From a one-man business to Australia’s leading industrial fan manufacturer

What do a mine in Tanzania, a factory in Turkey and a research facility in Antarctica have in common? They all have one or more industrial fans manufactured by Melbourne-based company AirEng operating at their premises.

Founded in 1993 as a one-man business by manager Rhys Thompson, AirEng has grown fast, building its reputation as Australia’s leading designer and manufacturer of industrial fans, blowers and accessories. Today, the company delivers over 20,000 industrial fans per year and has thousands of fans installed in over 100 countries globally.

Rhys was of course no newcomer to the world of industrial design and manufacturing when he started AirEng. He began his engineering career as an apprentice patternmaker with Vickers in Melbourne and by 1993 had already been working in the heavy industrial manufacturing space for nearly a decade.

In 2014, AirEng joined with American fan company, New York Blower (NYB), and in 2017, moved into its current facility at Bayswater, Melbourne. The 3.2-acre site with over 6000 square metres of factory space is the largest dedicated industrial fan manufacturing plant in Australia, boasting some of the most advanced and sizably impressive testing equipment in the country.

From here, AirEng produces custom centrifugal fans, axial fans, blowers, damper flow control devices and acoustic silencers for a wide range of industries, including agriculture, food and beverage processing, traditional and renewable power generation, mineral processing, water treatment and pulp and paper. In addition to design and manufacturing services, the AirEng team also undertake overhaul, rebuild and redesign of existing units.

“We have invested heavily in setting up our factory to provide Australia’s largest integrated fan/blower design and manufacturing site,” says Rhys. “The balancing machine we have installed is one of the largest and most accurate in the country. It can balance impellers with a diameter of over 5,000 millimetres and with mass over 20,000 kilograms. We also have Australia’s largest venturi type test rig, which is over 3,000 millimetres in diameter and rated to 10,000 Pascal.”

“We believe AirEng tests more fans than any other company in Australia, helping us to confirm the performance of the fans we build, giving a very high degree of confidence for our clients to depend on. AirEng has pitot traverse rigs that allows for testing fans from 50 millimetres to over 3000 millimeters in diameter.”

George Fisher Vent Fan

Helping AirEng through its journey has been CBC – Australia’s largest distributor of bearings, power transmission and engineering solutions. Rhys says over the past 26 years, AirEng has received technical support from CBC to grow its testing capability and to produce reliable fans.

“We’ve been working with CBC, part of Motion Asia Pacific, for the past 26 years. Access to their quality engineers is highly beneficial for us. It’s also important for us that CBC has such an extensive network around the country and can give us local support anywhere.”

Leon Stefanec, area business manager at CBC Australia, says the level of collaboration between CBC and AirEng has grown over the years.

“CBC and AirEng have had a very long association that spans nearly three decades. AirEng has always been a loyal customer for our range of Schaeffler bearings, using the Schaeffler FAG bearings across a wide range of their products. Schaeffler is AirEng’s preferred brand of bearing for the quality and reliability the brand offers.

“Apart from supporting AirEng through bearing and housing selection and supply, CBC engineers also provide technical assistance to the AirEng team whenever needed. Recently, we designed a special housing for AirEng at the CBC Chullora site in New South Wales to assist them with faster product delivery. The in-house developed housing solution reduces lead time for AirEng from 20 weeks to only 12-14 weeks, helping them to support their customers better.”

Over the years, the AirEng team has successfully delivered some challenging engineering projects, including designing fans to run at a temperature of 900 degree Celsius or fans over 12 metres tall.

Rhys says this success owes greatly to the experience and dedication of the AirEng engineering team.

“It takes a lot of work to build a good team, but I believe we’ve done well in that area,” he says. “Our team works closely with customers from concept right through the life of asset. We are very proud of the dedication of our team members to make sure our customers get the highest quality possible. Everyone in the factory is so dedicated to quality production that if they are not happy with something, they will bring it up themselves and work hard to fix the issues.”

This dedication to excellence, as Rhys adds, means AirEng is constantly striving to improve its products to achieve an even higher level of customer satisfaction.

“We take great pride in the quality and reliability of our products, which explains why we have such a rigorous testing regime. Even though some of our fans have the highest efficiency ratings in the world, we are currently working on a new range of industrial fans that offer even higher efficiencies, lower noise, and greater reliability,” Rhys says.

“This is the standard we have set for ourselves as we aim to be the absolute market leader in Australia for industrial fans and blowers. We want to ensure we are number one, not only from a quality perspective, but also in manufacturing lead time, reliability, ease of maintenance and low cost of operation.”

AirEng was a Gold Winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the awards, click here

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