Energy savings through the right compressor

Atlas Copco Compressors VSD Plus machine will turn down to below 20 per cent of its maximum power.

Manufacturers’ Monthly spoke to Matthew Gray, business line manager, Industrial Air, Atlas Copco Compressors on their latest offerings and the energy issue for the manufacturing sector in 2018.


Moving into 2018, Atlas Copco Compressor’s strategy was to reach out to as many opportunities within the industrial market and engage more deeply with customers to service the needs of manufacturers.

Matthew Gray, business line manager, Industrial Air from Atlas Copco told Manufacturers’ Monthly that the company plans to help educate users that it is not just about supplying (or buying) a compressor.

“It is often easy to replace like-for- like kW sized compressors, or to select a compressor on the recommendation of a peer based on something that has worked for them in the past, or based on a catalogue-like compressor supplier. In many cases, users of compressors do not understand what is truly needed to make their operation as efficient or as functional as they need to,” said Gray.

Gray explained that one of Atlas Copco Compressor’s biggest value propositions is that they don’t just stop at the selection and supply of a compressor, but they make sure that value continues to be delivered to the customer even after the sale.

Tackling the energy equation

The value of the Atlas Copco Compressor products is in the energy efficiency that it gives the user.

“If we can find the most energy- efficient tool for manufacturers today that offers you an opportunity to save year-on-year and whole- of-life costs on that equipment – then you’re going to jump at it,” said Gray.

He emphasised that it is the goal of the company is to find the right compressors and associated equipment that will save users as much as possible on operational costs, and on maintenance associated down-time or loss of productivity.

“Today, for the industries that we serve, it is all about being adaptable. People drive a lean operation, which means that they are looking at shorter start-up and set-up, and change-over times in their manufacturing. This creates an increased variable demand on their manufacturing utilities. One of which, is air. So, old-school practice of using fixed speed compressor that chugs away in the corner and feeds a machine that is turning out thousands of pieces per batch just doesn’t happen today. These days, having the most efficient variable speed compressors that turn down to a fraction of their maximum speed is critical for manufacturers to stay competitive,” Gray said.

He explained that to achieve the quick turn-arounds today, there needs to be a variability in the air supply and in other utilities – that’s where the savings are really going to come from.

The reliability in connectivity and quality

Atlas Copco prides itself in building reliable, trouble-free machines, which are not easy to find elsewhere in the market.

“You can reverse engineer a lot of things in today’s market, but you can’t reverse engineer quality of design. That is why we spend a lot of money on research and development – to make sure that our machines, continue to improve with every version released,” said Gray.

He explained that a break-down is one of the most significant issues in a manufacturing facility because it leads to the loss of productivity, which is difficult to recover. Atlas Copco manufactures compressors through design and extensive testing with the aim to eliminate that issue.

Gray also added that the use of  the IoT for remote monitoring and data gathering and analysis, cuts across most advanced factory floors.

“Our compressors can be connected back to the customer via mobile devices and can provide reports to tell them whether or not that machine could be optimised further or run out of capacity (inhibiting an operation), or if it is due for a service,” explained Gray.

Gray then said that the concept of variable speed drive (VSD) technology is not fully understood.

“Users need to understand more about VSDs because they are all not equal. Users should ask manufacturers to talk through the differences between VSDs. At the moment, there’s a lot of manufacturers with a lot of different pieces of equipment, compressors or otherwise, that really promote VSD, however many don’t deliver the energy savings that you expect to achieve from a quality built VSD,” said Gray.

“It’s important that people do their research on VSD drives because they are definitely not all equal and having the term broadly written in your spec may not necessarily be saving you the expected levels of savings,” said Gray.

Atlas Copco builds their controllers in-house. In terms of energy, Gray explained that the Atlas Copco Compressors VSD Plus machine will turn down to below 20 per cent of its maximum power.

“To put that in perspective, the 100-kilowatt machines will turn down and run like a 20-kilowatt machine at its lowest speed. Bolt-on like VSDs will generally only turn down to 40 or 50 per cent of their maximum power, so the differences you can gain in energy savings is really quite considerable if you select a quality, purpose-built, VSD,” Gray explained.