strainers, cartridge filters and bag filters in a range of shapes and sizes. This equipment is typically metal, with the most popular materials being stainless steel, carbon steel, brass and cast iron/bronze. Some industrial filters are even made of PVC. The variety present in this industry gives consumers limitless options.

Unlike industrial filters, lab filters are typically small and made of plastic. Plastics tend to have wider chemical resistances than some traditional metals. Plastic is also an ideal material for a part that is considered disposable, but it does not make this equipment inexpensive. To extend the life of this disposable lab filtration equipment, pre-filtration is a great option, and heavy-duty industrial filters handle pre-filtration perfectly.

Types of industrial filtration

When shopping for industrial filtration equipment, it is vital to know what job you need done. You will need different equipment depending on what size particles you are trying to filter out of fluid, for example. Many types of filtration equipment exist, including bag filters, cartridge filters and strainers—all of which can be helpful in lab environments.

Bag filters
Industrial bag filters provide simple, yet high-precision filtration. There are two parts of a bag filter: the filter bag and the housing. The housing is the metal frame that is installed in a system and holds the filter bag. Bag housings are made in standardized sizes so that each can hold many different types of bags. The housing is typically made out of stainless or carbon steel, but are sometimes constructed from polypropylene for more specific chemical compatibilities. Housings can be purchased in virtually any size, so you can always find one that fits in your system.

The other part of a bag filter is the actual filter bag. Filter bags come in a variety of materials, sizes, micron ratings and flow rates; they are the most customizable part of a bag filtration system. If you need tiny particles that cannot be spotted by the naked eye, you choose a filter bag with a small micron rating. Filter bags have a limited lifespan. The length of this service life depends on the type of bag, the job it is doing, the temperature, the flow rate, how much material it is filtering out, and so on.

Bag filtration has several advantages. First: it’s easy. Bags are simply placed in the housing, they work on their own, and are replaced when full or worn. That convenience is what leads many to choose bag filters. They also often cost much less than other filtration methods, such as cartridge filters. One disadvantage to bag filters is you will need to continuously buy them, as they are not typically reusable. Filter bags are not as expensive as some lab filtration parts, but the cost can add up over time. 

Cartridge filters
If you need precision filtration in a system, cartridge filtration is the way to go. Cartridge filters work much like bag filters, but they typically filter out even smaller particles. In fact, many cartridge filters are comparable to membrane filters in terms of filtration capacity, with micron ratings as low as .03 μm. This makes cartridge filters an option for pre-filtration and just regular filtration in lab scenarios. These filters also have two parts: housing and cartridge.

Cartridge housings serve the same purpose as bag housings, holding filter cartridges and allowing fluid to flow through the filter. These pieces of equipment are not interchangeable, however, as cartridges and bags are different sizes and have different ways of being secured. When using filter cartridges, you must use cartridge housings. These housings are available in many sizes and brands.

Filter cartridges are like more complex filter bags. They still require periodic change-outs, but they offer more precise filtration. Their construction is also more rigid and complex, with many being pleated, for extra filter surface area and high flow. These attributes make cartridge filtration the most effective industrial filtration method, but also make it an expensive option. However, when high purity is a priority, the cost is worth the outcome.

Strainers
Industrial strainers are another method of pre-filtration in a lab system. While they do not offer the precision of cartridges, or even bags, they can remove larger particles from liquid, which can protect expensive lab equipment down the pipeline. Strainers work in much the same way as any other type of industrial filter, but they use a basket instead of a bag or cartridge. This basket has perforation or mesh that traps larger particles and lets liquid flow through.

Typically, basket strainers have micron ratings of 100 or higher, so they are not suited for finer filtration. However, they are an inexpensive way to protect downstream equipment from dirt and other large particles that can be damaging. Strainer baskets, usually made of metal, do not need to be replaced, just cleaned, which is an enormous advantage over other industrial filtration methods. Strainers are made from a wide range of materials, including iron, bronze, carbon steel and stainless steel. Strainers are a great choice for pre-filtration in lab applications.

Lab applications for industrial filtration

Many different types of filtration are used in laboratory settings. These filtration varieties are almost as numerous as the types of liquids and gases they filter. Because of this, industrial filtration equipment can be extremely useful in lab applications as a pre-filtration option. Pre-filtration will make equipment down the pipeline last longer and work better. Here are a couple examples of lab applications in which industrial filters can be effective.

Lab processes can require ultrapure water, which only specifically designed equipment can deliver. Scientific filtration equipment creates pure water by utilizing a range of techniques, from electrodeionization to reverse osmosis and distillation. This equipment is expensive and often critical to an entire lab’s operations. If it was to be compromised, operations would be halted entirely. Prevent this from happening by filtering water in a cartridge or bag filter first. These filters can filter out particles as small as 0.03 μm, making them a highly effective solution. If they get full or clogged, the cartridge or bag can be quickly and easily switched out; this is much easier than having to clean or service a lab water filter.

When working in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and water testing industries, microbiological testing is paramount. These industries all work with media in which harmful microorganisms can grow and thrive, so testing for contaminants is vital. Membrane filters are typically used for these applications. These filters capture microorganisms, which can be examined and identified. To more easily examine microbiology liquids, a strainer could be used to filter out any large particles that do not need to be examined. You can be sure to only strain out unnecessary particles by carefully selecting a pore size that works for your application. 

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