With the cost of electricity continuing to rise, Australian manufacturers are increasingly looking to improve their competitiveness by investing in more efficient air compressors for their production facilities.
When Tom Davies, General Manager of Aquaknect Flexible, Australia’s leading manufacturer of flexible connectors, was looking to replace the company’s ageing compressors, he had no hesitation in investing in Atlas Copco’s revolutionary new VSD (Variable Speed Drive) compact oil-injected rotary screw air compressor – the GA VSD+.
“Reduction of running costs, reliability and cleaner air delivery were the key features why we chose the Atlas Copco GA VSD+ air compressor for our Queensland manufacturing facility,” Mr Davies said.
Like most manufacturers in Australia, the ever-increasing cost of electricity was a huge factor when deciding on a new compressor for his manufacturing plant.
“We looked at a number of other air compressor manufacturers, four other companies with similar styles of machinery in fact, but Atlas Copco was out there on it’s own. In the end it was an easy decision to go with the latest technology and save money.
“All the companies came out and looked at our requirements and how we operated, but Atlas Copco was the only company that took the time to project savings and recommend things we could do to improve our compressed air supply,” he said.
“We are very happy with the service we have received from Atlas Copco, and the savings on electricity costs are starting to add up already.”
Mr Davies explained that the company had been using old technology; three old and inefficient Hydrovane compressors.
“Now we just have the one latest-generation Atlas Copco compressor, instead of three,” he added.
Started in 1986, Aquaknect Flexible is Australia’s oldest manufacturer of flexible connectors and is now the only manufacturer of flexible connectors in Australia, with around 35 employees.
“While we do have a Joint Venture operation in China, the other companies have shifted all their manufacturing operations off-shore, particularly to China and India.
“By having our manufacturing operation in Meadowbrook, Queensland, this allows us to tailor-make hoses for our customers’ specific requirements with very short turn around times.”
Mr Davies explained that the company uses the compressed air to drive its crimping and cutting machines as well as vital testing equipment.
“It’s critical we have a reliable supply of clean air to operate our machines, without them we have no hoses.”
While Mr Davies said it was Atlas Copco’s technology that got them over the line, he said he had known the company’s solid reputation for some time.
“I knew about their stability and their after market service. The other companies didn’t come up with anything near what Atlas Copco offered regarding technology, after market service and support,” Mr Davies said.
Duncan Vaughan, Sales Engineer with Atlas Copco’s Queensland Industrial Air Division, said that while Aquaknect Flexible was the first company to invest in the GA VSD+ air compressor in Australia, he is expecting many more manufacturers to follow their lead as word spreads about these ultra-efficient compressors.
“These are brilliant machines. The power savings alone are significant enough to justify investing in a new machine.
“Plus the new compressor delivers far more air, better air quality, and far more efficiently than what the company had in the past.”
Mr Vaughan explained that the radical new GA VSD+ was officially launched in Australia in October 2013, but he was able to install this compressor a couple of weeks prior to the launch.
“It has only been installed for a couple months now, but it is clear the compressor will deliver the savings predicted. Early figures show considerable energy savings already,” he said.
Mr Vaughan explained that Aquaknect Flexible decided to lease the new air compressor rather than an outright purchase, and when comparing the lease costs it is clear why Mr Davies decided on an Atlas Copco GA VSD+ 15kW machine.
“We estimated that an equivalent fixed speed air compressor would cost 50% more over the life of the lease.”
Pie Chart Energy Savings
He said the GA VSD+ compressor offers a major leap forward in FAD (Free Air Delivery) with improvements of up to 12%, and a breakthrough in energy-efficiency requiring on average 50% less energy than a comparable idling compressor.
“Plus it’s much quieter than the old Hydrovanes, and other air compressors on the market; down to an unbelievable 62db(A).
“In fact it is so quiet that when the compressor was first installed, the workers at the plant often forgot to turn the compressor off at the end of their shift, even though the compressor is in the work area, up on a mezzanine level.
“To overcome the problem, we simply programmed the machine to turn itself off at the end of every day,” Mr Vaughan said.
“Talking to the staff there, they love the new compressor, because they can now actually talk to each other without shouting to be heard.”
Mr Vaughan said being very quiet when running is a great feature of the GA VSD+ compressor; it means the machine can be placed on the workshop floor, with no need for a separate room.
“Plus it can be placed against a wall or in a corner due to its innovative vertical design and having the ducting on top,” he said.
Mr Vaughan explained that with the GA VSD+ compressor, Atlas Copco started with a clean sheet of paper back in 2007, and evaluated every part of an air compressor including the motor, cooling, drive train, electronic components, and air intake system.
“Suitable for a wide range of industries, this radical new rotary screw compressor is driven by a high efficiency IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor, which exceeds IE 3 rating at 94.5%; corresponding to IE 4 (Super Premium Efficiency motor class).”
He said the motor is highly efficient over a wide range of power loads, and produces high torque at low speeds for reliable start-up under pressure, making it ideal for the GA VSD+ compressor, which only runs when needed.
The compact motor, which was designed by Atlas Copco, features optimal oil cooling and an oil-lubricated motor bearing all in a sealed unit, meaning no greasing of bearings or airflow required for cooling of the motor.
And unlike traditional compressors, the motor and drive train share one drive shaft and are vertically aligned to allow a smaller footprint of 55% compared to the previous range. There are also no gears, belts or shaft seal to maintain.
The whole drive train is completely closed, offering IP 66 protection, with one oil-circuit that cools the motor and lubricates the element and bearings.
Other energy efficient components of the GA VSD+ compressor include a more efficient fan, robust air intake system and an innovative air inlet valve, which is maintenance free. The mechanical polymer inlet valve uses air to open and close (no spring) and with no ‘blow-off’ in operation, resulting in no unloaded power consumption.
Mr Vaughan explained that the GA VSD+ compressor is now available in a wide range of sizes from 7kW up to 37kW, and at no extra cost to the equivalent GA VSD compressor, which will continue in production alongside the new GA VSD+ model.
“With the cost of electricity continuing to rise, I expect more and more customers to take advantage of this new technology we are now offering rather than the old fixed speed technology.
“These are brilliant machines, the engineers have done a fantastic job; it’s world-leading technology,” he enthused.
“Our old machines offered an average of 35% power savings, but these machines offer a massive 50% in power savings,” he said.
Mr Vaughan explained that Atlas Copco spends around 3% of the company’s turnover on research and development.
“And as we are around four times larger than the next air compressor company that means we do a lot more R&D than any one else, and it shows with this new machine; true innovation,” he said.
Atlas Copco predicts VSD compressors will continue to make up a larger portion of its compressor sales, and as part of the worldwide promotion, the company is donating one or two trees (depending on the VSD compressor sold) per kW sold to a reforestation program in Africa.
For more information the GA VSD+ range of air compressors call Atlas Copco 1800 023 469, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.atlascopco.com.au.