Data logging from Atlas Copco can optimise compressed air system performance

With Atlas Copco’s data logging service, significant energy savings can be identified and achieved in compressed air systems. Manufacturers’ Monthly reports.

Compressed air is one of the primary utilities required by the manufacturing sector. Whether used for air tools or pneumatic controls, compressed air is a staple for industrial facilities.

Within the compressed air system itself, energy comprises 73 per cent of the total cost of the system over a 10-year lifecycle. With energy costs increasing, and more manufacturers engaging with the cost of energy as a major business expense, understanding and tracking energy use by air compressors can lead to significant savings. As a significant part of the business, air compressors can use a significant amount of energy, comprising up to 10 per cent of total industrial electricity use in Australia, according to a report from Sustainability Victoria.

Atlas Copco, the number one global manufacturer of compressed air systems, knows the issue of energy and compressed air from first-hand experience. As energy prices rise in the south eastern states of Australia, the company has seen greater demand for its data logging service, which allows a user to track and simulate energy use in a compressed air system.

The free service is offered by Atlas Copco and carried out by their sales engineers. As Delfin Perozo, product manager at Atlas Copco Australia, explained, the system is flexible for all manufacturing businesses and is designed to work in the best interest of the customer.

“We can do the data logging for any compressor in the market, independently of the size and brand of the compressor. The idea of data logging is to get a full picture of how the compressed air system of the customer is behaving, how to improve that system, and how to deliver a system that is going to be more efficient and reliable to the customer.”

The non-invasive process involves been conservative when compared with the final measured outcomes. “Atlas Copco offers a certain amount of energy savings and, after we deliver and install the new machine and we do the verification data logging, we usually find we are delivering more than what we are expecting,” said Perozo.

After conducting the initial data logging, the sales engineer of Atlas Copco walks the customer through the reports generated by AIRchitect. With an extensive database of compressors, and in conjunction with the attention of the sales engineers, Atlas Copco delivers reports on flow and energy consumption.

“You can have the best data in the world, but if you don’t have the right set up based on your understanding of the system, you won’t have the right outcome,” said Perozo.

By having multiple days of data, Atlas Copco can assist the client to find operational efficiencies, whether that is in running certain processes at different times or identifying when a compressor is running but doesn’t need to be.

“The first report tells the customer: this is your compressed air system, this is the way it is behaving, and this is your flow profile based on the calculations of the system. We also produce a comprehensive report with every single day of the calculated flow of the system just to show and discuss with them,” said Perozo.

“We try to learn with the customer on every case,” said Perozo. “Sometimes, for example, if a factory is not running during the weekend and the compressors are running, those are compressor leaks. And the customer realises ‘I need to do something with those leaks because I am losing energy with those leaks.’”

The second step is to propose a more efficient system based in new generation compressors. And the installation of the data logging mechanism onto the existing air compressor for a period usually of seven to 10 days. A consultation can be booked via the Data Logging link in the heading of Atlas Copco’s website. The service is then carried out by an Atlas Copco sales engineer or authorised distributor with the assistance of a qualified electrician. Recording the data for this length of time allows for a full picture of the compressor’s operation.

“A good range of data will take into consideration all the maximum loads of the customer, all the days that they work, whether two or three shifts, and even the days that they are not working,” said Perozo. “Depending on the data collected for each factory, we have developed a simulation system called AIRchitect that translates all that data to flow profiles and gives a comprehensive picture of your system.”

As companies expand and air compressor systems age, the initial air compressor system may no longer be operating at its optimum efficiency. Before making the investment in a new system, Perozo highlights that data logging can inform a business as to where greater load requirements are needed, and whether this can be achieved through efficiencies, rather than capital outlays.

“It’s just analysing the compressed air system and saying, ‘You can do this but with less power’.”

With the intelligence from a data logging, companies can then look into energy efficiency incentive schemes.

Once the data from the data logger has been collated, Atlas Copco’s sales engineers or authorised distributors provide a consultancy service for businesses. Whether they be existing customers or not, the consultants demonstrate where efficiencies can be found, and what difference a new compressed air system may make.

Using the flow profile generated by Airchitect based on the data loggers, peaks and troughs in activity can be found, and a more efficient system can be simulated. With this information, energy savings on average of 50 per cent can be estimated, and so far, according to Perozo, those estimated savings have AIRchitect produces the comparison report against the original system including the estimated energy savings delivered for the new proposed compressors’ configuration.

Once operational efficiencies have been exhausted, the next step is to determine whether the system itself can be improved. Perozo highlights that from the perspective of a compressed air manufacturer, there are significant benefits to be found in the more recent system.

“Every four to eight years you will see a big jump in efficiency in our compressor ranges, 10-15 per cent more efficient than the previous generation. Sometimes it’s just saying to the customer, ‘You have a 20-year- old compressor system, and you use this amount of kilowatts.’ Simply upgrading your machine to a new generation machine, you’re going to be using 25 per cent less power.”

Taking into account a business’s needs for compressed air, another solution to more closely match input and output of a compressed air system is the installation of a variable flow system.

“This depends on the flow profile,” said Perozo. “But comparing the typical profile of a fixed speed machine against a variable speed machine, the savings are going to be 30 to 35 per cent. If you add that to a new technology, you get a jump of 15 to 20 per cent, but for the top of the line we can deliver for the customer up to 50 per cent.”

With the data acquired through the data logging process, savings can be found in other areas too.

“A lot of companies are setting the service of the compressors based on the time,” said Perozo. “Every six months, they recommend changing the oils and the filters, every 12 months you need to do this and that. With this comprehensive data logging, we know the running hours and we can give a more accurate picture. For example, we can tell them, ‘You don’t need this oil change every six months, you need it at 10 months.’”

These services, provided by Atlas Copco, are indicative of the approach that the company takes to sales and their clients. By offering a service such as data logging for free, Atlas Copco provides a utility and an advantage.

“This is a way the sales engineers and our authorised distributors become advisors, more than just selling boxes,” said Perozo.

With energy prices an increasingly significant cost for manufacturers, the potential to find significant savings in compressed air systems is a valuable service for all enterprises.