Industrial evolution in emerging economies, coupled with robust product usage in nearly every heavy industry worldwide will trigger a surge in demand for industrial air compressors in the years ahead.
Industrial air compressors are essential tools for the proper functioning of manufacturing and industrial plants worldwide. With a firm presence in nearly every major industry, compressed air is often touted as the fourth key utility, in addition to electricity, natural gas, and water. In fact, in the modern era, the significance of air compressors is akin to the position held by steam engines during the industrial revolution.
Industrial-grade air compressors are designed to deliver an uninterrupted flow of compressed air over long periods, with the longevity and durability needed to accommodate the demanding needs of manufacturing facilities.
While used extensively in production applications, the utility of these systems is broadening significantly over the years. Industrial air compressors are being utilized for various activities, from ventilating silos and spraying crops in agricultural facilities, for the operation of laundry pressers in dry cleaning establishments, in addition to numerous other operations across the oil & gas, and food &beverage industries.
Industrial developments across the globe, from the proliferating mining & oil exploration activities to increasing vehicle demand to the thriving power & energy generation domain, are the key factors contributing to a growing interest in compressed air systems. According to reliable reports, the global industrial air compressor market size is poised to surpass $17.8 billion by 2027.
While reciprocating compressors have been an industry favorite for a while, rotary air compressors are rapidly taking their place as the preferred technology in recent years, with the rotary compressors industry expected to depict nearly 6% CAGR through 2027.
This growth is supported by various reports, such as the 2020 State Of The Mobile Compressed Air Industry Report from VMAC, which revealed that out of the 205 industry professionals surveyed, 67% indicated their preference for rotary screw compressors over reciprocating compressors.
Known for their prolific benefits such as energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, low maintenance, and versatility, among many others, rotary air compressors are well suited for industrial applications that require constant, uninterrupted flow of compressed air. Rotary screw-type compressors in particular are gaining rapid momentum, as a strong substitute for piston compressors. These systems are designed to adapt to longer usage times, and for operations that need a continuous duty cycle of up to 100%.
In July 2020, Ingersoll Rand introduced a new rotary screw compressor, alongside other innovations, as part of its larger portfolio expansion plan in India over 2020-2021. Bringing together the best of technologies from Gardener Denver and Ingersoll Rand, the launch includes a new7.5-11kw rotary screw compressor range, designed to maximize uptime via better efficiency due to its integrated compression module, floor space-saving due to its compact footprint, and its rugged design.
Atlas Copco Compressors made a similar move in December 2020, with the launch of a novel series of G 2-7 rotary screw air compressors, ranging from 3 to 10 horsepower. These systems, equipped with high-efficiency motors, an Elektronikon Base controller, and an advanced low-vibration screw element designed in-house, created an easy-to-use, robust, quiet, and efficient point-of-use range of compressors, ideal for workshops, garages, general manufacturing, and other operations with evolving compressed air needs.
Irrespective of industry, one of the critical pain points for plant managers worldwide is the ever-prevalent rent vs. buy debate regarding heavy equipment. This dilemma is particularly prominent when it comes to the use of industrial-grade air compressor systems.
An important benchmark exists that helps plant managers solve this dilemma; if the equipment is required and utilized for at least 60-70% of the project life cycle, it is time to move from rental to purchase.
In recent years, a growing number of industries have become attuned to the benefits of renting industrial equipment such as air compressors. In addition to the financial benefits associated with the model, industrial air compressor rental empowers industries to choose the right type of equipment for specific applications, rather than having to purchase a single piece of equipment with generic functionalities. Also, renting air compressors allows plant managers to leverage the latest and most advanced technologies in the market as and when they emerge, at more economical price points.
Rent-to-own programs are becoming especially popular in the modern era, with businesses increasingly looking for flexible solutions to fulfill their compressed air demands, without overburdening their company budget.
CAPS Australia, for instance, via its CAPS Rental division, is extending the industrial air compressor rental option to mining operators, with an additional “rent-to-purchase” option. With a fleet of over 200 units with varying on-site or customizable options, CAPS Rental is focused on leasing compressed air systems that are highly sought after, including Ingersoll Rand rotary screw air compressors, which have been utilized in Australian mine applications for over a century.
Over the last few decades, the industrial air compressor industry has witnessed the emergence of several key innovations, which have enhanced the overall reliability and functionality of the equipment, whilst decreasing energy consumption levels.
Enlisted below are three such innovations that have come to light in recent years, derived from improvements across component, machinery, and compression design, as well as manufacturing processes, which are contributing heavily to better efficiency, performance, reliability, and operation of these systems in industrial applications.
In October 2020, Hitachi initiated the mass manufacturing of two novel oil-flooded 22 and 37 kW screw air compressor systems, equipped with the proprietary impinging oil atomization mechanism. The first in the world to adopt this technology, these compressed air systems were designed to promote cooling of the compressed air through the lubricant, as well as mitigate compression power. This resulted in an industry-leading 6.4 kW/(m3/min) energy efficiency, indicating an improvement of almost 6% on the previous model.
Launched in March 2020, Sullair’s new, redesigned 1600H Tier 4 Final portable diesel air compressor emerged as a product of direct customer feedback response. The next-generation industrial-grade air compressor system design features numerous service doors with strong, push-to-close latches, which help improve worker security by preventing unintended closure of the doors while eliminating center post to offer easier access to maintenance systems. Such was the impact of this technology, that the product was selected by the Rental Equipment Register (RER) magazine as the winner of the Compressors/Air Tools equipment category in its 2020 Innovative Product Awards.
Part of India’s Atlas Copco Group, Mark Compressors unveiled two new additions to its Piston Compressor portfolio in October 2020, dubbed the Bluewind series and the Ironwind. Designed for applications across major industry segments such as woodworks, fuel stations, automotive, tire retail, and other sectors with high demand for air applications and pneumatics, the novel product ranges feature robust engineered innovation aimed at boosting customer productivity, mitigating energy consumption, and delivering higher reliability and uptime.
For many industries, compressed air systems are considered quintessential to their operations. The scope for innovation in the industrial air compressor market is vast and coupled with the existing benefits associated with these systems, it is likely that persistent developments and ever-broadening application scope of compressed air systems could help transform the state of operations in business over the forthcoming years.