Air compressors – compressing costs in tough times

Air compressors can be costly to run, but new solutions now on the market are designed to help lower the price of production. Sarah Falson looks at some of the latest offerings.

Every day manufacturers are facing an uphill battle to drive down costs. While purchasing new equipment may seem counterproductive, machinery suppliers are constantly working to incorporate technology in to their equipment to help manufacturers save money and remain competitive.

Thus, investing in the latest technology available on the market can be a positive move towards curbing expenditure in the long-term. Following are just two of the many companies making in-roads in compressed air systems to help Australian manufacturers lessen their running costs. These systems are designed to help make efficiency improvements, while offering high levels of performance and reliability.

Performance and efficiency

In Kaeser Compressors Australia managing director, Peter Eckberg’s experience, the two big issues facing manufacturers using compressors today are: total cost of power; and the flow-on effects of the automotive industry moving offshore.

“Uncertainty surrounding power costs remains a substantial issue that Australian manufacturers are facing, currently fuelled by the ambiguity surrounding potential changes to the Renewable Energy Target and the likely impact that would have. With the energy costs of a compressor accounting for well over half of its lifetime costs you can understand why any decision on power costs would impact a compressed air user,” Eckberg told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Another key issue facing Australian manufacturers is the proliferation of car manufacturers choosing to move their manufacturing away from Australia. This has created an element of uncertainty with medium-sized companies in the automotive industry when it comes to investment – a climate that is infectious and spreads to other sectors.”

Kaeser Compressors Australia – based in Dandenong South in Victoria – supplies a range of compressors from 2.2 to 500kW along with associated auxiliary equipment designed for a range of manufacturing applications.

Eckberg says current customers are asking for reliable compressed air systems that deliver maximum performance and efficiency, while representing value for money.

“Optimising the performance and energy efficiency of air technologies are key areas where we continue to see the most development,” he said.

“The enhanced airend design at the heart of each Kaeser rotary screw compressor is such an example. This specially-designed airend with flow-optimised Sigma Profile rotors delivers more compressed air per kW of input power for less energy consumption.”

Kaeser recently introduced a new range of dry-running, two-stage rotary screw compressors, the DSG and FSG series, designed for applications where dry ‘oil-free’ compression is specifically required.

“At the heart of these versatile

units lies a quality, two-stage compressor airend. The rotors are equipped with Ultra Coat, which is resistant to temperatures up to 300°C. Because this cost-reducing coating is also highly abrasion-proof, its sealing and protection performance remains virtually unchanged even after years of operation,” explained Eckberg.

“As a result, compressed air delivery also remains consistent, which means that dry-running rotary screw compressors from Kaeser consume no more energy after years of use than when first commissioned in order to deliver their rated free air delivery. Ultra Coat therefore helps to keep total system costs to a minimum.”

Kaeser’s latest generation of filters is also designed with energy efficiency in mind, offering minimal pressure differential.

“Low pressure differential means lower energy consumption, but that in itself is not much use if the filter cannot provide the required compressed air quality,” said Eckberg.

“Kaeser filters deliver both. These performance characteristics were determined in accordance with ISO 12500-1, the quality standard for filters, and were tested and verified by an independent body. Accordingly, the new deep-pleat KE (Kaeser Extra) aerosol filter achieves a residual aerosol content of 0.01 mg/m³ with a saturation differential pressure of no more than 200 mbar.

“The Kaeser filter range covers four different element grades for filtration of aerosols, dust and oil vapours. Compressed air can therefore be treated to suit the needs of the specific application in accordance with ISO 8573-1 purity classes.”

Reliability key

CAPS product manager – rotary screw compressors, Dino Alessio, says there is an “ongoing tug-of-war” for Australian manufacturers who use compressors.

“They are looking to keep their life-time costs low which can be achieved with new energy saving technologies and premium products, however they are also facing pressure on capital budgets – so basic, less efficient and cheaper products need to be considered also,” Alessio told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Reliability is usually the key requirement our customers demand. They want robust and ‘fool proof’ compressor systems that will not shut down and leave them without air. This can be assured with Progressive Adaptive Control (PAC) technology, which continually monitors key operating parameters of a compressor.”

Alessio says air quality is also a high priority, as contaminated air can cause premature corrosion.

“Impurities and contaminants, such as silicone and dust, can build up to cause restrictions and blockages in compressor lines, which in turn impact on the performance of motors and other components,” he said.

“Lastly, our customers want compressors that are energy efficient with lower electricity and water usage requirements, as well as systems that produce biodegradable waste.

“CAPS caters to these demands with our Variable Speed Drives (VSD) compressor, two-stage rotary airends and Ingersoll Rand’s biodegradable lubricant, Ultra Coolant.”

According to Alessio, investment in developing extended life lubricants is already showing its potential to significantly reduce waste and save manufacturers thousands.

“The widespread adoption and costs reductions of Variable Speed Drive (VSD) technology is also proving an industry game changer – the technology is now considered and used for smaller compressors when it was previously only viable in larger kW systems,” he explained.

“Small to medium owner-operated businesses across the manufacturing industry tend to be more receptive to new compressor technologies because they want to lower their compressor life-time costs. Smaller businesses cannot afford the expenses associated with unplanned stoppage or disruptions and therefore seek solutions that will mitigate that risk and save money long-term.

“Often, larger corporate businesses are slow adopters – quite conservative and wary of anything new or different. This is particularly true of the medical and food processing industry, which depend on the reliability and safety of their processes. We make it a priority to reassure these sectors that CAPS’ technologies are time-proven, having been thoroughly tested and operating for years overseas before being released in Australia.” 

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