Digitalization in the Compressor Sector


The term Industry 4.0 is a commonly used nowadays, even though without knowing what is really behind it. On this article we explain what this term include and what are the opportunities for the compressor sector of industry.

The generation of compressor industry has always been a major cost driver in manufacturing. Depending on the type and condition of the system, it is estimated that between 25 percent and 35 percent of the total energy used in a company is consumed. When considering the life cycle of a new compressed air system over five years, energy consumption accounts for around 80 percent of the total costs, while the initial purchase costs account for only about 9 percent of the costs. This high energy consumption can be significantly reduced by retrofitting or modernizing the system and components, choose the right system design, improve control and target maintenance. Since modern compressors are highly energy efficient and well-designed, ring line systems offer little potential for energy savings and suppliers are increasingly focusing on optimizing the control of compressed air systems.

A digitalized control system brings many advantages and enables far-reaching efficiency-enhancing measures to be taken. In addition to reducing energy consumption and controlled self-optimization, a form of "predictive maintenance" can be implemented with the help of sensors. This is made possible by collecting data and evaluating them. On the basis of this evaluation, preventive maintenance measures can then be derived, which significantly reduce the probability of failure. Only this possibility puts the technology in the context of the "Industry 4.0" vision, since different states are used and processed by sensors. 

The advanced digitalization of compressed air technology can be observed at many manufacturers. The customer is thus provided with a relatively simple introduction to the digitization of the compressed air production process. This digitalization provides the producer with the opportunity to significantly reduce his energy costs during operation. Representative studies for the direct comparison of different digitalized systems with conventional compressors and control systems are not available at present, so that no clear recommendation can be made at present. However, the digitalization of compressed air production certainly helps to make an expensive and complex process transparent and controllable. 

Optimization is a key stage in the digitalization of compressor. Cross-referencing all the data monitored with the industry knowledge bases enables energy efficiency projects to be identified and evaluated. Modelling methods, integrating industry skills and the power of optimization algorithms can be added to this to produce simulations so that potential savings can be quantified.

How to optimize your energy efficiency for projects

  • Finding the most efficient activation rules (priorities, thresholds) to supply the demand and reduce the electricity cost (optimal sequencing);
  • Detecting and assessing the standard opportunities (variable speed compressor installation, modifying the pressure setpoint and more);
  • Detecting leaks and unusual uses;
  • Simulate other configurations of the production plant (for example, replacing a compressor, adding buffers and more).

Sources: Metron / Homag