Compressed air has been a go-to tool for a long time, and it might be easy to think that not much has changed in the industry. If we look closer, though, we can identify important developing innovations that will change the efficiency of compressed air systems worldwide for years to come. Some of these have to do with better equipment design and modern electronic devices being applied to systems, and some changes are being driven by compressed air users’ new level of awareness about energy efficiency. Following is a look at trends that are making an impact and saving compressed air users millions of dollars worldwide.
Equipment Design Innovations
In the area of equipment design, there has been excellent development. “Lubricant-cooled rotary compressors continue to improve in performance as modern designs take advantage of newer materials and manufacturing procedures,” says Hank Van Ormer, founder of Air Power USA. “This improves not only machine performance but also reliability. The same can be said about oil-free rotary screws.” Van Ormer sees a clear shift to lubricant-free compressors, especially in industries in which it is important to have a very clean supply of compressed air. He adds: “Centrifugal compressors are improving, too; modern manufacturing methods are generating better and better aeros, with resulting constant basic performance improvement. Magnetic bearing drives are eliminating all frictional drive losses of the conventional antifriction bearing, bull gear, and pinion. This results in extremely low idle input energy and extremely fast time from load to idle or stop and back to load.” Van Ormer points out that the shift to lubricant-free allows users to use the heat of compression, which is typically wasted, to help generate instrument-quality compressed air with very low dewpoint.