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Compressor giant develops its own motors to halve energy consumption

11 April, 2013

The world’s biggest compressor manufacturer, Atlas Copco, has entered the electric motor design and manufacturing business by developing an oil-cooled permanent magnet motor for a new generation of variable-speed drive compressors that, it says, will halve energy use compared to idling compressors.

The IE4 IPM (interior permanent magnet) motors are being used in the new GA VSD+ range of oil-injected rotary screw compressors that span ratings from 7­–37kW. They are 15% more efficient than Atlas Copco’s previous GA variable speed drive compressors, and are said to deliver “the lowest noise levels in the industry” at 62dB(A).

Atlas Copco argues that the direct-drive compressors will allow all users to switch to variable-speed operation. Traditional VSD-controlled compressors cut energy use by around 35%. The new machines raise this to about to 50%.

The new motors and drivetrain have been optimised for use in the compressors. For example, they deliver high levels of torque at low speeds but do not need to deliver high torque at high speeds. And although the motors use rare-earth magnets, they have been designed to minimise the use of these materials.

Koen Lauwers, vice-president for marketing in Atlas Copco’s industrial air division says that the new compressors will offer “spectacular energy savings” as well as “a leap in air capacity”. The low noise levels, he adds, will allow users “to put the machine anywhere”.

The company calculates that that if sales of idling compressors – which currently represent about 60% of the market ­– were converted to the new technology, the savings would amount to around 500GWh and 250,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. These savings could be up to ten times larger if the technology was also applied to larger compressors – which Atlas Copco is planning to do.

“We have launched an innovation that will once again set the benchmark in the compressor industry,” says Lauwers. “The GA VSD+ has been developed completely in-house and brings together all our expertise and know-how about energy-efficient compressor technology”.

As well as the new motors, the compressors incorporate more efficient fans, a robust air intake system that eliminates blow-off losses, and offer an integrated dryer as an option. By using a vertical drivetrain, their footprints have been minimised.

The machines are being produced on a new production line in Belgium which is said to be more efficient and to occupy less space than previous lines.

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