In September 2012 Atlas Copco Compressors invited long-term customer Di-Spark Group to trial the operation of its energy and space-saving vertical aspect GA15VSD+ rotary screw compressor, which is powered by the company’s own in-house designed interior permanent magnet (iPM) motor. The compressor’s performance and the impressive energy savings gained to date, plus the unit’s minimal footprint, persuaded Di-Spark to install the compressor as a permanent addition to the air supply plant at its two sites in Horndean, East Hampshire.
Significantly, the new design offers exceptional energy savings. Atlas Copco’s GA Variable Speed Drive (VSD) technology automatically adjusts the motor speed to match the compressed air supply to the air demand. When combined with the innovative design of the iPM motor, which exceeds IE4 efficiency requirements, this results in an average energy saving of 50 per cent and an average reduction of 37 per cent in the lifecycle cost of a conventional fixed-speed compressor. A new, more efficient fan motor achieves yet another saving on specific energy requirement of up to 7 per cent of the compressor power. Furthermore, thanks to the silent motor and fully-enclosed drive train, the compressor runs as quietly as 62dB(A).
With this new concept, Atlas Copco has also turned the compressed air industry on its head by redesigning the conventional layout of a typical air compressor. Instead of the normal horizontal design, the new GA VSD+ (which is available from 7–15kW) has an upright, vertical, low-footprint layout, designed to save floor and work space while improving maintenance access, even when the unit is placed against a wall.
To test the concept in a real production environment, Atlas Copco Compressors trialled the new design in 25 major application sites, including Di Sparks’ plant which now has five Atlas Copco compressors, three of which are VSD type compressors. All of these units provide essential compressed air to Di-Sparks’ advanced manufacturing technology equipment such as 5-axis milling, multi task mill-turn, wire erosion and spark erosion EDM (Electric Discharge Machining) systems producing complex bespoke, precision machined components for high-end global customers within the aerospace, defence, medical, oil and gas, motorsport, nuclear and scientific industries. With plant processes already enjoying at least 35 per cent energy saving from the company’s existing Atlas Copco VSD compressors, the successful trial of the GA15 VSD+ unit contributed a further 15 per cent reduction in energy consumption, equating to an overall 50 per cent improvement over fixed-speed compressor equivalent performance.
The Di Spark company was founded in 1980 by the current managing director David Light’s father, progressing from a toolmaking company using EDM wire erosion to produce press tools for the printed circuit board industry. EDM is an established technology and is still used extensively where intricate features need to be machined. The company evolved into a specialist EDM subcontractor and its investments into dedicated wire erosion and spark erosion equipment has meant that it has been possible to remove much of the costs of the manual labour aspect from the process, giving the company a distinct competitive advantage.
As David Light explains: “We have always invested in high-performance, high-productivity machine tools – equipment that provides us with extensive, flexible and advanced machining capacity and capabilities. It allows us to manufacture complex, high-precision parts in fewer set-ups and has helped us to reduce our costs, achieve improved part accuracies, avoid production bottlenecks and meet ever stringent customer lead times”.
With its aspiration to world-class performance and continuous improvement, it is no surprise that the company’s philosophy applies equally to the choice of its compressed air equipment provider. “Over the years, we have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Atlas Copco and can rely on the performance and capability of their world-leading technology to contribute to our productivity. So we had no hesitation in accepting their request to trial their latest development, the GAVSD+ compressor. We are delighted with the outcome. As a result, not only are we saving an additional 15 per cent on our energy consumption, but this vertical design compressor occupies less workshop space than conventional machines and is surprisingly quiet. Keeping noise to a minimum is important in our workplace. We see the VSD+ as a smart machine and a smart choice.”
For more information on the GA VSD+ compressor and how it is helping Di-Spark save energy, check out this video. For further details about compressed air products from Atlas Copco, go to www.atlascopco.co.uk.